Jack Ohman

Happy birthday, Scoopy Bee! Don’t hand me the newspaper, just throw it over there! Thanks!

Scoopy, the Sacramento Bee mascot, turns 70 this year, and that’s pretty old for a bee.

When I started here in January, I used the phrase “Scoopy The Bee,” and was quickly and decisively corrected: “It’s Scoopy Bee. Not Scoopy The Bee.” Interestingly, it is the official style of The Bee to refer to itself as “The Bee,” so you could see where a new(bee) might get confused.

I discovered today that there are other versions of Scoopy. There’s Teevy, who was the Bee promoting what was once the McClatchy television station, and Gaby, the KFBK Bee who, apparently, is chatty. Come to think of it, shouldn’t there be an extra “b” in that bee? The Bee shouldn’t miss a “b”.

When I was growing up, I had a uneasy relationship with bees. My dad was one of the unfortunate people who had to carry around a dose of Prednizone, because he was vulnerable to going into anaphylactic shock if he was stung. He was stung while eating a jelly sandwich with a bee sitting on it while in Korea. It was his only war injury, thankfully. For my part, it created an atmosphere of not really wanting to be around bees.

Later in life, I had been stung many times by various bees, mostly by stepping on them in clover in my yard. Of course, bees are oddly fascinating; they build hives in inconvenient locations, like little grey land mines, but they also create honey, which was a staple item growing up. They fly like Chinook helicopters in a headwind, and always get your attention: “Look, there is something in the air that can theoretically kill me.”

In the 1970s, there was the Killer Bee Scare. I remember vividly the maps in the newspaper showing that, by 1979, we would all be killed by the encroaching swarm of these avaricious predators. Not even John Belushi’s amusing portrayal of a killer bee on “Saturday Night Live” mitigated my stark fear of these airborne murderers.

I know that bees are very important, and are a real cottage industry around Sacramento. Colony collapse disorder is a massive world problem, and I am editorially in favor of making sure these bees survive. Still, bees scared me.

Until I began work at The Sacramento Bee.

When I walk in the door in the morning, there’s a life-sized (or, rather, human-sized) cutout of Scoopy Bee in our lobby, grinning his happy, well-informed grin inviting us all to read a newspaper. I was given Rex Babin’s personal Scoopy doll, who watches over me at the drawing table. I also have Rex’s copy of the book, The Sting of The Bee,” a cartoon book about all the great Bee cartoonists who preceded me. At first I was kind of scared of Scoopy, but then I realized something:

Scoopy saved my career, promotes my journalism profession, saves American Democracy As We Know It, and gives me a paycheck.

I like all of that.

I also noted that Scoopy Bee is portrayed without a stinger, and that is my kind of bee. Walt Disney Studios came up with Scoopy’s original design, and that is fascinating to me, as a cartoonist way less successful than Walt Disney (Ohmanland sounds like a grey, forbidding, snowbound Scandinavian fishing-based amusement park).

So, Happy Birthday, Scoopy Bee. You’re my favorite bee, and I have real affection for you.

Just stay the hell off my jelly sandwich.