Pretty wretched doggerel. But the sentiment is sincere. From the time I learned to read (about 1955) until the sets of signs by the side of the road were relegated to history and the Smithsonian, I kept a keen eye out for them on family car trips. They were far better than counting cows or VW Bugs and Beetles. Then the signs disappeared. I never really knew what happened to them until reading this book, THE VERSE BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.
In about seventy engaging and well-written pages, Frank Rowsome, Jr. tells the story of the Burma-Vita Company, its effort to develop a brushless shave cream, and then its novel and serendipitously successful marketing campaign - installing sets of six red-and-white signs along roadsides, the first five of which usually rhymed in some fashion and the last of which proclaimed BURMA-SHAVE. In their thirty-six years (1927 to 1963), the BURMA-SHAVE signs became a classic of Americana. Other advertisers aped the formula, but as the public drove past their last sign they invariably substituted "Burma-Shave" for the name of the imitator's product.
The story behind the product and the merchandising campaign is heart-warming: from its start as a family business; to Fidelia, the secretary who kept track of all the sign locations in America and all the leases with farmers and all the routes for the crews going around maintaining and rotating the signs; to the board of directors meetings to choose the next year's roster of slogans. One highlight is Arliss French, a manager of a supermarket who responded to the jingle "Free-Free / A Trip / To Mars / For 900 / Empty Jars" by collecting empty Burma-Shave jars from his customers and then presenting 900 of them to the Burma-Vita Company. For how the company humorously made good on its promise, you will have to read the book.
The last fifty pages of the book contain all of the texts or jingles for the Burma-Shave sign sets, by year, from 1927 to 1963. It's hard to pick an outright favorite, but this is one I recall from my boyhood: "Dinah Doesn't / Treat Him Right / But If He'd / Shave / Dyna-Mite! / BURMA-SHAVE."