The familiar face of Looney Tunes character Marvin the Martian is no longer welcoming drivers into Sicamous.
The Coates family, who live at 9278 Highway 97A near Swansea Point, have had a Marvin the Martian sign hanging from the BC Hydro pole at the end of their driveway for years. But on Nov. 30, the sign was stolen.
Nancy Coates is sure the sign was still up the morning of Nov. 30 around 7 a.m., but she did notice a suspicious ladder had been set up against the pole. She didn’t have time to find her cell phone and call her husband to check it out that morning before driving kids to school on her school bus route, but when she got home around 9 a.m., the sign was gone and the ladder was still there.
Looking closer, Coates noted that it seemed the ladder was made to fit the pole. It was the right width and about 12 feet high, perfect for reaching the sign that sat at 14 feet. There was a bit of space at the top where a person could sit while undoing the six brackets that held the sign in place, and the ladder was screwed in to the pole securely at each rung.
“This was planned out,” said Coates. “The ladder was straight up and down, measured in place.”
The police were called but they never came out to inspect the property. Coates kept the ladder but has since taken it down from the pole. There hasn’t been any follow-up, even when Terry Coates, Nancy’s husband, took a photo of the ladder and missing sign into the station.
The Coates’ Marvin the Martian sign has been used as a road marker along the highway for years.
Terry keeps a detailed journal and noted that the pole first had a fully shaped cutout Marvin the Martian sign put up around 1995. This first sign was made out of wood and that one was eventually stolen as well.
The replacement they had made a few years later was ruined when a car ran into the hydro pole and knocked it down, breaking the Martian’s neck. Terry had the neck reinforced and the sign put back up, to eventually be replaced by the recent rectangular metal sign with Marvin the Martian painted on it.
The most current sign was reflective like road signs are so that people could see it at night. The Coates’ had many reports of drivers using the sign as a marker for when they were getting close to Sicamous. They know the sign wasn’t taken down by BC Hydro in regards to the service of the pole because the company secured the sign themselves after it was damaged by pelting snow from plows.
“Years ago, the police told us they have used it as a marker,” said Nancy. “BC Hydro have used it, ambulances and road maintenance teams. They say, “You have to go this far, if you’ve passed the Marvin the Martian sign you’ve gone too far”.’
Visitors from other countries have even noticed the sign and used it as a landmark. Nancy told a story of friends from Holland who were staying with her cousin and trying to find the Coates’ address. Mentioning the Marvin the Martian sign at a convenience store, they followed a truck driver who knew exactly what they meant and arrived at the Coates’ without any trouble.
The sign is a popular landmark along the highway, and Nancy misses seeing it every time she drives by in her bus.
“When Nancy and I got married, I told her, if anyone comes in the driveway, not to worry,” said Terry. “It’s probably just someone taking a photo under the sign. We’ve had whole families get out of the car for a photo.”
One memorable Marvin the Martian fan, a motorcyclist with a decal of the character on both his helmet and his bike, took a selfie with the sign a few years ago, Nancy said.
The Coates’ are saddened by the theft and want to know why someone would steal their sign. Nancy noted the sign is so well-known that the thief couldn’t do anything with it locally, like reuse it or try to sell it, as it would be recognized.
While they have contacted the man who made their most recent sign, who currently lives in Penticton, the Coates’ are hesitant to order a new one. It would be expensive and they don’t want to go to the trouble only to possibly have it stolen again.
If you have any information or noticed suspicious activity along Highway 97A near Swansea Point in the early morning, specifically near the Coates’ address, please contact call the Coates’ at 250-836-2729.
They are offering a reward of $50 for the return of the sign in good shape.