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BURMA SHAVE SIGNS
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This is a collection that I copied from various sources a few years ago and kept in my humor file.
Any of you that remember these signs will enjoy reminiscing

Here are links to more

1930

DOES YOUR HUSBAND

MISBEHAVE

GRUNT AND GRUMBLE

RANT AND RAVE

SHOOT THE BRUTE SOME

BURMA-SHAVE

1930

HINKY DINKY

PARLEY VOO

CHEER UP FACE

THE WAR IS THROUGH

BURMA-SHAVE

1933

HE PLAYED

A SAX

BUT HIS WHISKERS SCRATCHED

HAD NO B.O.

SO SHE LET HIM GO

BURMA-SHAVE

1934

COLLEGE BOYS!

YOUR COURAGE MUSTER

SHAVE OFF

THAT FUZZY

COOKIE DUSTER

BURMA-SHAVE

1935

YOU KNOW

YOUR ONIONS

LETTUCE SUPPOSE

THIS BEETS 'EM ALL

DON'T TURNIP YOUR NOSE

BURMA-SHAVE

1936

COOTIES LOVE

BEWHISKERED PLACES

CUTIES LOVE THE

SMOOTHEST FACES

SHAVED BY

BURMA-SHAVE

1938

DON'T TAKE

A CURVE

AT 60 PER

WE HATE TO LOSE

A CUSTOMER

BURMA-SHAVE

1939
PAST SCHOOLHOUSES
TAKE IT SLOW
LET THE LITTLE
SHAVERS GROW
BURMA-SHAVE

1940

DON'T STICK

YOUR ELBOW

OUT SO FAR

IT MIGHT GO HOME

IN ANOTHER CAR

BURMA-SHAVE

1940

SHE KISSED

THE HAIRBRUSH

BY MISTAKE

SHE THOUGHT IT WAS

HER HUSBAND JAKE

BURMA-SHAVE

1942

PA ACTED

SO TICKLED

MA THOT

HE WAS PICKLED

HE'S JUST TRIED

BURMA-SHAVE

1947

THAT SHE

COULD COOK

HE HAD HIS DOUBTS

UNTIL SHE CREAMED

HIS BRISTLE SPROUTS WITH

BURMA-SHAVE

1950

THE WHALE

PUT JONAH

DOWN THE HATCH

BUT COUGHED HIM UP

BECAUSE HE SCRATCHED

BURMA-SHAVE

1951

I KNOW

HE'S A WOLF

SAID RIDING HOOD

BUT GRANDMA DEAR

HE SMELLS SO GOOD

BURMA-SHAVE

PITY ALL

THE MIGHTY CEASARS

THEY PULLED

EACH WHISKER OUT

WITH TWEEZERS

BURMA-SHAVE

 

WITHIN THIS VALE

OF TOIL AND SIN

YOUR HEAD GROWS BALD

BUT NOT YOUR CHIN

BURMA-SHAVE

Sunday, September 21, 1997

In a dreamier time, when families with cars went for a ride with no particular end in mind, when highway speed limits were 35, and when no one would think of dismissing you with his middle finger, Americans would round a bend or go over a rise and encounter a poem about married life.

DOES YOUR HUSBAND

MISBEHAVE

GRUNT AND GRUMBLE

RANT AND RAVE?

SHOOT THE BRUTE SOME

BURMA-SHAVE

The 600 Burma-Shave rhymes, which appeared in 7,000 locations from 1926 to 1963, were the centerpiece of an amazingly successful advertising campaign. How do you measure success? Three decades after the last signs were taken down -- victims of spiraling costs and drivers in faster cars with less time to read -- the verses remain a happy memory.

"They were everywhere and people in the car would stop talking when they saw one. Everybody wanted to read the signs and see if it was a new one," said Morris Goldstein, 70, of Fort Lee. "Everybody got a kick out of them."

Now the signs are coming back. The Burma-Shave products -- shave cream, after-shave lotion, and razors -- that all but disappeared around the time the signs were yanked also are about to make a return, and likely will appear on pharmacy shelves early in 1998.

The advertising to accompany this homecoming will take several forms, said Ken Goff, the marketing director of the American Safety Razor Co. of Vernon, Va., which owns the Burma-Shave name.

The verse will appear in television commercials and on store displays. But the company also plans a limited return to the side of the road. "We're bringing the signs back," Goff said. "They'll be a little bigger, of course, and they'll be spaced farther apart than the old ones so that people can absorb the message at today's highway speeds. But other than that, they'll look pretty much like the old ones."

A final decision on how many sets of signs to erect and where to put them has yet to be made. But one thing is certain: The company can't post 7,000 sets again. In the Twenties and Thirties, Burma-Shave gave farmers $5 a year and all the shaving cream they needed in exchange for permission to plant six consecutive signs, and that was the end of it. But nothing costs $5 anymore. Rent

and insurance alone would make the cost prohibitive, Goff said.

However many signs and wherever they're placed, the doggerel will be pure Burma-Shave -- six short lines of jingly words, two lines that rhyme (often impossibly), an occasional outrageous pun, all to promote the product or safe driving. And the famous last sign.

