There’s something mysterious about sending out a message in a bottle. It seems like a fun little time stamp to share with a lucky wanderer who happens to find it. Yet, once the message is gone, there’s not often a response. But that’s not the case for one “MASH” theme-song co-writer.
Father and son duo Robert and Mike Altman are credited with writing the “MASH’ theme song. Mike was just a teen in the 1960s when his dad enlisted his help writing the tune that would later make him a pretty wealthy man.
However, aside from being linked to Hollywood and show business, Mike was also a regular kid. He wondered what would happen if he sent out a message in a bottle – and did so with his Boy Scout troop in 1964. The songwriter hoped if he sent out a note with a coin inside the bottle, it would surely catch someone’s eye.
Though the odds were against him, this was actually a very smart move. Almost a year and a half after sending the note out in the Willamette River in upstate New York, the young Altman received a letter. It was from another teen. He found Altman’s 7-Up bottle and note about 3,000 miles away in Vancouver, Washington.
Message in a Bottle Receives Response
The note contained the following:
“Last Saturday I went shooting along the Columbia River,” the response started. “I was walking down the bank and saw a Seven-Up bottle and picked it up so I could shoot it. When I saw the note, I took it out and read it. I was very surprised. I sat down when I got home and wrote to you. By the way, I’m 14 years old, and I’m giving you my picture.”
It’s unclear whether the two became pen pals after that, but what a unique way to connect with someone so far away in an age sans social media and cell phones. We’re sure the experience left a lasting impression on the “MASH” songwriter.
“M*A*S*H” Star Alan Alda Discusses Time in Military
While “MASH” is a generational show that still has allure, it was definitely a unique cultural moment for television when it aired in the 1970s. Several of the actors had spent actual time in the military, which helped inspire their roles on the show.
Particularly, the show’s star, Alan Alda remembers how his military training helped him while filming.
“I understood just from doing that that when you’re in a war, it’s real. It’s the real thing. People are going to get killed or lose their arms and legs,” Alda said. “And when we did ‘MASH,’ I wanted to make sure that at least that understanding that I had came out — that that’s what we dealt with, and that we didn’t gloss over that and make the show about how funny things were in the mess tent.”