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Do YOU Remember. . .
Burma Shave Road Signs?

Way back in 1925 young Allan Odell pitched this great sales idea to his father, Clinton. Use small, wooden roadside signs to pitch their product, Burma-Shave, a brushless shaving cream. Dad wasn't wild about the idea but eventually gave Allan $200 to give it a try.

Didn't take long for sales to soar. Soon Allan and his brother Leonard were putting up signs all over the dang place. At first the signs were pure sales pitch but as the years passed they found their sense of humor extending to safety tips and pure fun. And some good old-fashioned down home wisdom.

At their height of popularity there were 7,000 Burma-Shave signs stretching across America. The familiar white on red signs, grouped by four, fives and sixes, were as much a part of a family trip as irritating your kid brother in the back seat of the car. You'd read first one, then another, anticpating the punch line on number five and the familiar Burma-Shave on the sixth.

The signs cheered us during the Depression and the dark days of World War II. But things began to change in the late Fifties. Cars got faster and superhighways got built to accomodate them. The fun little signs were being replaced by huge, unsightly billboards.

1963 was the last year for new Burma Shave signs. No more red and white nuggets of roadside wisdom to ease the journey.

Here are a few examples:

Don't lose your head
To gain a minute
You need your head
Your brains are in it
Burma Shave

Drove too long
Driver snoozing
What happened next
Is not amusing

Brother speeder,
Let's rehearse;
All together,
Good morning nurse

Trains don't wander
All over the map
'Cause nobody sits
In the engineer's lap

She kissed the hairbrush
By mistake
She thought it was
Her husband jake

Cautious rider
To her reckless dear
Let's have less bull
And lots more steer

Speed was high
Weather was not
Tires were thin
X marks the spot

The midnight ride
Of paul for beer
Led him to
A warmer hemisphere

Around the curve
It's a beautiful new car
Wasn't it?

No matter the price
No matter how new
The best safety device
In the car is you

A guy who drives
A car wide open
Is not thinkin'
He's just hopin'

At intersections
Look each way
A harp sounds nice
but its hard to play

Both hands on the wheel
Eyes on the road
That's the skillful
Driver's code

The one who drives
When he's been drinking
Depends on you
To do his thinking

Don't stick your elbow
Out so far
It may go home
In another car

Car in ditch
Driver in tree
The moon was full
And so was he.

Passing school zone
Take it slow
Let our little
Shavers grow

And finally. . . an ode to Burma Shave:

Shaving brushes
You'll soon see 'em
On a shelf
In some museum. . .

Read lots more Burma Shave road signs:

The entire history of the Burma Shave signs and a complete listing is available in a book titled "The Verse by the Side of the Road" by Frank Rowsome, Jr. You can buy it and another Burma Shave book below:

The Verse by the Side of the Road: The Story of the Burma-Shave Signs and Jingles Frank, Jr. Rowsome / Paperback / Published 1991

Burma-Shave: The Rhymes, the Signs, the Times Bill Vossler / Paperback / Published 1998

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