DRINKING DRIVERS,

Burma-Shave told us in 1959,

NOTHING WORSE

THEY PUT

THE QUART

BEFORE THE HEARSE

BURMA-SHAVE

But central to Burma-Shave's self-promotion was its loathing of whiskers

TO GET HIS GIRL'S

APPLAUSE,

NO MAN CAN RESEMBLE

SANTA CLAUS

its fixation on a certain body part

HE HAD THE RING

HE HAD THE FLAT

BUT SHE FELT HIS CHIN

AND THAT WAS THAT

and the news that women sought men who knew the wonders of a good close shave.

DOESN'T
KISS YOU
LIKE SHE USETER?
PERHAPS SHE'S SEEN
A SMOOTHER ROOSTER
BURMA-SHAVE

If you believed the signs, this Burma-Shave was potent stuff. It got results, the signs assured us, for the sexually repressed men and women of the Fifties. Burma-Shave never referred to repression, much less sex.

DINAH DOESN'T

TREAT HIM RIGHT

BUT IF HE'D

SHAVE

DYNA-MITE!

BURMA-SHAVE

But here, Goff said, is the verse the company has decided will open the roadside sign campaign next year. It needs some work.

MANY FACES

YOUNG AND OLD

WILL SMILE AND CHEER

THAT DEAR OLD SHAVING LINE

IS BACK THIS YEAR

BURMA-SHAVE

That fourth line with its two too many syllables goes on forever, and the "old" twice in six short lines just doesn't work.

No matter. Goff says this will be worked out by the start of 1998.

One of the TV commercials test-marketed earlier this year depicted a man, maybe 50 years old, driving along in a '58 Corvette with his wife. She was supposed to be about 46, the company said at the time. She looked younger.

Who was that guy in the Corvette? He's Burma-Shave's target, a fiftyish man with an income of $75,000, a man who saw the signs along the highway when he was a kid going for a ride in the old Studebaker with Dad and Mom at a nice, sensible 35 mph clip with no particular end in mind.

Lucky Number Six

Using Burma-Vita as a base, Noren concocted 300 mixes, but a bottle of No. 143, accidentally aged, met all the conditions for a new brushless shaving cream.

And so Burma-Shave entered the world. Unknown, of course. So the company tried different advertisingmethods: jars on approval ("Take it home, try it, and if you like it, pay me 50 cents next week."); door-to-door sales; and retail sales, but to little avail. Sales were negligible. Burma-Shave was slowly swirling down the drain.

Then, while driving through Illinois one day, Allan spotted a set of four small serial signs alongside the road advertising a gas station. Each sign said something different: Gas, oil, restrooms. The last sign pointed to the gas station.

Allan wondered, why not advertise Burma-Shave with a series of signs by the side of the road? After all, the car had won the hearts of Americans. And more and more people were taking to the roads every day. Alan thought he had an idea that couldn't miss.

Except for one problem--his father was skeptical. Clinton consulted advertising people in Minneapolis and Chicago, who promptly pooh-poohed the idea. Six signs by the side of the road? Nah, wouldn't sell. Sales Management magazine didn't soft-soap words. It wrote "...wouldn't a legitimate advertising campaign do better?"

But Allan climbed onto his soapbox and convinced his father to give him $200 of company money to try his idea.

In September 1926, the brothers bought secondhand boards. "The boards had plenty of nail holes and some were burned on one side," says Leonard in The Verse by the Side of the Road. "We sawed them and painted them up, using a thin brass stencil and brush."

Just before winter set in, a dozen sets of signs, like Shave / the modern way / Fine /for the skin / Druggists have it / Burma-Shave, were dug in alongside roads from Minneapolis to Albert Lea, and Red Wing, MN. "Those signs were pretty crude," says Leonard. But they were effective, beyond anyone's wildest imaginings.

By January, the company was reaping its first repeat orders ever, from druggists serving travelers on those roads. Business skyrocketed from $0 to $68,000 in one year--a good "sign."

It had been a razor-close shave, but Burma-Shave was saved.

Doctors Of Diggography

Burma-Shave's early success required new jingles, and new signs. Allan took care of the jingles.

GOODBYE! SHAVING BRUSH

HALF A POUND FOR HALF A DOLLAR

VERY FINE FOR THE SKIN

DRUGGISTS HAVE IT

CHEER UP FACE THE WAR IS OVER

BURMA-SHAVE.

Together, Allan and Leonard took care of the signs. Allan reconnoitered new territory, finding straightaways long enough to allow motorists to read each sign. (So popular were the signs that travelers complained if even a single one could not be read as they passed by.) With a free jar of Burma-Shave in hand, he knocked at farm doors, and paid $25 for a year's lease on the roadside property.

Leonard followed in a truck filled with newly painted signs. With business

finished, they dug holes 100 feet apart, and planted the signs. "I dug every sign hole in the Midwest," says Leonard. "I learned the business from 3 feet under the ground, and up."

Eventually, a Burma-Shave truck with the diggers and sign maintainers became a common sight in 45 of the 48 contiguous states (except low-traffic Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico). Sales mushroomed from zero gross in 1925 to $3 million during the company's heyday.

The Funny Business

In 1929, the first humor and rhymes appeared on Burma-Shave signs:

EVERY SHAVER

NOW CAN SNORE

SIX MORE MINUTES

THAN BEFORE

BY USING

BURMA-SHAVE.

