Brian Robson is looking for two Irish people who helped put him in a wooden crate in 1965 and mail him home in the UK.
Robson was 19 years old and working in Australia when he and two friends drove and executed the unconventional plan.
“The problem is, at the time, we made a deal that would be secret because none of us expected … any publicity. I mean, the idea was that I would go to London and get out of the box and to disappear, go home and no one would be wiser, “Robson told As It Happens host Carol Off.
“Unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong.”
Five decades later, Robson wrote a book about so-called bad ideas Escape to the checkout.
A merchandise case for merchandise
In 1964, Robson traveled from Cardiff, Wales, to Melbourne, Australia, on an immigration-assisted program to work for the Victorian Railways. He quickly regretted the decision and was very disappointed.
But simply quitting his job and flying home was not an option. He had a contract with the Australian government to stay and work for two years. If he broke the contract, he would have to pay the money spent by the country to get him there.
Including his travel expenses, all of this would cost 700. His monthly salary was 40.
So Robson and his two closest work friends devised the scheme to send him home. Robson believes their names were Paul and John, but after all these years, he can not remember their surnames.
The trio bought a wooden crate that Robson barely placed inside with his knees bent up to his chest. Then they nailed it with a bottle of water, a flashlight, an empty bottle (“for obvious reasons”), a small suitcase, a pillow and a hammer to get out.
They covered the box with labels reading “Fragile”, “Handle with care” and “This side up”. It was scheduled to fly from Melbourne to London within 36 hours.
Robson ended up being inside that crate for five days.
“It was awful,” he said. “I was going through and coming out of consciousness. I was lacking in oxygen. Oh, it was bad.”
There seemed to be an infinite number of stops and airport crews did not pay much attention to the cash register labels. At one point, Robson says he was overturned on a track, literally landed on his head for 24 hours because there was not enough room in the crate to return.
He thought of breaking away and abandoning the whole scheme.
“I played with the idea for a few seconds and convinced myself, look, you did all this. Now you can not embarrass him. You are moving forward with it and so on,” he said.
By the time it became unbearable, it was too late to change plans.
“I would say the last five or six hours of the flight, I was quite convinced that this was the end. I thought I was going to die,” he said.
“I was stuck in catching a drone, the darkness of sound, of course. I … could not move a muscle, I could not get out of the crate even if I wanted to.”
Welcome to America
At one point, Robson managed to turn on his electricity. He was at another airport when a worker was finally spotted and thrown into the hole on the side of the cash register.
“He saw me directly in my eyes. Well, if there was an Olympics at the time, he would have won for a comeback. I have never seen anyone come back so far,” Robson said.
Robson was so exhausted and dehydrated that he could neither speak nor move. He heard a noise outside as people shouted for a dead body in a crate.
“Within a very short time, there were probably 20 or 40 people around, including the FBI, the CIA oh, everyone.”
That’s because Robson was not in London. He would have been placed on the wrong plane and landed in Los Angeles.
After U.S. officials determined he was neither dead nor a threat, he was free to go home. Pan American Airlines flew it in first class, he said.
“The Americans, the FBI, the CIA and everything else, they were great. I mean, I fell in love with America because I was never treated so well,” he said. “Everyone really cared about me. And they just thought, oh, it’s this stupid kid who’s putting himself in trouble.”
His bizarre journey created media buzz at the time, but Robson never mentioned his two partners in crime for fear they would get into trouble. The three young men had no idea if their stupidity was against the law, he said.
Now, with his book coming out next month, he hopes he can reconnect with them.
“We were very good friends, only for about three months, because I only knew them for about three months. And we met each other every night … and we talked about the old days and how we all wanted to get out of Australia and, you know, talk about girlfriends and everything, “Robsonsaid.
“I would love to find them again.”
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong.
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