Friday, May 12, 2017

FFB: The Verse by the Side of the Road -- Frank Rowsome, Jr.

When I was a kid, one of the pleasures of taking a drive was reading the Buma-Shave signs.  You have to be over well over fifty to remember these.  They disappeared in 1963, the year I graduated from college (for the first time).  The signs were spaced out from 10 to 20 yards apart along the highway and had a little verse on them, always concluding with the name of the product being advertised, Burma-Shave.

If you remember the signs, then you're already feeling nostalgic.  If you don't, you most likely won't get it at all.  This book is for the people in the first group, and Frank Rowsome gives a complete history of the signs, their decline and fall.  He also reprints every sign series the company used.

While the idea was to promote shaving cream, the signs sometimes had a driving safety message.  
Purely promotional: Toughest/Whiskers/in the town/We hold 'em up/We mow 'em down/Burma-Shave.  

Driving safety: Around the curve/Lickety-split/Beautiful car/Wasn't it?/Burma-Shave.

I had a real nostalgic wallow reading this book.  Great stuff.

11 comments:

James Reasoner said...

I remember them well and eagerly watched for them every time my family took a trip when I was a kid. There were a lot of them in Texas.

Clif said...

http://burma-shave.org/jingles/

Todd said...

Between them, MAD and Time-Life books made sure I was aware of them, even if I was conceived in the year they vanished...I am the reincarnation of Burma-Shave doggerel, perhaps. Was Burma-Shave pulled from the market in '63, as well?

Bill Crider said...

Great link, Clif. Thanks.

Todd, the company was sold in 1963, I think, but the name hung on for a time. I don't know what the current owners of the name are doing with it.

Todd said...

The WIKI article fingers Philip Morris as the culprits...and notes the product name has been revived for nostalgia packs that heretically include shaving cream brushes....
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma-Shave

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Clif's link.

Great stuff.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks, Todd and Jeff.

Mike Stamm said...

I've got a copy of an earlier edition of this book somewhere, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I vividly remember these signs. From 1961 to 1968, my family drove from Indiana (and later Pennsylvania) to Colorado to visit my grandparents in Colorado during my dad's vacation in summer, and starting in western Kansas or somewhere, these signs were everywhere. I would swear they were there by the side of the road--Highway 36, in those pre-Interstate 80 days--longer than 1963, though.

Rick Robinson said...

I remember them, yes I do. Especially along Highway 101 in California driving north or south along the coast. I would have guessed that were a little further apart, 50 or 60 yards, but with a kid's memory, who knows? I also remember trying to make up jingles of my own to fit the pattern, usually without much success. I bet this book was fun.

George said...

When I used to teach an ADVERTISING course, I used a film that showed the roadside Burma Shave signs. My students were incredulous!

Mike Doran said...

Given the fact that the nation of Burma itself no longer exists ...

... how do you think Myanmar Shave would do in the marketplace?

(Cue recording: Istanbul (Not Constantinople), The Four Lads.)

Back in school, some of the more waggish among us would solemnly read a classical quatrain, and at the fourth line, we'd all chime in "Burma Shave."
(It was, as they say, A Different Time.)