Great Advertising: Rare, But Long Remembered

Once every year or so when I was a kid, my family traveled from our home in Connecticut to the Fort Myers area in Florida where my grandparents had a home. We’d visit for a couple of weeks, usually over Christmas or Spring vacation.

Sometimes we would make the trip by train – without doubt the origin of my love of train travel – but we also drove. This was before the interstate system and it was a grueling trip that took us right through the center of all the big cities along the way. As I recall, it took three-and-a-half days to cover the 1400 or so miles … a long tedious trip for us kids.

I do remember a few things we saw along the way. We crossed a magnificent bridge over Chesapeake Bay and drove within sight of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (My Republican dad said the statue on top of the dome was FDR with a halo; my much more liberal mother glared at him and said that wasn’t so.) As we got farther south, there was a half-hearted contest to see who would spot the first coconut palm.

But mostly, and vividly, I remember signs promoting a shave cream called Burma Shave. We eagerly watched for them and, when they appeared, we would all read them out aloud.

For those too young to remember – meaning anyone under 60, I suppose – Burma Shave would erect a series a small signs along the road. They were spaced 50 or 60 feet apart and each included a brief phrase that was part of a longer message which usually (but not always) encouraged safe driving.

We were too young to shave in those days, but I’ll always have a warm spot for Burma Shave. Without seeing their signs every 40 or 50 miles, those long drives would really have been unbearable.
Oh … I also remember passing huge billboards for Eastern Airlines: a large photo of one of their planes over the caption, “You’d be there by now.” We were not amused.