Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A eork of art

 I'm sorry, I forgot to post this.
It was getting harder and harder to find a good riddle I hadn’t already used, so I have decided to try something else.  This week it’s Burma Shave signs.  I have some memories of them from when I was six, seven, and eight years old, up in Waupaca, Wisconsin.  They were a set of small signs along the road, six or seven of them, a couple of words on each, spelling out a funny rhyme, and always ending with the name of the company, Burma Shave.

The Burma Vita company, founded by a lawyer named Clinton Odell, tried at first to make and sell liniment, then invented a brushless shaving cream, to be sold in a half-pound jar.  The product bridged the gap between the old-fashioned shaving brush and the aerosol can.  The signs started appearing in Minnesota in 1925.  They soon were found everywhere in the country, and were hugely popular – there’s even a set in the Smithsonian – and Frank Rowsome, Jr., wrote a book about them, called The Verse By The Side Of The Road, published in 1965.

I won a contest at a Magna cum Murder convention to write a radio play – which was performed at the con – with “The Corpse in Fibber McGee’s Closet” – who turned out to be the man who wrote the Burma Shave signs!

Actually, the Burma Vita company ran an annual contest, offering $100 (which was a lot of money back then) to anyone who could come up with a rhyme they could use.  They offer brought tens of thousands of entries.

Most iconic one:  Every day/ We do our part/ To make your face/ A work of art.  Burma Shave

My personal favorite:  In this vale/ Of toil/ And sin/ Your head grows bald /But not/ Your chin/Burma Shave

Next week: An epitaph!

In two weeks:  More Burma Shave!

Can’t wait?  Go here for a glimpse of what it was like to be driving down a two-lane highway and seeing a set of those little red signs off the verge come into view.  (A Highway Department report once read that nothing more reliably slows down traffic than a set of Burma Shave signs):

The temperature on Sunday was nearly sixty degrees warmer than seven days previous, from close to twenty below to just above freezing.  It has fallen back some, to below freezing, and now it’s snowing.  This winter is proving to be a real roller coaster.  One side effect: there are already some serious pot holes on the roads.

I’m writing hard, trying to make that deadline.  There’s a big sign on my wall: Warning: Due Dates Are Closer Than They Appear.  Ack!


Linda O. Johnston said...

I think I did see a series of Burma Shave signs once on a family trip long ago, Monica--probably thanks to someone who'd somehow preserved them. Love the idea of your posting some here! And good luck with your deadline.

Dee W said...

My grandmother's family lived in small town Indiana and we live in small town Iowa, so I saw Burma Shave signs when we'd travel. Had the grandparents trained, they slowed down to let you read them! But I am also looking forward to the other also. And Keep Writing! I can't wait!

Betty Hechtman said...

I like that you included a history of Burma Shave.

I hate to tell you what the weather is like here. Let's just say I had my coffee in my backyard and I wasn't wearing a coat. But on the negative side, we haven't had any rain.