Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Oct. 14, 2011

Smiley - and the world smiles with you

Every morning I wander sleepily into the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee. I yawn. Then I look at the bright yellow planter on the counter and smile. I open the cupboard, see the bright yellow mugs and smile. I go back to the bathroom to brush my teeth, spot the yellow plastic tumbler on the sink and smile yet again.

So why do those objects make me feel happy?

They all have Smiley Faces on them. For some reason, those iconic faces created from two black dots and a curve on a bright yellow background just make me smile.

But after having Smiley in my life for more than 40 years, I recently realized I didn't know its origin. An Internet search revealed that Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Mass., created the Smiley Face in 1963. More than 50 million Smiley Face buttons were sold by 1971, and the simple design was on its way to becoming an international icon. In 1999, Ball declared that the first Friday in October each year would be "World Smile Day," a day when each person would "Do an act of kindness. Make one person smile."

Ball never applied for a trademark or copyright of the Smiley and earned just $45 for his work. But, according to the "World Smile Day" website, he didn't really care.

So how did I end up with so many Smiley Faces around me?

It began back in my college days. I had a poster in my dorm room that had an image similar to a Smiley Face. The poster somewhat irritated roommate Deb. She said some days she just didn't feel like smiling, but felt that she had to when she looked at the cheerful poster.

Ever since those days in the 1970s, we've given each other stuff with Smiley Faces on them - birthday cards, stickers, balloons, vases, mugs and cookie jars. Deb even made me a special Smiley Face flannel throw that I put over my legs when I'm in my recliner. The middle panel has a 16-inch by 16-inch Smiley on a black background. Other panels show smaller Smileys with their tongues sticking out. Others have petals around them so they look like daisies.

I also have a couple of Smiley images in my office. One is a button that has "Bless the Press" on it. The other is a postcard that shows a bedraggled woman looking into her bathroom mirror. A Smiley looks back at her.

Over the years, the Smiley has appeared on various holiday decorations. On St. Patrick's Day, I wear a green Smiley button with shamrock-shaped eyes. At Christmas, Smiley images appear wearing Santa hats.

After his death in 2001, the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation was created to honor him and to promote "World Smile Day." But I celebrate it every day just by catching glimpses of my Smileys at home and at work. And the knowledge that such a simple thing has brightened so many people's lives for so many years, well, it just makes me smile!

Left: Deb and I on Deb's 40th birthday; right: Deb gave me a graduate
Smiley doll on the 25th anniversary of our graduation from K-State.

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