2009 marks the 50th anniversary of the cartoon characters Rocky and Bullwinkle, the beloved flying squirrel and moose duo.
The cartoon, which first appeared on ABC on Nov. 19, 1959, has its roots in Berkeley: Its creator, Jay .T. Ward, was born here. He named the moose after his friend, Clarence Bullwinkel, who owned a Chevy dealership on College and Claremont – the exact spot of the recently closed 76 gas station.
Ward was born in 1920, attended UC Berkeley and Harvard Business School, and returned to Berkeley to open a real estate office on Ashby and Domingo. Apparently a runaway truck crashed into the office one day, pinning Ward to a wall and breaking both his legs. While recuperating, Ward decided to turn to his true love: making cartoons. He teamed up with a childhood friend, Alex Anderson, to make the cartoon.
Ward’s first show was Crusader Rabbit and his second was Rocky and Friends. As Bullwinkle proved to be a more popular character than Rocky, the cartoon’s name was changed in 1961 to “The Bullwinkle Show.”
“He loved that name,” said Ward’s daughter Tiffany, according to a UC Berkeley publication. “He drove by the dealership it had a slightly different spelling and said, “That’s it!”
Ward also created the characters George of the Jungle and Dudley Do-Right.
Ward moved his family to Hollywood decades ago (he died in 1989) but Clarence Bullwinkel’s children still reside in Berkeley. Lisa Bullwinkel is an event manager (she calls her company Another Bullwinkel Show) and director of the Berkeley-Albany Stroll . She has also served on the board of the Chamber of Commerce,the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, and many other organizations.