The company also started a national competition for verses, offering $100 for prizes (later $1,000).

Fifty thousand entries a year flooded in, but only 20 verses were chosen each year. Businesslike at first,

SHAVE THE MODERN WAY

WASH THE FACE

APPLY WITH FINGERS

SHAVE

BIG TUBE 35C

BURMA-SHAVE (1928),

the verses became more humorous:

DOES YOUR HUSBAND

MISBEHAVE

GRUNT AND GRUMBLE

RANT AND RAVE

SHOOT THE BRUTE SOME

BURMA-SHAVE (1930);

HE PLAYED

A SAX

HAD NO B.O.

BUT HIS WHISKERS SCRATCHED

SO SHE LET HIM GO

BURMA-SHAVE (1932);

WHEN CUTTING

WHISKERS

YOU DON'T NEED

TO LEAVE ONE HALF

OF THEM FOR SEED

BURMA-SHAVE (1934).

Sometimes the humor backfired. A 1933 jingle read:

FREE OFFER! FREE OFFER!

RIP A FENDER

OFF YOUR CAR

MAIL IT IN

FOR A HALF-POUND JAR

BURMA-SHAVE.

At first, shavers sent fenders from toy cars. Then 25 crates of real fenders wended their way to the Minneapolis plant. In great good humor, the Odells mailed out half-pound jars to all senders, but took down the signs.

A second humorous sign got them in trouble years later. One night in 1955, Allan woke his wife Grace (the only presently surviving member of the original Burma-Shave clan). "He woke me many times in the middle of the night," says Grace. "He'd say, 'Grace, I've got another one,' and I'd take my flashlight and a pen and paper, and write the jingle down. It couldn't wait until I got up and turned on the light. By then he'd forget it!" she laughs.

This night he asked her to write:

FREE-FREE

A TRIP

TO MARS

FOR 900

EMPTY JARS

BURMA-SHAVE.

The signs went up. Curious questioners were informed in return letters:

IF A TRIP

TO MARS

YOU EARN

REMEMBER FRIEND

THERE'S NO RETURN.

But Arliss "Frenchy" French of Appleton, WI, would not take "no" for an answer. He retorted:

WHEN DEALING WITH BURMA

WE EXPECT

A QUICK SHAVE

WHY SPLIT HAIRS

ABOUT A TRIP

THAT I CRAVE?

The answer?

OUR ROCKETS ARE READY

WE AIN'T SPLITTING HAIRS

JUST SEND US

THE JARS

AND ARRANGE

YOUR AFFAIRS.

Which Frenchy did. He entered Minneapolis wearing a space costume, with a clear plastic bubble helmet, ready to blast off. And blast off he did--to Moers (pronounced mars), Germany, where he took Europe by storm, and garnered Burma-Shave tons of free advertising.

IF POETIC URGES

WON'T ABATE

FEARING JUNE

WILL BE TOO LATE

SEND OFF YOUR RHYME

YOU NEEDN'T WAIT

Remember the old Burma Shave signs?

PAST SCHOOL HOUSES

TAKE IT SLOW

LET THE LITTLE

SHAVERS GROW.

EVERY SHEBA

WANTS A SHEIK

STRONG OF MUSCLE

SMOOTH OF CHEEK.

Few things recall America's lost innocence better than those old Burma Shave signs that flourished in a time of family picnics and quiet Sundays at

Grandma's house:

IF WIFIE SHUNS

YOUR FOND EMBRACE

DON'T SHOOT THE ICEMAN

FEEL YOUR FACE.

HENRY THE EIGHTH

PRINCE OF FRISKERS

LOST FIVE WIVES

BUT KEPT HIS WHISKERS.

Can you imagine trying to enjoy those jingles in today's freeway traffic? We can barely read the exit numbers. And if you see an advertisement, it will be shouting at you, threatening you with underarm wetness or some other dreadful ailment. It won't contain the serene good humor of Burma Shave's poets:

IF YOU MUST SAMPLE

HER PUCKER PAINT

BETTER DRIVE

WHERE TRAFFIC AIN'T.

CAR IN DITCH

DRIVER IN TREE

MOON WAS FULL

AND SO WAS HE.

The signs were the brainchild of Allen Odell, son of Burma Shave's founder, Clifford Odell. Allen put up his first signs in a farmer's field near Minneapolis in 1925. He got the idea from gas station signs that told travelers there were gas, oil and restrooms ahead. Allen thought, Why couldn't you sell shaving cream that way?

He convinced his father to give him $200 to try the idea. With used boards, he erected a dozen sets of signs. And it worked. Orders started pouring in when travelers asked druggists about that shaving cream they saw mentioned on some funny signs.

DOES YOUR HUSBAND MISBEHAVE

GRUNT AND GRUMBLE

RANT AND RAVE

SHOOT THE BRUTE

SOME BURMA SHAVE.

It was a brilliant idea. America in the 1930s was torn by the Great Depression. Spirits were low. But here was a little company brightening the countryside with cheerful rhymes. Some offered lighthearted observations like:

DIPLOMACY IS

TO DO AND SAY

THE NASTIEST THINGS

IN THE NICEST WAY.

Others performed public service by reminding drivers of their responsibilities:

HER CHARIOT RACED

80 PER

THEY HAULED AWAY

WHAT HAD BEN HUR.

