Originally published: Sept. 3, 1993
Among the war stories on the front page of The Sacramento Bee that day - the "toe" of Italy falling to Allied troops, British airmen bombing Berlin, Allied bombers sinking Japanese merchant ships and the Red Army furiously pushing the Germans into retreat - was a large birth announcement:
"Born September 4, 1943, to the McClatchy newspapers and radio stations. TWINS."
They were brother mascots - Gaby (pronounced Gabby) for the radio stations, which McClatchy sold several years ago, and Scoopy for The Bee newspapers in Sacramento, Fresno and Modesto.
The big news was that Scoopy and Gaby came "bounding out of the same inkwells which gave Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse and Dumbo to the world," the story said.
Walt Disney created the cartoon creatures at the request of Eleanor McClatchy, then the company president. And on their very first day in this world, Scoopy and Gaby were credited with "striking a blow" against the enemy, because Disney donated his $1,500 creator's fee to the Army Relief Fund.
The original Scoopy was depicted as a fluttering-winged newsboy. The later, themed characters - Flutey for McClatchy's FM radio operation and Scoopy as cook, skier, fisherman and grape-stomper, among others - actually were drawn by longtime Sacramento Bee staff artist John Lopes.
"If we did a drawing," he said, "it had to be sent to Disney for approval, before we could ink it. We had to put Walt Disney's name on it. I had a bunch of copies of his signature, and I'd paste them on the drawings.
"Later on, I don't remember when, they said, "We can't do any better.' We didn't need their approval, and after a while they said we didn't have to put his name on them, either," Lopes said.
Lopes, 75, retired from The Bee in 1984, after 33 years. He always was fond of Scoopy. "I tried real hard to keep the same feelings the original had," he said. Scoopy's 50th birthday will pass quietly in Sacramento and Fresno, but the Modesto Bee is planning a citywide birthday party on Saturday and asked nationally syndicated cartoonists to draw birthday cards for Scoopy.
For the last 50 years, some configuration of Scoopy has appeared on everything from the three newspapers' mastheads to official stationery and promotional shoelaces.
And the Fresno Bee publishes a Scoopy Squad page for children in its Saturday edition.
"We also use Scoopy on our editorial page and in promotions, anytime we have an opportunity to use him," said Harvey Zimmerman, the paper's community relations manager, "because we think he exudes friendliness. He says, "Hi, everyone. Come into this newspaper.' "
Zimmerman remembers the character from the early days. He was 10 when Scoopy came to the front page of the Fresno Bee.
"I can't tell you that I called him Scoopy. I probably called him "the bee,' " he said.
All of The Bee newspapers have a Scoopy costume, and they all send someone disguised as the happy insect out to community functions. The Modesto Bee recently queried Bill Cronin, Disneyland's character costume coordination supervisor, about designing a new costume. Cronin replied that Scoopy looks like a relative of Mickey Mouse's because they have similar facial features. The Disney-made Scoopy outfit would cost $18,300. The Modesto paper declined to place an order.
The Fresno Bee has a well-used costume that stands about 6-foot-5. "Some smaller children are afraid of Scoopy," Zimmerman said. "He's a big bee, much bigger than Mickey Mouse, much taller."
Scoopy also is younger than Mickey, who turns 65 in November.
These newspapers are named for an insect because of Sacramento Bee founder James McClatchy. In the first issue - on Feb. 3, 1857 - he wrote, "The name of The Bee has been adopted as being different from that of any other paper in the state and also being emblematic of the industry which is to prevail in its every department."
" "Bee' is a wonderfully unusual name for a newspaper and Scoopy is an equally wonderful different symbol for this newspaper," said Sacramento Bee Executive Editor Gregory Favre. "The Bee and Scoopy and the Sacramento area have grown up together."
Scoopy's predecessors were the realistic likeness of a bee that James McClatchy used on his stationery and New Year's greeting cards, and a mosaic tile bee that his son, C.K., placed in the lobby of the original Sacramento Bee building at 911 Seventh St., back in 1901. The mosaic is displayed at the Sacramento History Museum.
And then James McClatchy's granddaughter, Eleanor, carried on the family business tradition with Walt Disney's Scoopy, which is found every day alongside The Sacramento Bee's masthead.