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Burma Shave

How many of you remember the Burma Shave signs along side of the two lane highways? I know I'm dating myself by admitting I read them, but it may be one of the few dates I can get these days. The signs were on five or six separate posts spread along a stretch of two lane highway. As you read what was written on the signs, the last sign held the punch line that often brought a smile to your face. Many of these serial signs were not only humorous, but interesting as well.

One series of signs started out with "NO MATTER THE PRICE" followed by another that said, "NO MATTER HOW NEW." The third sign proclaimed "THE BEST SAFETY DEVICE" while the fourth one stated "IN THE CAR IS YOU." For those too young to remember or unwilling to admit you do, the final sign always said "BURMA SHAVE" which is a brand of shaving cream.

These signs began appearing along our nation's highways around 1927 and started to disappear about 1963. There weren't as many motorcycle riders back then and the adages were directed at car drivers as they drove from town to town. Although their rhyming sayings have been gone from our roadways for almost a half a century, many of them are still poignant proverbs today; even for us motorcyclists.

For example, one series of signs said, "DON'T LOSE YOUR HEAD " TO SAVE A MINUTE " YOU NEED YOUR HEAD " YOUR BRAINS ARE IN IT " BURMA SHAVE." Saving minutes is not what riding is all about. Most of us ride because of the feeling of freedom that the openness of our bike gives us. We enjoy the wind against our bodies and the unencumbered view of the world as we travel through the splendor of the countryside.

Another group of signs read, "IF DAISIES " ARE YOUR " FAVORITE FLOWER " KEEP PUSHIN' UP THOSE " MILES-PER-HOUR " BURMA SHAVE." Going fast shouldn't be much more of a concern to us than time as we ride. If we have to reduce our speed once in a while and travel a little slower, it just gives us more time to enjoy our ride. After all, aren't we riding for the fun of it?

One more sequence of roadway ramblings proclaimed, "THE SAFEST RULE " NO IFS OR BUTS " JUST DRIVE " LIKE EVERY ONE ELSE " IS NUTS! " BURMA SHAVE" This, too, is sage advice for us as we tool down the roads where these signs used to stand. With so many people driving while impaired by drugs and alcohol, and still others distracted by an endless list of things going on inside their vehicles, we have to expect them to do the unexpected.

They may not be nuts, but their unintentional actions caused by drowsiness, impairment or distraction certainly can make them appear to be driving with less than a full load of grain in their silos. Because we have the most to lose from any encounters resulting from their behavior, we need to treat them as though they are ready to do something nutty.

Even though these words of wisdom were painted on wood over fifty years ago and many riders may never have seen these signs slowly expressing their message along the highway, they serve as a reminder to us to slow down and enjoy our ride. Trying to save a few minutes by speeding or taking unnecessary chances with all the other drivers potentially preparing to something unpredictable could certainly take the fun out of our ride in a hurry. That fun in the very reason we ride in the first place.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!