CATTLE CROSSING

PLEASE DRIVE SLOW

THAT OLD BULL

IS SOME COW'S BEAU.

At one time, over 7,000 sets of Burma Shave signs entertained travelers across the U.S. Poets from all over the country submitted jingles. Some had to be censored, like this one which was never used:

MY MAN WON'T SHAVE

SAID HAZEL HUZ

BUT I DON'T WORRY

DORA'S DOES.

Others came close to being censored but were used:

SUBSTITUTES

CAN LET YOU DOWN

QUICKER THAN

A STRAPLESS GOWN.

But eventually times changed. America's countryside shrank due to superhighways and faster cars. Huge billboards outshouted the little signs. In 1963 the Odells sold their company to a conglomerate that ordered the removal of the signs. Today one of the last signs has been preserved in the Smithsonian museum. Ironically it

reads:

SHAVING BRUSHES

YOU'LL SOON SEE 'EM

ON THE SHELF

IN SOME MUSEUM.

The others remain only in the memory of people who can recall a different, less hurried way of doing business in America. But what was the creator's favorite jingle? Allen Odell said it was:

WITHIN THIS VALE

OF TOIL AND SIN

YOUR HEAD GROWS BALD

BUT NOT YOUR CHIN.

Ah, Burma Shave. Ah, America.

SHAVING BRUSHES

YOU'LL SOON SEE 'EM

ON THE SHELF

IN SOME MUSEUM

BURMA-SHAVE

A SEATBELT SAVED

MY BROTHER JOHN

NOT HIS CAR

THAT WAS MEANT

FOR THE AUTOBAHN

BURMA-SHAVE

Submitted by

Clinton Odell Robinson

Miami, FL

Great-grandson of Clinton Odell

(the founder of Burma-Shave's

parent company, Burma Vita Corp.)

What an honor!

THOSE LITTLE SIGNS

THEY BROUGHT US JOY

BUT DON'T YOU KNOW

LIKE ALL GOOD THINGS

THEY HAD TO GO

BURMA-SHAVE

Submitted by

Karen Kohler

Waynesboro, PA

BERNARD BAILY

TOOK A CHANCE

HE SHAVED NOT ONCE

GOT NO ROMANCE

BURMA-SHAVE

Submitted by

Tara Adina Einziger

Boston, MA


IF LIFE ON THE FAST LANE

IS THE WAY YOU'VE STEERED

YOU WON'T LIVE LONG

TO GROW A BEARD

BURMA-SHAVE

Submitted by

Chris Wyller

Gardner, KS

A FARMER AND A CHICKEN

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD

THE CHICKEN LAID

A GOLDEN EGG

NOW THE FARMER HAS

A NEW ABODE

BURMA-SHAVE

Submitted by

Leslie Zatyko

Santa Ana, CA

NOT 90 PER

PLEASE BE A PAL

SAVE YOUR CLOSE SHAVES

JUST FOR YOUR GAL

BURMA-SHAVE

Submitted by

Dave Frykland

Redwood City, CA

WHEN DRIVING DOWN

THE ROAD OF LIFE

BETTER TO HIT THE BRAKES

THAN TO HIT YOUR WIFE

BURMA-SHAVE

Submitted by

Woody Meredith

Greeneville, TN

WE'VE HAD SEVERAL WINNERS

SINCE THIS CONTEST'S BEGUN

SEND ME YOUR CREATION

AND BE THE NEXT ONE!

BURMA-SHAVE

MY MAN WON'T SHAVE

SAID HAZEL HUZ

BUT I DON'T WORRY

DORA'S DOES

BURMA-SHAVE

YOU KNOW YOUR ONIONS

LETTUCE SUPPOSE

THIS BEET 'EM ALL

DON'T TURNIP YOUR NOSE

BURMA-SHAVE


THE MONKEY TOOK

ONE LOOK AT JIM

AND THREW THE PEANUTS

BACK AT HIM

HE NEEDED

BURMA-SHAVE

THIS WILL NEVER

COME TO PASS

A BACK-SEAT DRIVER

OUT OF GAS

BURMA-SHAVE

TRAIN WRECKS FEW

REASON CLEAR

FIREMAN NEVER HUGS

ENGINEER

BURMA-SHAVE

 

'TWOULD BE MORE FUN

TO GO BY AIR

IF WE COULD PUT

THESE SIGNS UP THERE

BURMA-SHAVE

A NUT AT THE WHEEL

A PEACH AT HIS RIGHT

CURVE AHEAD

SALAD TONIGHT

BURMA-SHAVE

IT'S BEST FOR ONE

WHO HITS THE BOTTLE

TO LET ANOTHER

USE THE THROTTLE

BURMA-SHAVE

WHY IS IT

WHEN YOU TRY TO PASS

THE GUY IN FRONT

GOES TWICE AS FAST?

BURMA-SHAVE

 

GRANDPA'S OUT WITH

JUNIOR'S DATE

OLD TECHNIQUE

WITH BRAND NEW BAIT

BURMA-SHAVE

IF HARMONY

IS WHAT YOU CRAVE

THEN GET

A TUBA

BURMA-SHAVE

 

HINKY-DINKY

PARLEY VOO

CHEER UP THE FACE

THE WAR IS THRU

BURMA-SHAVE

SHE KISSED THE HAIRBRUSH

BY MISTAKE

SHE THOUGHT IT WAS

HER HUSBAND JAKE

BURMA-SHAVE

 

DINAH DOESN'T

TREAT HIM RIGHT

BUT IF HE'D SHAVE

DYNA-MITE!

