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The Bear Facts About Earthquakes

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City Hall in Los Angeles has been hit with an avalanche of letters from children across the country seeking earthquake-safety tips from Yogi Bear, who is, as he likes to remind others, smarter than the average bear.

Comic books featuring safety lessons by the picnic-basket-snatching cartoon character were intended for distribution only in Los Angeles-area schools. But when 3-2-1 Contact, a national monthly magazine for children, erroneously reported in its March edition that readers could obtain free copies by writing to Yogi at City Hall, the letters started pouring in.

As of last week, the city's earthquake-preparedness committee had received more than 1,500 requests for copies of the comic books, said Margaree Klein, a spokesman for City Councilman Hal Bernson, the committee's coordinator. Publishing-industry consultants say the note in the magazine is likely to generate at least another 1,500 requests in coming months.

"We're happy to share our materials, but we were totally unprepared for the volume of mail that hit us,'' Ms. Klein said. "Everyone in the office is stopping work that we should be doing to answer the letters. This is driving me up a wall, but we can't disappoint the kids.''

Hanna-Barbera Productions, the creators of Yogi, agreed about three years ago to let the city use the character as its "spokesbear'' for the effort to teach city schoolchildren about earthquakes, Ms. Klein said.

One of the comic books, which were first distributed earlier this school year, uses riddles, quizzes, and puzzles to teach children general earthquake-safety measures, such as standing in a doorway or ducking under a table. The other focuses on "creative'' first-aid tips, such as using a baseball bat as a splint and a surf board as a stretcher.

"Dear Yogi,'' wrote one child. "I enjoy your program. Say hello to Boo-Boo. Send me a book.''

"Enclosed is money (25 cents) for the booklet,'' another child wrote. "Please hurry.''

"Dear Yogi,'' wrote a third child. "I am despate [sic] for a book. Send immediately.''

"Now, how can you say 'no' to letters like that?'' Ms. Klein asked. "I dearly love these children, but please, please, don't give out our address.''--T.M.

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