Outtakes Around the Lakes: Learning poetry and verse via roadside signs
If you grew up between the 1920s and 1960s, you may recall the roadside advertisements. Many were large, but not like some are today. Only a few were humongous. The majority, such as Wolf's Head Oil, Esso Gas Ahead and the Burma Shave jingles were small to average size.
On trips to my grandfather's farm for an afternoon of fishing, we'd look forward to seeing them. From whichever sign we spotted, we knew exactly where we were and how much longer it would take to reach our destination. Even on different outings we could tell how far we were before arriving. Each trip had a set of signs and we not only had them memorized but also the order in which they appeared.
Some of our favorites were the verses and jingles of Burma Shave, that brush-less shaving “Wonder” that debuted in the 1920s. It took five to six signs on one inch thick wood, each one measuring about six inches high by six to eight feet in length, to create a jingle. The signs were placed near the top of a four by four inch, ten foot pole and inserted about four feet in the ground so they were eye level with the driver and passengers as the cars drove by, and placed about 100 feet apart alongside the road.
Keep in mind that most young men always shaved back then. With a stubbly bristle on their face that would scratch the soft, tender skin of any lovely damsel, the odds of them sitting home alone with their dog skyrocketed, depending on the thickness of their beard. With that in mind, Burma Shave was focused on removing that steel-wool growth.
Does your husband misbehave? Grunt and grumble, rant and rave? Shoot that brute some Burma Shave! read one of our favorites.
In nearly every case the verse or jingle ended with the words, Burma Shave. Since Dad always shaved with a brush, we couldn't picture why someone would spend good money for a brush-less shaving lather when it could be better spent on 39 cent banana splits. Nevertheless we didn't care, because, number one; we sure loved those jingles, and number two; we were all too young to shave anyway.
But it just wasn't one special verse we liked. Each of us had a number of favorites, and there were literally thousands of them along the roadways of America.
Among one of my younger brother's favorites were, A Shave that's Real; No Cuts To Heal; A Soothing, Velvet, After-feel.
Two more he liked were, To Kiss A Mug, That's Like A Cactus, Takes More Nerve, Than It Does Practice, and, His Cheek Was Rough, His Chick Vamoosed; And Now She Won't, Come Home To Roost.
My tomboy sister had her favorites, too. One was, Dear Lover Boy, Your Photo Came. But Your Dog-gone Beard, Won't Fit The Frame. A couple more were, Every Day, We Do Our Part, To Make His Face, A Work Of Art, and, The Chick He Wed, Let Out A Whoop; Felt His Chin, And Flew The Coop.
I also had my favorites. After all I was the instigator. I discovered them, first read them, taught them to my younger siblings and then rolled along with them in the back seat of the car laughing until we were almost blue in the face. It must've driven our parents half crazy and couldn't wait to reach our destination. A few of mine were, Headline News, For Face And Chin, Now Improved, With Lanolin.
Two others that I Liked were, The Poorest Guy, In The Human Race, Can Have A Million Dollar Face, and, Dinah Doesn't Treat Him Right; But If He'd Shave, Dyna-mite!
In time Mom join in, too. But when we read the next five signs, we all started laughing again.
Those signs read, Slow Down Pa, Sake's Alive. Ma Missed Signs, Four and Five. Burma Shave.
Comments may be emailed to: Frankweaverjr@aol.com
Comments may be emailed to Frankweaverjr@aol.com