Vernon native Kim Fulton, also known as Dr. Fish, reads Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax to students while dressed up in a homemade costume. (Submitted/Kim Fulton)

Iconic Lorax character “new persona” for Okanagan native

Retired teacher acts out Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax in a homemade costume for students

Kim Fulton, also known as Dr. Fish, is neither a doctor nor a fish. The Vernon native doesn’t have a mustache, either, but that hasn’t stopped him from impersonating the Lorax for the last six or seven years.

To assemble his Seussian character, Fulton, who now resides in Spallumcheen, found fake facial hair through an online store, a hat and glasses with “googly” eyes. He also took a pair of orange coveralls and glued moss and sticks on them. And, of course, he bought the infamous children’s book about environmental degradation, written by Dr. Seuss and published in 1971.

“It’s my new persona,” Fulton said. “The kids know right away who it is.”

READ MORE: Posthumous Dr. Seuss book coming Sept. 3

A retired school teacher, Fulton told the Vernon Morning Star he first started reading The Lorax to his students in libraries, in plain clothes. Then he started dressing up as Santa Claus to read How the Grinch Stole Christmas and “it just naturally evolved into dressing up like the Lorax.”

“The human brain reacts and remembers novelty rather than just an old guy sitting there and reading the story,” he said.

Fulton said The Lorax is an important book to get students to react to as well, “so that kids are able to get unplugged, get outdoors and get out into the wild world.”

“These are the future decision makers and a lot of kids don’t get connected with the natural world anymore,” he said. “We’re seeing kids that have never been in the forest at a Grade 2 level.”

So, on school grounds and at parks in the area, he acts out the cautionary tale and “hams it up” when it comes to the fictional plant that is central to the plot of the story, the truffula tree.

In the story, when the Once-ler is inspired to give the last truffula tree seed to the boy character to care for, Fulton said he is ready with a conifer plug — no pun intended — in a pocket of his coveralls.

“I throw one of those out,” he said of the small tree-plug.

Then he goes out with the kids to plant other tree-plugs provided by the Kalamalka Forestry Centre and teach them about the importance of trees for air quality.

“Last year we planted about 1,500 trees,” he said.

READ MORE: Coldstream scientist earns top honour

When it comes to the Dr. Fish nickname, Fulton said that’s a much longer story than The Lorax. Back in the ’90s, while working at Simon Fraser University, he said professors were trying to figure out how to use new telecommunication technology as an educational tool.

“They opened this thing called ‘the forum’ and people with accounts could ask questions to experts,” he said. “There was a Dr. Whale and a Dr. Spider and a Dr. Bones, and I was Dr. Fish.”

READ MORE: Kingfisher reels in kids for North Okanagan fishing event

On Saturday, Aug. 17 at 10:30 a.m., Fulton – a.k.a Dr. Fish – will perform his Lorax shtick and answer questions at the Kingfisher Interpretive Centre.

“It’ll be a day in the woods, in the forest, learning about the forest,” he said.

For more information call 250-838-0004 or email kingfisherinterpretivecentre@gmail.com.

READ MORE: Humpback whale plays with a log near Vancouver Island harbour



karissa.gall@blackpress.ca

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Vernon native Kim Fulton is pictured out of his homemade Lorax costume in this submitted photo. (Submitted/Kim Fulton)

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