Burma Shave

By Ken Bradbury

They were what kept my family awake as we’d drive the long stretches of Kansas and Colorado highway. My brother and I would be dozing in the back seat and Dad would holler, “Here comes another one!” and we’d press our noses against the window to read, “Does Your Husband. . . Misbehave. Grunt and Grumble. Rant and Rave. . Shoot the Brute Some. Burma Shave!” Hey, in the days before handheld games and DVD players in the back seat, this was called excitement.

The Burma Shave sign was introduced in 1925 by the Burma-Vita company and continued to dot America’s roadways until 1963 when the company was bought out by Phillip Morris. Only the contiguous states of New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada were deemed too short of traffic to get their own – signs and in Massachusetts the land rental was too high. Burma Shave had to design special white-on-blue signs for South Dakota since that state prohibited the use of red on roadside advertising. Now the interstates allow speeds that have pretty much negated any sort of consecutive signage and instead we’re treated to hideous billboards touting things that we’d sometimes rather not view at 70 mph.

But since Jacksonville is going retro in a most delightful way with the old-fashioned square now touting a bookstore, theatre, several fine restaurants and coffee shops along with art galleries and of course anchored by the beautiful Farmers Bank building, why not bring back the Burma Shave signs?

Perhaps spaced evenly around the Square:

Hey It’s Safe

Now After Dark

But drive to ‘Dosh

If You Wanna Park!

Or perhaps approaching the Square via the new north entrance:

We got a new road!

There’s no more haltin’!

This sucker takes you

All the way to Alton!

Then as you drive down South Main and approach Community Park:

So you won’t be caught


Here comes Morton

Say your prayers.

And as you drive past the park itself:

This empty spot

Behind the Fence

Belongs to the State

Doesn’t have to make sense.

The great bulk of our tourist trade arrives off interstate 72 from the east, so I propose these signs just as you enter the off-ramp:

Welcome to Jacksonville

A Town with Vision!

Now on your right

Our lovely prison!

And speaking of harkening back to the good old days, what better place to plant a series of Burma Shave signs than at the entrance to good old Nichols Park?

Who wants a great park?

We bet you do!

Just watch out

For our ducks’ doo-doo!

And then perhaps one gigantic series of signs on all entrances to Jacksonville:

It’s a wonderful place

To find some peace

The government’s in

The next town east

Oh well … it’s just an idea, right?

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About the author

Ken Bradbury is an adjunct instructor of theatre at LLLC after retiring from Triopia. He entertains on the Spirit of Peoria riverboat and is the author of over 300 published plays. Website: creativeideas.com

View all articles by Ken Bradbury

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