Thursday, October 14, 2010

Remember Burma Shave...?

When I was a kid and my folks would take us on a trip, one thing my sisters and I would always look for along the highway was the Burma Shave signs!

You remember those? I know that some of the older folks know what I'm talking about! It was a great advertising ploy that got the message across without the use of those big, ugly bill boards!

These little slogans made the trip more interesting and earned a permanent place in the folk lore of the 50's. Much like so many other things from that era, they are now gone for ever! I thought you might like to know a little Burma Shave history, just in case you don't already know it!

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 accommodate 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.

As befits such an important part of American culture, one set is preserved by the Smithsonian Institution. It reads:

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

One more grand old thing from the past that amused and entertained us. I spent many a long trip looking for those red and white signs with the cute little jingle! Like finding treasure, it made me and my sisters very happy...and I can still remember many of those jingles to this day!

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit in the kitchen for a bit! We can swap some Burma Shave jingles!


Catman said...



HermitJim said...

Hey Catman...
I remember that one! Some of those old sayings were pretty funny!

Thanks, buddy, for coming by today!

Ken said... ol'buddy of mine has one in his garage...only one i've ever seen

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

HJ, when younger, my family didn't take extended road trips, so I never "saw" any of these signs myself. But, I have seen them in stories and photos and agree they were real day brighteners. Wonder if any of them still survive - most likely in private collections.

Baby Sis said...

Bubba -
Wish I did have some of those signs! As you say, I remeber them well - probably pratcticed my reading and learning to rhyme by reading them. Good memories - thanks. See you next week for the big day.....

Big hugs -

Ben in Texas said...

Good grief? Am I really old enough to remember them?? Yep!! Guilty!!

My Favorite was
There once was a Girl from Nantucket.....

NO Wait !!! That's something totally different!!! Sorry.

Kelle said...

I've never seen these signs and didn't know the story, I'm a young'n still at 46 yrs old*wink* Thanks for sharing this, some of our political signs are following the Burma- hsave signs and it is funn to see what's coming next on a sheet of 4x8 plywood :o)
Blessings for your day Hermit,

Anonymous said...

I may not remember the rhymes, but I remember the signs.

Anonymous said...

Copy and paste and you can read all the slogans.
How fun!

Dizzy-Dick said...

Dang Jim, you sure do know how to take one back in time. I so loved those signs. Don't you wish you were back in that time zone again? I sure do.

Marjie said...

I think my memory starts just after those signs. I don't remember anything but interstate highways. Now I feel young-ish!

Tatersmama said...

Well, you had me until "I know that some of the older folks know what I'm talking about!"
I DO remember the old Burma Shave signs though, so maybe I need to face reality, eh?
I'm not as young as I was, but I'm not as old as I feel!

HermitJim said...

Hey Ken...
Many folks collect the signs as a piece of memorabilia that ties them to the past!

Probably would be at a premium if you could find them right now!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Beatrice...
Not any on the roadways, I imagine. Private collections...probably! Sure were a lot of them in the day!

Glad you could come bu today!

Hey Siws...
Used to see a lot of them on the road to Georgetown! Lots of fun!

Looking forward to seeing you again and to getting the eyes fixed!

Thanks for coming by today, sis!

Hey Ben...
Sometimes we just have to admit that we remember further back than we know!

As far as the other left for another time! I have a few of them as well!

I sure do appreciate your visit today!

Hey Kelle...
Yep, you are just a youngster! These were very effective as an advertising, so it's not unlikely that the folks in politics would copy the style!

Thanks, my friend, for coming by today!

Hey Andy...
Many places on the we3b have copies of the old slogans! I think they are still pretty popular even today!

Thanks for the links, buddy! I thank you also for coming by today!

Hey Dizzy...
It would be nice to spend another summer during those times, but I wouldn't want to stay!

I sure have a lot of memories of fun during those times!

Thank for the visit, buddy!

Hey Marjie...
Another youngster! You missed a lot of fun, my friend!

There were a lot of different things that were going on back then I wouldn't want to remember, so the selective memory works just fine!

Thanks so much for coming by today!

HermitJim said...

Hey Kate...
It's OK that you still remember some of the signs, I won't tell!

I'll bet you're still just a youngster, and I don't want you to ever be as old as I feel! Know what I mean?

Not getting older, just better!

Thanks for coming by today!

Kyddryn said...

I never saw any in person, Mister Hermit, sir, but I know of them...and up where Mum lives, folks use that sort of signage to garner grassroots support for causes like stopping major highways from being ploughed through the quiet countryside. I've always liked those signs...

Shade and Sweetwater,

HermitJim said...

Hey K...
You would certainly see the humor in them! They were a lot of fun on long trips.

Hope your live in friend gets back from his camping trip soon!

You take care of yourself, and have a great day...ya hear?

Thanks for coming by today!

Anonymous said...

The only one I remember,
He lit a match
to see gas tank
that's why they call him
Skinless Frank
Burma Shave
Thanks for the memories.
Anna Mouse