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Verse by the Side of the Road: The Story of the Burma-Shave Signs and Jingles (Plume) Paperback – September 1, 1979


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Verse by the Side of the Road: The Story of the Burma-Shave Signs and Jingles (Plume) + Sunday Drives: Nostalgic Reminiscing with the Best of Burma-Shave
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Product Details

  • Series: Plume
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (September 1, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452267625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452267626
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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A great trip down memory lane.
A. Cheney
This is a delightful book for those who remember the Burma Shave signs....and for those who do not, as well....
Jerold L. Miles
For how the company humorously made good on its promise, you will have to read the book.
R. M. Peterson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By hyperbolium on August 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
With the low-brow humor of "whazzzzzup" and high-speed editing of MTV-style ads dominating the landscape, it's almost hard to imagine how memorable the quaint multi-sign Burma-Shave ads were. The combination of clever verse and brilliant exposition -- stretching along the wide-open road until the punch line could be delivered -- is unlike any other ad delivery in history.
Author Frank Rowsome, Jr. tells the story of the campaign's creation and life, and provides a listing of all signs from the first in1927 ("Shave the modern way / No Brush / No Lather / No Rub-in / Big Tube 35-c Drug Stores / Burma Shave") through their last in 1963 ("Our Fortune / Is Your / Shaven Face / It's Our Best / Advertising Space / Burma-Shave"). In between is an amazingly clever collection of poems, including contest winners, shorter signs for smaller displays, spin-off tooth powder and lotion jingles, and regional ads.
Great reading for those remembering the signs as well as those who just want to get a smile from some great advertising - one of the USA's most underappreciated art forms.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book twenty odd years ago, and I loved it. It brought back such fond childhood memories of my days on the farm in Belsano, PA, where a set of the signs stood soldier-like in the lower field of my grandad's farm. I heard from the grown-ups that someone paid him to put them there, and money was scarce in those days.
I was always intrigued by those signs, so when I saw the book advertised for the first time, it was a must-have for me. I cherished owning a complete set of the verses, most of which I'd never seen.
The book is well-written in that it has a lot of historical fact, loads of humor, and the story-telling holds your interest to the last page. One of those "can't put it down" types.
Somewhere in my travels, I've lost my copy and have mourned it's loss. Thanks to Internet, I will once again have my own cherished copy of "Verse by the Side of the Road."
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By kniffler_pin@fwbnet.com on September 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you currently own a car built before 1965, there's a pretty good chance you remember driving past those wonderful Burma Shave signs.
How delightful those signs were as we went on Sunday drives with Mom and Dad. Here is not only the complete history of the company but also ALL of the rhymes.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
Being raised in the midwest, and traveling through Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin where they seemed to be on the roadside every 20 miles, our family used to read them and then one of us would have to try to come up withour own. We came up with some good ones of our own. I recommend this book to anyone who traveled and enjoyed these pieces of Americana.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Doug Erlandson TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 10, 2013
Format: Paperback
When I was growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s my parents and I traveled by car through much of the United States (and some of Canada as well). I have always appreciated the fact that, despite not being wealthy, they introduced me to this great country of ours as well as much of the local culture. In those days before interstates became ubiquitous and an interstate culture introduced sameness and uniformity throughout America (with Holiday Inns, Super Eights, Perkins Restaurants, etc.) replacing locally owned ten to twenty-unit motels and small-town greasy spoons with their typed menus and Formica-top tables, travel was fun, exciting, and diverse from one part of the country to another.

There were a few things that you were guaranteed to see wherever you went. Advertisements for Wall Drug, in Wall, SD (which, sad to say, once we got there in 1962 was a bit of a disappointment after all the hype), Harold's Club in Reno, and, above all, Burma Shave signs. Every several miles or so, especially out in the country, one was guaranteed to see those five or six placards that stretched for maybe a tenth of a mile or so and always ended with the words "Burma Shave." And, if one wasn't the driver, one could look back at the signs facing the opposite direction and read those too as one passed.

Twelve years ago my daughter came upon "The Verse by the Side of the Road" in a bookstore and bought it for me for Father's Day. She knew I'd love it, since I had taught her some of the jingles that I had memorized as a youth. (That was one of the neat things about the signs. The rhymes were almost always memorable.) I began reading that afternoon and couldn't put it down. By evening I had read every word and had had a wonderful walk down memory lane.
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