(TRAVEL) Signs of the Times

By Jug Varner

As a kid, one of the things I liked about traveling was the Burma Shave signs. These were five small red and white signs - each placed about eye-level some 100 feet or so apart on the side of main highways across the country as an advertising gimmick.

The first four offered a clever message, followed by a Burma Shave logo on the fifth' I used to memorize the ones I thought were worth telling someone about, but the only one I can recall at this moment is this one:
After this article is on line I will probably have remembered other favorites… but that WAS a long time ago.

Now, of course, like anything else you want to know about, you simply go to the Web and search for it. So I searched Burma Shave and found several sites that can offer more than you may want to know about it.

What got me started on this subject was relating to a friend some anecdotes about my life during the depression years of the 1930s, when people did just about everything you can think of to earn a buck for groceries to feed their families. People today have little or no idea of how devastating those times were, unless they experienced them first-hand. The imprint on our lives is still evident.

My family had a restaurant (actually it was a Texas “Café”) and while we made very little profit, we did manage to eat regularly, which was better than about 25% of the population had. We often fell prey to the never-ending parade of down-and-out people passing through our town, and gave out many meals in return for some small chore (to protect their dignity).

One of these types was a freelance sign painter who created clever little sayings to hang on the wall. I remember a couple of them we posted that read:


If you have
nothing to do…
Please don't
do it here.


We'll crank your car or
hold your baby…but
we won't give credit and
we don't mean maybe.

That “crank your car” line is no doubt foreign to most of you, but in those days most cars had no starter system and had to be hand-cranked. That hazardous risk resulted in an untold number of broken arms until someone invented a release mechanism to disengage the crank when the engine started.

Ah… those were the “Good old days.”