BURMA-SHAVE

A MAN - A MISS

A CAR - A CURVE

HE KISSED THE MISS

AND MISSED THE CURVE

BURMA-SHAVE

THE BLACKENED FOREST

SMOLDERS YET

BECAUSE HE FLIPPED

A CIGARETTE

BURMA-SHAVE

SAID FARMER BROWN

WHO'S BALD ON TOP

"WISH I COULD

ROTATE THE CROP"

BURMA-SHAVE

 

HEAVEN'S LATEST

NEOPHYTE

SIGNALLED LEFT

THEN TURNED RIGHT

BURMA-SHAVE

THIS IS NOT

A CLEVER VERSE

I TRIED AND TRIED

BUT JUST GOT WORSE

BURMA-SHAVE

A GUY WHO WANTS

TO MIDDLE-AISLE IT

MUST NEVER SCRATCH

HIS LITTLE VIOLET

BURMA-SHAVE

THE HOBO

LETS HIS WHISKERS SPROUT

IT'S TRAINS--NOT GIRLS

THAT HE TAKES OUT

BURMA-SHAVE

 

AROUND THE CURVE

LICKETY-SPLIT

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL CAR

WASN'T IT?

BURMA-SHAVE


WILD MEN PULLED

THEIR WHISKERS OUT

THAT'S WHAT MADE THEM

WILD NO DOUBT

BURMA-SHAVE

 

LISTEN BIRDS

THESE SIGNS COST MONEY

SO ROOST AWHILE

BUT DON'T GET FUNNY

BURMA-SHAVE

ON CURVES AHEAD

REMEMBER, SONNY

THAT RABBIT'S FOOT

DIDN'T SAVE THE BUNNY

BURMA-SHAVE

IF YOU DISLIKE

BIG TRAFFIC FINES

SLOW DOWN 'TILL YOU

CAN READ THESE SIGNS

BURMA-SHAVE

IF WIFIE SHUNS

YOUR FOND EMBRACE

DON'T SHOOT THE ICEMAN

FEEL YOUR FACE

BURMA-SHAVE

A PEACH LOOKS GOOD

WITH LOTS OF FUZZ

BUT MAN'S NO PEACH

AND NEVER WAS

BURMA-SHAVE

SAID JULIET

TO ROMEO

"IF YOU WON'T SHAVE

GO HOMEO"

BURMA-SHAVE

CAR IN DITCH

DRIVER IN TREE

MOON WAS FULL

AND SO WAS HE

BURMA-SHAVE

A GIRL SHOULD HOLD ON

TO HER YOUTH

BUT NOT

WHEN HE'S DRIVING

BURMA-SHAVE

"AT EASE," SHE SAID

"MANEUVERS BEGIN

WHEN YOU GET THOSE WHISKERS

OFF YOUR CHIN"

BURMA-SHAVE

DON'T STICK YOUR ELBOW

OUT SO FAR

IT MIGHT GO HOME

IN ANOTHER CAR

BURMA-SHAVE

HE MARRIED GRACE

WITH SCRATCHY FACE

HE ONLY GOT

ONE DAY OF GRACE!

BURMA-SHAVE

SEND ME YOUR OWN RHYME

ABOUT ANYTHING'S FINE

IF I THINK IT'S A WINNER

IT'LL GO ON MY

BURMA-SHAVE SIGN

 

One Internet site quips:

CREATE YOUR RHYME

DON'T DELAY

SIGN MY GUESTBOOK

DO IT TODAY!

BURMA-SHAVE


HERE ARE SOME VERSES SUBMITTED FOR A CONTEST FEATURED HERE ON THE 'NET THANKS TO ALL THAT ENTERED IS THIS FUN? YOU BET!

WE'VE MADE GRANDPA

LOOK SO TRIM

THE LOCAL DRAFT BOARD'S

AFTER HIM

BURMA-SHAVE

 

PEDRO WALKED BACK HOME, BY GOLLY

HIS BRISTLY CHIN

WAS HOT-TO-MOLLY

BURMA-SHAVE

WHEN THE STORK

DELIVERS A BOY

OUR WHOLE DARN FACTORY

JUMPS FOR JOY

BURMA-SHAVE

OUR FORTUNE

IS YOUR SHAVEN FACE

IT'S OUR BEST

ADVERTISING SPACE

BURMA-SHAVE

THE POOREST GUY

IN THE HUMAN RACE

CAN HAVE A

MILLION DOLLAR FACE

BURMA-SHAVE

 

THIRTY DAYS

HATH SEPTEMBER

APRIL, JUNE

AND THE SPEED OFFENDER

BURMA-SHAVE

IF DAISIES ARE YOUR

FAVORITE FLOWER

KEEP PUSHIN' UP THOSE

MILES-PER-HOUR

BURMA-SHAVE

 

SUBSTITUTES

CAN LET YOU DOWN

QUICKER THAN A

STRAPLESS GOWN

BURMA-SHAVE

THE BIG BLUE TUBE'S

JUST LIKE LOUISE

YOU GET A THRILL

FROM EVERY SQUEEZE

BURMA-SHAVE


"NO, NO," SHE SAID

TO HER BRISTLY BEAU

"I'D RATHER EAT

THE MISTLETOE"

BURMA-SHAVE

TRAIN APPROACHING

WHISTLE SQUEALING

PAUSE! AVOID THAT

RUNDOWN FEELING!

