In the year of nineteen hundred and fifty-eight, the Burma Shave corporation added this jingle to its beloved roadside sign displays: ""Free Free / A Trip / to Mars / for 900 / Empty Jars." Unwisely, they made no preparations to send anyone to Mars, should the 900 jars materialize.
They hadn't bargained on Arliss "Frenchie" French of Appleton, WI, manager of the town's Red Owl Supermarket. Frenchie posted a sign in his store offering $0.15 for every Burma Shave jar his customers brought in:
He ran a full-page ad in the paper reading, "Send Frenchie to Mars." As the empties accumulated in his store, he telegraphed the company, "Please advise where to ship the jars."
The folks at Burma Shave scrambled to avoid embarrassment. Thinking he would decline, they offered to send him to the village of Moers, Germany (which they insisted was pronounced, "Mars") if he would wear a space suit for the trip. He agreed.
French and his wife departed New York at the company's expense on Dec. 2, 1958. He wore a football helmet and a silver costume emblazoned with the Red Owl logo. When he arrived in Moers two days later, all 78 residents turned out to greet him.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.