Remember "Burma Shave" Signs? There Were Places That Had Few Or None!

Oh, the indignity....

I remember fondly as I was growing up, going on that family vacation, driving along on that long drive to our Grandmother's house in Illinois. Between the bouts of "he's LOOKING at me!" and fighting with ... of course I mean bonding with a pesky little brother...what did we see to help to keep us entertained? "Burma Shave" signs! They were sets of red signs with white lettering that had witty sayings on them. Of course, their main purpose was to sell a product (Burma Shave)... but they were so much more than that.

They were a part of "Americana"... "Nostalgia".. the history of this country! I guess most of the states did have them, but there were places scattered about that didn't have any, especially if there wasn't enough traffic in an area. I read that New Mexico didn't have them because of low traffic. I guess there were some Burma Shave signs scattered in Utah and Nevada. That's a good thing because there are roads here that are lightly traveled, and you would have enjoyed seeing these signs along the way. They helped to pass the time.

Burma Shave signs! They were so entertaining on a long trip!
Burma Shave signs! They were so entertaining on a long trip! | Source
They always ended with this sign.. "Burma Shave"
They always ended with this sign.. "Burma Shave" | Source
What the world could use a little more of these days... simple, clean humor
What the world could use a little more of these days... simple, clean humor | Source
The product that all of these "Burma Shave" signs was selling.
The product that all of these "Burma Shave" signs was selling. | Source

Just think of all you would have missed if you'd grown up where there were no signs! Now, growing up in Wisconsin, we did have the signs, and I remember them well. They were in existence from 1925 until 1963.. and in some places, it took a while before they were taken down.

When the signs were taken down, it was due to faster moving traffic, and the building of "superhighways" and the interstate system. They were replaced by billboards. You know those HUGE obnoxious things. Oh but to go back to the day of the little Burma Shave signs... or maybe not!

Some of them were pretty "corny"... but it was all clean humor, maybe something that America could use a little bit more of these days! When you go to see a comedian today, you have to be careful to try to find one that doesn't rely solely on profanity and "shock value" of what they are saying to get a laugh.

In 1925, a man named Allan Odell tried to pitch his idea to his father, the owner of the "Burma Shave" company... his idea was to put up humorous roadside signs. His Dad wasn't too crazy about the idea, but nevertheless, decided to let his son try it out. Both of his sons ended up going out and putting up these signs. Lo and behold, their sales took off like they had never seen before!

At the height of the popularity of these signs, there were approximately 7,000 of them stretched out across the country, they were found in some places more than others. The signs were put in groups of either four, five, or six at a time, and always the second to the last sign held the "punch line" of the joke, and the last sign simply said "Burma Shave."

Part of the role of these signs was to help cheer up a country that had just gone through a depression and then World War II. It almost seems like we could use a little bit of this cheering up today the way things are going!

Hmmm... maybe I could find someone who wants to advertise their business here in Las Vegas.. I do see a lot of "bail bond" places, do people really get into that much trouble in Vegas? Evidently they DO! Something like this maybe?

REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENS

IN VEGAS STAYS

ON THE FRONT PAGE

FOR DAYS

SHIFTY'S BAIL BONDS

There are a lot of wedding chapels here, too, maybe one of them would like to advertise!

GETTIN' HITCHED

IS A BIG GAMBLE

SO ROLL THAT DICE

AND ORDER SOME FRIES

DRIVE-THRU WEDDIN" CHAPEL

Hmmmm.... maybe I better stick to my "day job!" Sometimes things that used to be "in the past" are best left there. We can be as nostalgic as we want to be, but we can never bring those days back. The best we can do is remember fondly, and pass stories about them on to the next generation.

Now I know why I used to LOVE to sit for hours and listen to my Grandpa talk about "the good ole days."

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Comments 6 comments

BobMonger profile image

BobMonger 5 years ago from Carlin, Nevada USA

Very interesting-if a bit inaccurate. I remember Burma Shave signs on just about every bi way, highway, and back road in Utah and some pretty big ones on billboards across US 40 (now interstate 80) crossing the Bonneville Salt Flats-which was cool; they gave you something to read crossing that barren waste. We saw the last of them go thanks to Ladybird Johnson's "Beautify America" campaign. The last ones I saw were in the late '80s on the back way between Genoa and Carson City, but they were green and square.


KathyH profile image

KathyH 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Really? I didn't know that! :) I wonder why I read that there were none out this way?! I think I'll have to do some editing on this hub then, thanks for letting me know! ;)


BobMonger profile image

BobMonger 5 years ago from Carlin, Nevada USA

Now my interest if piqued! I've talked to some of the old timers around here and have been told of Burma Shave signs on the old highway between Carlin and Eureka as well but next to the old Eureka-Palisades Railway right of way and not visible from the "highway." In those days the road between the two towns was more of a wagon track and wasn't paved until the early '60s when the old railroad finally stopped running. It has been suggested to me that local business may have been having the signs done on their own volition. Time to start looking through old sheds and the like to see if I can find any that may be left. Nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to Nevada history. For example-all the rolling stock from the Eureka-Palisades Railway was stolen, if you can believe that, by a fellow from these parts who went by the moniker of "Doby Doc" If you go to "Howard Hickson's Histories" through the Northeast Nevada Museum's website there are quite a few tales about the man. Look for the "Dirt Runways" link.

Oh, and by the way, you are a very talented writer. Keep up the good work!


KathyH profile image

KathyH 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

Thanks so much BobMonger! And thank you for the website info, I definitely will check it out! You've been really helpful! :) This state definitely DOES have some fascinating history! :)


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

The demise of Burma Shave signs keeps popping up lately, so here goes what I know about them:

As of Dec 2011, there was at least one genuine sign (and another that may or may not be genuine) on the north (westbound) side of Route 66 between Davenport and Chandler OK. Wish I'd snapped a pic when I had the chance! ;D


KathyH profile image

KathyH 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada Author

That would have been neat to see JamaGenee! :) They most likely didn't get them all when they took them down and I bet there are "sightings" especially along a road like Route 66! :) Interesting!

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