BURMA-SHAVE

 

UNLESS YOUR FACE

IS STINGER FREE

YOU'D BETTER LET

YOUR HONEY BE

BURMA-SHAVE

THIS CREAM MAKES THE

GARDENER'S DAUGHTER

PLANT HER TU-LIPS

WHERE SHE OUGHTER

BURMA-SHAVE

IF YOUR PEACH

KEEPS OUT OF REACH

BETTER PRACTICE

WHAT WE PREACH

BURMA-SHAVE

TO KISS A MUG

THAT'S LIKE A CACTUS

TAKES MORE NERVE

THAN IT DOES PRACTICE

BURMA-SHAVE

THE WEATHER WAS CLEAR

THE CARS WAS WHIZZIN'

THE FAULT WAS HERS

THE FUNERAL HIS'N

BURMA-SHAVE

MANY A FOREST

USED TO STAND

WHERE A LIGHTED MATCH

GOT OUT OF HAND

BURMA-SHAVE

SHE EYED HIS BEARD

AND SAID, "NO DICE

THE WEDDING'S OFF

I'LL COOK THE RICE"

 

BURMA-SHAVE

FREE OFFER! FREE OFFER!

RIP A FENDER OFF YOUR CAR

MAIL IT IN FOR

A HALF-POUND JAR

BURMA-SHAVE


FREE - FREE

A TRIP TO MARS

FOR 900

EMPTY JARS

BURMA-SHAVE

DON'T TRY PASSING

ON A SLOPE

UNLESS YOU HAVE

A PERISCOPE

BURMA-SHAVE

 

HENRY THE EIGHTH

SURE HAD TROUBLE

SHORT-TERM WIVES

LONG-TERM STUBBLE

BURMA-SHAVE

BE A MODERN

PAUL REVERE

SPREAD GOOD NEWS

FROM EAR TO EAR

BURMA-SHAVE

A CHRISTMAS HUG

A BIRTHDAY KISS

AWAITS THE WOMAN

WHO GIVES THIS

BURMA-SHAVE

SHE PUT A BULLET

THROUGH HIS HAT

BUT HE'S HAD CLOSER

SHAVES THAN THAT

WITH BURMA-SHAVE

 

BACHELORS QUARTERS

DOG ON THE RUG

WHISKERS TO BLAME

NO ONE TO HUG

BURMA-SHAVE

A CHIN WHERE

BARBED WIRE BRISTLES STAND

IS BOUND TO BE

A NO MA'AMS LAND

BURMA-SHAVE

PAST SCHOOLHOUSES

TAKE IT SLOW

LET THE LITTLE

SHAVERS GROW

BURMA-SHAVE

THE BEARDED LADY

TRIED A JAR

SHE'S NOW A FAMOUS

MOVIE STAR

BURMA-SHAVE


IF YOU THINK

SHE LIKES YOUR BRISTLES

WALK BARE-FOOTED

THROUGH SOME THISTLES

BURMA-SHAVE

USE THIS CREAM

A DAY OR TWO

THEN DON'T CALL HER

SHE'LL CALL YOU

BURMA-SHAVE

 

SUBSTITUTES

ARE LIKE A GIRDLE

THEY FIND SOME JOBS

THEY JUST CAN'T HURDLE

BURMA-SHAVE

ANGELS WHO GUARD YOU

WHEN YOU DRIVE

USUALLY RETIRE

ABOVE SIXTY-FIVE

BURMA-SHAVE

 

DRINKING DRIVERS

NOTHING WORSE

HE PUT THE QUART

BEFORE THE HEARSE

BURMA-SHAVE

HE HAD THE RING

HE HAD A FLAT

SHE FELT HIS CHIN

AND THAT WAS THAT

BURMA-SHAVE

IS HE LONESOME

OR JUST BLIND

THIS GUY WHO DRIVES

SO CLOSE BEHIND?

BURMA-SHAVE

THE ONE WHO DRIVES WHEN

HE'S BEEN DRINKING

DEPENDS ON YOU

TO DO HIS THINKING

BURMA-SHAVE

 

CANDIDATE SAYS

CAMPAIGN CONFUSING

BABIES KISS ME

SINCE I'VE BEEN USING

BURMA-SHAVE

BROTHER SPEEDERS

LET'S REHEARSE

ALL TOGETHER

GOOD MORNING, NURSE

BURMA-SHAVE

HER CHARIOT RACED
AT EIGHTY PER
THEY HAULED AWAY
WHAT HAD BEN HUR
BURMA-SHAVE

BEN MET ANNA

MADE A HIT

NEGLECTED BEARD

BEN-ANNA SPLIT

BURMA-SHAVE

DON'T TAKE A CURVE

AT SIXTY PER

WE'D HATE TO LOSE

A CUSTOMER

BURMA SHAVE

IF YOU PASS

ON THE YELLOW LINE

HOPE THE FUNERAL'S

YOURS, NOT MINE

BURMA-SHAVE

 

