Steve Schappell-My Blog

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Burma Shave...Time for some signs

Over the weekend, we attended by Step-Son's Graduation from Geneva College.  This meant driving across the state on the PA Turnpike.  This exciting stretch of road (Yawn) was made more interesting now that most of the entire turnpike is 70 mph.  (Except for the construction zones)  I thought about the current speed, watched the vehicles blow by us at 80 (!) mph or more, and was excited to make better time across the state.

On our way back home, I was thinking about a Jingle I heard when I was younger, and the Speed Limit was only 55. I knew it, you were thinking about the song, "I can't drive 55," by Sammy Hagar.  But I digress.  The Jingle went something like this:  "You can beat a mile a minute, but there is no future in it."

I don't remember if there were actual signs for this, but it was intended to remind you that speeding had no future.  I can only imagine what the Jingle would be like today.  "70 is the way to go, you'll be run over if  you drive too slow."  I don't know.  This is why I don't work for Hallmark.

Now all this made me think about the Original Road Signs--Burma Shave.  Have you ever heard about this?  Depending on what age you are, you have.

Burma-Shave was a brand of brushless shaving cream that was sold from 1925 to 1966.  The company was notable for its innovative advertising campaign, which included rhymes posted all along the nation’s roadways. Typically, six signs were erected, with each of the first five containing a line of verse, and the sixth displaying the brand name.
   To market Burma-Shave, Allan Odell devised the concept of sequential signboards to sell the product. Allan Odell recalled one time when he noticed signs saying Gas, Oil, Restrooms, and finally a sign pointing to a roadside gas station. The signs compelled people to read each one in the series, and would hold the driver's attention much longer than a conventional billboard.  Though Allan’s father, Clinton, wasn’t crazy about the idea he eventually gave Allan $200 to give it a try.
In the fall of 1925, the first sets of Burma-Shave signs were erected on two highways leading out of Minneapolis. Sales rose dramatically in the area, and the signs soon appeared nationwide.  The next year, Allan and his brother Leonard set up more signs, spreading across Minnesota and into Wisconsin, spending $25,000 that year on signs. Orders poured in, and sales for the year hit $68,000. 
  Burma-Shave sign series appeared from 1925 to 1963 in all of the lower 48 states except for New Mexico, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Four or five consecutive billboards would line highways, so they could be read sequentially by motorists driving by.
   This use of the billboards was a highly successful advertising gimmick, drawing attention to passers-by who were curious to discover the punch line. Within a decade, Burma-Shave was the second most popular brand of shaving cream in the United States.

  At their height of popularity there were 7,000 Burma-Shave signs stretching across America. They became such an icon to these early day travelers that families eagerly anticipated seeing the rhyming signs along the roadway, with someone in the car excitedly proclaiming, "I see Burma-Shavesigns!” Breaking up the monotony of long trips, someone once said, "No one could read just one.

By 1966, every last sign disappeared from America's highways. A very few ended up in museums, including a couple of sets that were donated to the Smithsonian Institution.
 From the website:

Here is the text from one of the sign sets along the road.


I personally have never seen these signs, as I was born in 1966.  But, I have experienced variations on these on several occasions.  Here are (2) examples.

The first was when I traveled with my parents and grandmother on our trips to Florida,  These were billboards for the Tourist Trap called "South of the Border."   This Mexican Themed gift area in Dillon, SC, has excited kids like me and annoyed parents to stop and see a Sombrero themed Tower.  There, you could buy fireworks, old man gifts, get gas and spend your money.  The billboards ranged from funny to insulting, and I believe they have received a makeover.  Each Billboard was supposed to be a quote from "Pedro," the mascot for South of the Border.  Google this and check out the billboards like this one:

The other is more recent.  For the last (2) summers, we have traveled to the Jersey Shore.   Shortly after we enter New Jersey, we see signs for a Roadside Fruit and Vegetable stand called Rosies, in Mullica Hill.  
This is a variation on the Burma Shave signs, without the rhyming.  They are normally one word signs with a picture or drawing of a fruit or vegetable.

Stop at Rosie's

It gets you thinking as you near the Stand.  And sure enough, every time we drive by, it is always full. Advertising does work...

At least, these signs, I don't mind.  Now, about those Political Signs.....

No comments:

Post a Comment