Roadside poetry lives on

May 15, 2007

Sign1_a1.jpgBetween Kingman and Seligman, old Route 66 re-emerges gloriously intact, winding through Arizonas high desert, past the Hualapai Indian Nations tribal lands on the southern edge of the Grand Canyon.

Alongside this stretch of highway, every few miles or so, are cheerful reminders of a roadside advertising campaign that used the old highway as its medium — and whose life roughly coincided with Route 66s glory days.



Train approaching
Whistle squealing
Avoid that
Rundown feeling


A Man, A Miss
A Car A  Curve
He Kissed The Miss
And Missed The Curve

Drivers of aSign2_a.jpg certain age will immediately recognize the witty public service messages as vintage Burma-Shave ads though the companys name appears nowhere on the signs.

These signs have been erected by the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, a non-profit corporation that says it is dedicated to the preservation, promotion and protection of both the surface and memories of the storied road.

Burma ShSign3_a.jpgave, a brushless shaving cream, stopped posting the rhyming billboards on American highways in the early 1960s, shortly after it was acquired by much bigger company that didnt see the humor in the corny but consciousness-invading ads. The last laugh was on the conglomerate, however, as Burma-Shave sales plummeted.

Like the ads today on Route 66, the Burma-Shave ads ran four or five lines long and were aSign4_a.jpgs often droll exhortations to drive safely as they were marketing vehicles for the companys product.

The difference between then and now? The Burma-Shave ads of old always contained a final line that read simply Burma Shave.  

His cheek
Was rough
His chick vamoosed
And now she won’t
Come home to roost


Don’t lose
Your head
To gain a minute
You need your head
Your brains are in it

Its a detail that will be lost on almost anyone driving down Route 66 who was born after the 1950s. But it’s one that some, older purists may find sad.


Now, now. Watch it on these cracks about those born after the 50s! I’ve always gotten a kick out the Burma-Shave ads (although I’ve not seen them very often in anything more than old photos and stories).


Hah. Once, on a trip to Burma – before it was Myanmar – I wandered the streets of Rangoon early one morning with my camera, in search of an outdoor sidewalk barber, which is a common sight in many Asian cities. I found one, shot a photo of a guy getting a shave, and tried to get Reuters to use it with a “Burma shave” caption, but nobody even understood what I was talking about.

Posted by Robert Basler | Report as abusive