CATTLE CROSSING

MEANS GO SLOW

THAT OLD BULL

IS SOME COW'S BEAU

BURMA-SHAVE

GRANDPA'S BEARD

WAS STIFF AND COURSE

AND THAT'S WHAT CAUSED

HIS FIFTH DIVORCE

BURMA-SHAVE

 

WITHIN THIS VALE

OF TOIL AND SIN

YOUR HEAD GROWS BALD

BUT NOT YOUR CHIN

BURMA-SHAVE

DOES YOUR HUSBAND MISBEHAVE

GRUNT AND GRUMBLE

RANT AND RAVE

SHOOT THE BRUTE

SOME BURMA-SHAVE

 

DIPLOMACY IS

TO DO AND SAY

THE NASTIEST THINGS

IN THE NICEST WAY

BURMA-SHAVE

OF ALL THE DRUNKS

WHO DRIVE ON SUNDAY

SOME ARE STILL

ALIVE ON MONDAY

BURMA-SHAVE

JUST THIS ONCE

AND JUST FOR FUN

WE'LL LET YOU FINISH

WHAT WE'VE BEGUN

? ? ?

IF HUGGING ON HIGHWAYS

IS YOUR SPORT

TRADE IN YOUR CAR

FOR A DAVENPORT

BURMA-SHAVE

 

SUBSTITUTES

THAT PROMISE PERFECTION

ARE LIKE SOME CANDIDATES

AFTER ELECTION

BURMA-SHAVE

DON'T LOSE YOUR HEAD

TO GAIN A MINUTE

YOU NEED YOUR HEAD

YOUR BRAINS ARE IN IT

BURMA-SHAVE

 

MANY A WOLF

IS NEVER LET IN

BECAUSE OF THE HAIR

ON HIS CHINNY-CHIN-CHIN

BURMA-SHAVE

SAY, BIG BOY

TO GO THRU LIFE

HOW'D YOU LIKE

A WHISKERED WIFE?

BURMA-SHAVE

THE CHICK HE WED

LET OUT A WHOOP

FELT HIS CHIN AND

FLEW THE COOP

BURMA-SHAVE

TRAINS DON'T WANDER

ALL OVER THE MAP

FOR NO ONE SITS

ON THE ENGINEER'S LAP

BURMA-SHAVE

RIOT AT DRUG STORE

CALLING ALL CARS

100 CUSTOMERS

99 JARS

BURMA-SHAVE

THE MIDNIGHT RIDE

OF PAUL FOR BEER

LED TO A

WARMER HEMISPHERE

BURMA-SHAVE

HE SAW THE TRAIN

HE TRIED TO DUCK IT

KICKED FIRST THE GAS

AND THEN THE BUCKET

BURMA-SHAVE

IF MAN BITES DOGGIE

THAT IS NEWS

IF FACE SCARES DOGGIE

BETTER USE

BURMA-SHAVE

 

PROPER DISTANCE

TO HIM WAS BUNK

THEY PULLED HIM OUT

OF SOME GUY'S TRUNK

BURMA-SHAVE

IF YOU DON'T KNOW

WHOSE SIGNS THESE ARE

YOU CAN'T HAVE

DRIVEN VERY FAR

BURMA-SHAVE

 

STATISTICS PROVE

NEAR AND FAR

THAT FOLKS WHO

DRIVE LIKE CRAZY--ARE!

BURMA-SHAVE

HE LIT A MATCH

TO CHECK GAS TANK

THAT'S WHY THEY CALL HIM

SKINLESS FRANK

BURMA-SHAVE

THAT SHE COULD COOK

HE HAD HIS DOUBTS

UNTIL SHE CREAMED

HIS BRISTLE SPROUTS WITH

BURMA-SHAVE

MANY A FOREST

USED TO STAND

WHERE A LIGHTED MATCH

GOT OUT OF HAND

and

THE ONE WHO DRIVES WHEN

HE'S BEEN DRINKING

DEPENDS ON YOU

TO DO HIS THINKING

Burma-Shave

Burma-Shave's Start

Like many great success stories, Burma-Shave started by happenstance. Burma-Shave, a brushless shaving cream, was concocted by the Odell family. Its predecessor product, a liniment called Burma-Vita, was not doing very well in sales, due to competition and to the fact that it could only be sold to people who were ill. It was suggested that it would be more profitable to market a product that could be used every day, such as Lloyd's Euxesis from England. This was the original brushless shaving cream that was available world-wide. A chemist was hired (Burma-Vita was one of grandfather Odell's homemade concoctions) and after about 300 mixtures were tried, Burma-Shave was born.

However, inventing the product was not the key to success, and the product almost died several times because of poor marketing.

The Small Wooden Signs

Then one day, Allan Odell came up with a suggestion. He suggested roadside signs like the ones he had seen on road trips when he was out trying to sell Burma-Shave.

However, his father, Clifford Odell, would not hear of such an idea, and was sure that the boy was just homesick because of all the traveling he was doing. Allan continued to lobby for his idea and finally his father gave in and gave him $200 to try out his idea.

