Mention that phrase to anyone under 40, and you'll probably get a blank stare. Burma Shave signs were a fixture in American life until 1963. The story of Burma Shave's success is an example of triumph over depressions, wars and adversities of the marketplace.
Allen Odell persuaded his father, owner of the company that made Burma Shave, an innovative brushless shaving cream, to let him and his brother Leonard put up roadside signs to advertise the product. While the father wasn't overly enthusiastic, he was nearly bankrupt and let them have their heads. The results were wildly successful. Instead of dry advertising, the signs were a series of short phrases making up a poetic joke which broke up the boredom of long trips. On our long road trips, my dad would call out, "Burma Shave signs coming up..." and we'd all pay attention, calling out the rhyme as the signs rolled by.
Faster cars and superhighways, not to mention more recent Game Boys, IPods, and other portable amusements, put an end to this American icon. Re-live those years a little bit at Do You Remember These? Burma Shave in the Fifties, and still more at Two Lane Roads.
Burma Shave should not be forgotten. It was a simple pleasure during hard times and boring trips. More importantly, it's a prime example of how ingenuity can get one ahead (coupled with some hard work - putting up all those signs wasn't a walk in the park), while sitting on one's hands or waiting for someone else to fix things gets one nowhere!
Do you remember Burma Shave? What was your favorite?