Friday's column about driving to Florida in the fifties reminded Joe Wallen of the old Burma Shave signs that were a part of the landscape for travelers in the fifties.
I wrote a column about those signs back in January 2007. Here is that column:
Church signs hark back to old Burma-Shave campaign
I'm used to church sign slogans. It seems every church I drive past has a clever little saying on the board out front:
"Don't Climb the Mountain Till You Get to It"
"Our Church Is Prayer Conditioned"
"A Little Kneeling Will Keep You in Good Standing"
"Happy Hour Here Every Sunday Morning"
So I was charmed by the simple familiarity of five little signs that dotted the shoulder of Orebank Road:
You can't compare
Our pews to theirs
Here's the reason
We use chairs
Preston Hills Presbyterian Church
If you're under, say, 40, it's just four funny roadside signs with a church name as the punch line.
If you're over 40, the signs will bring a smile to your lips because they hark back to the greatest roadside advertising campaign in history, the old Burma-Shave signs.
Beginning in 1925 and continuing until 1963, the shaving cream company erected miniature billboards along roadways all over the country.
The rhyming signs were funny and wise and - most importantly - effective.
You always remembered the last sign: Burma-Shave.
I can't remember jokes, but I've always remembered a Burma-Shave series I saw years ago on the road to the beach:
Henry the Eighth
Sure had trouble
Short term wives
Long term stubble
I must have been studying Henry the Eighth in school at the time.
The reader who first alerted me to the Preston Hills signs recalled another series from the era of two-lane highways:
"Good morning, nurse!"
Burma-Shave cooked up thousands of those jingles over the years. I used to own a copy of the book "The Verse By the Side of the Road," which provides example after example. I can't find the book anymore, but there are numerous Internet sites offering examples of the shaving company's pairs of rhymed couplets:
A man - a miss
A car - a curve
He kissed the miss
And missed the curve
* * *
Treat him right
But if he'd shave
As shaving cream declined in sales and interstate highways proliferated, Burma-Shave effectively wrote its own obituary in verse.
Those five signs now reside in the Smithsonian Institution:
You'll soon see 'em
On a shelf
In some museum
When Advertising Age magazine compiled its top 100 ad campaigns of the 20th century in 1999, Burma-Shave ranked 23rd, highest of any outdoor-only campaign. (Volkswagen's "Think Small" ads from 1959 topped the list, followed by Coca-Cola's "The pause that refreshes," "The Marlboro Man," Nike's "Just do it" and McDonald's "You deserve a break today.")
It's been 40 years since I last saw any Burma-Shave signs. Until I drove up Orebank Road earlier this week.
Preston Hills Presbyterian Church offers a second set of Burma-Shave-like signs on the reverse side of the eastbound set.
I could quote them in this column, but that would spoil the fun of driving west on Orebank Road.
Let's just say, the first sign reads:
Fear of water?
You'll have to drive Orebank Road yourself to read the rest.