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Route 66: King of the Burma Shave Signs

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This is one of a full series of articles about interesting food locations along Route 66. See "related articles" or search "Route 66" for the full series.

Any student of advertising and marketing knows about the Burma Shave signs. Route 66 was the king of these signs—giving travelers a message in small segments, a few words at a time, with the simple product mention at the tail end. Here’s a couple we found near Crookton Road:

‘Twood be more fun
To go by air
If we could put
These signs up there
Burma Shave

He tried to cross as
Train came near
Death didn’t draft him
He volunteered
Burma Shave

The Burma Shave writers would have excelled on Twitter. Back in the day when Route 66 was the only road to take when traveling cross-country, the signs were welcome relief from the sometimes-monotony of the road. Families would read them out loud and laugh, even debate the philosophic perspective. And, through it all, they remembered the simple advertising message that came packaged with an opinion. To this day, even without seeing the final sign, people know what’s coming.

Old Route 66 still has a few of its Burma Shave markers, and there is a museum along the road with a section dedicated to them as well.

Nowadays advertising is measured in cost per impressions, and masses of analytics, pinpointing who is watching an ad, when, where, and how. In the old days, you just found your target along Route 66. It’s just one of the pleasures of the old road, taking you back to a time when even advertising could be simple.