26 Comments

  1. How did that Mad Magazine satire of Burma Shave go: When driving down; these country lines; watch the road; and not these signs…. Something like that….

  2. Mitch4, Actually, I think 80 was less startling then than now. By the time the Burma Shave signs were on their last legs, interstate speed limit was 70. Now we’re supposed to go 55 or 65 and 80 seems shocking.

    Or am I confabulating eras?

  3. Chak, I LOL’d at your reply. I can only speak for west of the Mississippi, but interstate speeds are 70 (or even 75 in rural areas), there is even a section of I15 where it is 80mph. That, of course, is the posted speed limit – most drivers treat that as a suggested starting point. 80mph is pretty much the norm.

    Now, where I currently live, the top posted speed is 50mph on the entire island, and there are not many sections of highway where you can even safely drive faster than that. You come up behind someone driving 40 or 45, there’s not much you can do about it, since there are very few places where you can safely pass. It doesn’t take long to learn to chill out and go with flow, whatever it may be.

  4. I remember a Mad Magazine Burma Shave parody, making the best of the litter situation:

    Cans and bottles on the road
    Are ugly, many say,
    But at night
    Reflecting bright
    They safely guide the way.
    Burma Shave

  5. Back in the days of 55mph limits, I started off on the I-5 from San Diego, riding with a friend (of my dad’s generation). Shortly after we got past L.A., he asked me to drive, telling me that I was not supposed to go slower than 70mph. I was a little nervous, but kept to it, and we did not pass a single car the entire way northward through the San Joaquin valley, but we were passed by plenty of other cars.

  6. What’s interesting is that the movie wasn’t released until 1959; so if this sign was indeed from 1950, they were relying on people’s familiarity with the 1880 novel.

  7. I seem to believe that the novel was really popular, that’s why they made the film — somewhere recently there was a mention in a historical novel? TV show? Movie? where someone was mentioning the famous chariot race in Ben Hur, referring obviously to the novel, because it was obviously before the movie could have been made. It’ll probably come to me right after I hit post…

  8. My pal Occam suggests the web site listing the signs screwed up and this was from 1960 rather than 1950.

    A year-old blockbuster film is going to resonate a lot more strongly than a 70-year-old novel.

  9. Yes, but that’s still far removed from 1950 — so without Netflix, cable television or DVDs, it’s pretty good bet that virtually nobody had seen it for the past quarter century.

    Basically, the sign would have needed the Geezer Tag.

  10. I remember seeing a couple of Burma Shave ads as a kid, but when I went hunting for confirmation, I was surprised to discover that Bob was right: officially, the road sign program was discontinued after Philip Morris bought the company in 1963. The ones I saw (sometime in the 70’s) must have been out-of -the-way relics that had never been removed.

  11. They keep (kept? this was about 10 years ago) a couple Burma Shave signs on the historic (eg: boring) stretch of Route 66 in Arizona:

  12. Hum, now I’m wondering if that historic fictional mention of Ben Hur I remember wasn’t someone talking about that first silent film (and mentioning the book in passing)…

  13. “The ones I saw (sometime in the 70’s) must have been out-of -the-way relics that had never been removed.”

    The brilliant part of the ad campaign was that they got other people to make their own.

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