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Close Shave for a Space Mission

A Mars voyage was very much in the news half a century ago--with the conniving of Hollywood. The man responsible was comic Fred Allen, who delivered a parody of the Burma-Shave company’s roadway billboards, a series of messages at staggered intervals that imparted a humorous poem.

On his syndicated radio show, Allen suggested, FREE, FREE/ A TRIP/ TO MARS/ FOR 900/ EMPTY JARS. An Appleton, Wis., supermarket manager took the offer seriously and began collecting the shaving cream containers while installing a rocket inside the store and little green Martians on his roof.

The supermarket chain even hired an offbeat Hollywood publicist named Jim Moran, who came up with a compromise. “He’d discovered that there was a little town in Germany called Mars--spelled Moers actually, but pronounced Mars--population about 122, near Dusseldorf,” Frank Rowsome Jr. wrote in a company history unearthed by Mike Sullivan of Rancho Palos Verdes.

And so the market manager and his wife blasted off for Germany, where they were treated to a party by the friendly Moersians.

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CHEW ON THIS: Readers have contributed some colorful dentists’ names, including Dr. Fillmore (sent in by Larry Henry), Dr. Panik (Larry Kantor) and Dr. Hirt (Lois Hirt). Melissa Payton went them one better, however, snapping an eye-catching sign in L.A. (see photo). The dental office’s name, by the way, refers to the building’s location on Adams Boulevard, not to the scary family of TV and movie fame.

FOR WHOM THE SCHOOL BELL TOLLS: Adding to our lore about student reading habits, Alice Maupin wrote: “My mom and her fellow librarian at Studio City branch library got tired of tracking down books for book reports, only to have the results rejected as ‘too thick.’ ” So they developed a special section for the young patron. Selected examples, Maupin said, included: “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” (97 pages), “The Old Man and the Sea” (127 pages) and, for the ambitious scholar, “A Separate Peace” (196 pages).

NEXT, A SPELLING IMPROVEMENT? Janet Cooper of L.A. chanced upon one of those roadside signs that grandly announce “another improvement for your convenience and safety” (see photo). The improvement often seems difficult to detect but Cooper took a snapshot for a different reason. The resident city councilman’s name was misspelled as Mike “Fever,” not to be confused with Dr. Johnny Fever, the wild deejay on the old “WKRP” TV show.

HEY, WATCH WHERE YOU RECREATE! Millie Stauffer of Carpinteria read in a local newspaper that motorists entering Los Padres National Forest must purchase a $5 “Adventure Pass.” The story added: “There is a $100 fine if a person is caught recreating in the forest without an ‘Adventure Pass’ displayed in his vehicle.”

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Adds Stauffer: “For years I have had my suspicions about what was going on in the forest but never guessed for a minute that an ‘Adventure Pass’ would be the answer.”

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An item here about the Beach House restaurant closing for the summer reminded Superior Court Judge Judy Chirlin of a funny sign she saw in Russia. “After doing a presentation on jury trials for the lawyers and judges of a small town called Yeisk on the Azov Sea,” she wrote, “I was escorted to the cafeteria for tea and cookies. The sign on the door said, ‘Courthouse Cafeteria: Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed 12 noon to 1 p.m. for lunch.”’

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Steve Harvey can be reached on Earth, by phone at (213) 237-7083, by fax at (213) 237-4712, by e-mail at steve.harvey@latimes.com and by mail at Metro, Times Mirror Square, L.A. 90053.


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