By Michael Lindemann
In another sign that UFO imagery is penetrating deep into American culture, on Monday, January 12, 1998, U-Haul International, Inc., America's largest truck rental company, formally unveiled a newly decorated truck depicting a flying saucer and an alien on its side panels. The truck is one of 300 vehicles in U-Haul's nationwide fleet that will carry the vivid alien logo.
A slogan within the graphic reads: "What happened in Roswell, New Mexico?"
Appropriately, the unveiling took place in front of Roswell's International UFO Museum and Research Center (IUFOMRC).
Among those participating in the event were Roswell's Mayor, Tom Jennings; well-known Roswell witnesses Glenn Dennis and Walter Haut, co-founders of the UFO Museum; Max Littell, another museum co-founder and Board member; Deon Crosby, the museum's director; Chuck Kelly, President of the U-Haul Company of New Mexico; and Janet Cooper, Media and Public Relations Director for U-Haul International.
The newly decorated trucks are part of U-Haul's "Super-Graphics Salute to America Campaign," begun in 1988. U-Haul says the campaign is meant to "recognize North American mobility by displaying slogans and distinctive features of all 50 United States and seven Canadian provinces" on its trucks.
And when U-Haul decided it was time to include New Mexico in their campaign, a UFO theme came immediately to mind.
In fact, U-Haul planners worked directly with personnel at the UFO museum in designing their new illustration for the trucks.
"Any time we at the IUFOMRC are approached by an organization that is willing to go one step further to produce an educational perception of UFOs or extraterrestrials, we are thrilled and honored to be partners in the effort," said Museum director Deon Crosby in a prepared statement.
Explaining U-Haul's approach to the project, Crosby said, "Members of the production team at U-Haul took the time to research the 'Roswell Incident.' They made a trip to the museum, they made phone calls and asked questions. As a result, the graphic is a credible representation of the emotion of the celebrated UFO crash of 1947."
Once the 300 colorfully decorated trucks begin circulating on America's highways, some observers will undoubtedly take issue with the fact that the alien, although well drawn, is colored bright green. But overall, the illustration has a serious tone.
The creature's bulbous head and upper torso, including one three-fingered hand, fills nearly the whole back third of the truck's side panel. It stares skyward, a somewhat pained expression in its typical "grey" features, as if contemplating a distant place it will not see again. In the background, a saucer-shaped craft lies half-buried in the desert soil.
"As U-Haul celebrates over 50 years as part of Americans' lives, it's our pleasure to join forces with the State of New Mexico and the International UFO Museum in Roswell," said John Taylor, U-Haul's executive vice-president of Fleet Management. "People in the communities and on the highways of North America will have the privilege of seeing this larger-than-life image of the Roswell incident and the museum for years to come."
U-Haul promotional literature proudly points out that the company has more retail outlets in the United States than McDonald's, the ubiquitous hamburger chain. U-Haul buys more Yellow Pages telephone advertising than any other American company, and U-Haul trucks moved 8 million American families last year. Clearly, the Roswell story has been adopted by a major business enterprise.
Meanwhile, Roswell's International UFO Museum has more than the new U-Haul trucks to be excited about. Already recognized as one of New Mexico's leading tourist attractions, the museum recently released statistics showing that they hosted more than 192,000 visitors during 1997, nearly three times more visitors than in 1996.
Museum director Deon Crosby said that, on average, the museum hosted visitors from 30 different states and eleven foreign countries every day in 1997.
The museum has seen a steady increase in visitors and public appreciation since the day it opened in downtown Roswell in February 1992. It was moved into more spacious facilities in 1996 and is now one of the most visible enterprises on Roswell's Main Street.
As for 1998, Crosby said, "We are concentrating on bus tours this year. We believe that our attendance numbers will bypass the 300,000 mark in the twelve months of 1998. The museum is actually on the tour itineraries of several major bus companies." Mayflower Tours, for example, has already committed to bring 288 tour busses through Roswell in order to visit the museum during 1998, Crosby said.
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