The year was 1925, and the automobile had people beginning to take to the roads of America. Second-hand boards were purchased, cut into 36-inch lengths, and painted. The original signs did not have a rhyme. Typically, four consecutive signs would read:

SHAVE THE MODERN WAY

FINE FOR THE SKIN

DRUGGISTS HAVE IT

BURMA-SHAVE

Allan put up his first signs in a farmer's field along Route 35, between Albert Lea and Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1925. After erecting a dozen sets of signs, orders started pouring in when travelers asked druggists about that shaving cream they saw mentioned on some funny signs. Within weeks, drug stores began running out of Burma-Shave, and ordering more. The next year, Allan and his brother Leonard set up more signs, spreading across Minnesota and into Wisconsin, spending $25,000 that year on signs. Orders poured in, and sales for the year hit $68,000.

Success

The signs were a brilliant idea. America in the 1930s was torn by the Great Depression. Spirits were low. But here was a little company brightening the countryside with cheerful rhymes. Some offered lighthearted observations like:

DIPLOMACY IS

TO DO AND SAY

THE NASTIEST THINGS

IN THE NICEST WAY

Others performed public service by reminding drivers of their responsibilities:

HER CHARIOT RACED

AT EIGHTY PER

THEY HAULED AWAY

WHAT HAD BEN HUR

 

CATTLE CROSSING

PLEASE DRIVE SLOW

THAT OLD BULL

IS SOME COW'S BEAU

The Pleasant Driving Diversion

The Burma-Shave Jingles were short lines written on 5 or 6 signs with the last sign usually reading "Burma-Shave". The signs continued to bring success and became more and more humorous. The consecutive signs, when placed 100 paces apart, created something unique in advertising. Of course, in later years as the roads got better and cars got faster, the size of the signs and the distance between them had to be increased.

The consecutive signs commanded the attention of those reading them longer than any single sign could ever hope to do. The signs helped make long journeys more entertaining, and people became addicted to reading them.

By having the rhymes build suspense until the fourth or fifth sign, Burma-Shave forced those reading the signs to focus their attention on reading the full series of signs so that the message could be understood and savored like a good joke. For instance:

THE BEARDED LADY

TRIED A JAR

SHE'S NOW

A FAMOUS MOVIE STAR

BURMA-SHAVE

or

IF YOU THINK

SHE LIKES YOUR BRISTLES

WALK BARE-FOOTED

THROUGH SOME THISTLES

BURMA-SHAVE

The Rhymes of the Times

The slogans were very powerful, so much so that the Burma-Shave Company did not even feel the effects of the Depression. The rhymes aimed at motivating potential purchasers of Burma-Shave were not just cute, but were probably some of the best advertising slogans ever written. Some of them suggested to men that they would do better with the women if they used Burma-Shave:

SHE EYED HIS BEARD

AND SAID, "NO DICE

THE WEDDING'S OFF

I'LL COOK THE RICE"

or

A CHIN WHERE

BARBED WIRE BRISTLES STAND

IS BOUND TO BE

A NO MA'AMS LAND

Another good example is:

USE THIS CREAM

A DAY OR TWO

THEN DON'T CALL HER

SHE'LL CALL YOU

Not overlooking the spending power of women, the company put up rhymes to lure them to purchase Burma-Shave for the men in their lives:

A CHRISTMAS HUG

A BIRTHDAY KISS

AWAITS THE WOMAN

WHO GIVES THIS

Others slogans suggested that there was no better product or substitute for Burma-Shave:

SUBSTITUTES

ARE LIKE A GIRDLE

THEY FIND SOME JOBS

THEY JUST CAN'T HURDLE

Poems From Homes

Although Allan wrote many of the early jingles himself, what made the sign campaign so successful is that ordinary folks were encouraged to write the jingles, and were awarded cash prizes up to $100. The family rejected any jingles which were even the slightest bit offensive like this was never used:

MY MAN WON'T SHAVE

SAID HAZEL HUZ

BUT I DON'T WORRY

DORA'S DOES

Others came close to being censored but were used:

SUBSTITUTES

CAN LET YOU DOWN

QUICKER THAN

A STRAPLESS GOWN

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign!

During WW II, homesick GI's would erect Burma-Shave look-alike signs in Alaska, Germany, and even Antarctica! Eventually, about 7,000 sets of verses were posted along highways in 45 states. A sign crew with just 8 trucks maintained all the signs. The road men calling themselves "PHD's" (Post-Hole Diggers) changed the verses at least once a year and replaced any broken signs. Most farmers were more than willing to allow the signs to be erected on their land, for little more than a case of the product each year. The little Burma-Shave company grew to $3 million in annual sales.

Nearly everyone who drove on America's highways from the 1930's to the 1960's knew of the signs. Or as one of the poems said:

IF YOU DON'T KNOW

WHOSE SIGNS THESE ARE

YOU CAN'T HAVE

DRIVEN VERY FAR

In The Public's Interest

With the trend toward better automobiles and roads, the traffic accident rate began to climb. In response, the company created some slogans stressing traffic safety. In fact, some of the best Burma-Shave rhymes were written with public service in mind:

PAST SCHOOLHOUSES

TAKE IT SLOW

LET THE LITTLE

SHAVERS GROW

or

IS HE LONESOME

OR JUST BLIND

THIS GUY WHO DRIVES

SO CLOSE BEHIND?

 

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