What Ever Happened to Burma Shave?

Hinky, dinky…parley voo…cheer up face…the war is thru…Burma Shave From 1930 Burma-Shave signs found along the roadside

I just saw a FaceBook post, one of those that have become too frequent.  “In the last week have you seen….”  It was about advertising some good or service and it caused me to think about advertisements from the past. 

A unknown poster asked the question, “What Ever Happened to Burma Shave?” I had no clue but a twisting pig trail led me from Burma Shave to “See Rock City” to the Eagles’ song, “Hotel California”, and back again.  Yes, it twisted but for some reason, the path made perfect sense to my twisted mind.

It was about advertising methods before there were slick, computer generated commercials. It was about low-tech jingles that included “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” or croaking frogs saying “Bud…wise..errrr“ or stomachs jiggling to “No matter what shape your stomach is in.” You might have to do a bit of research on those. It was when beer, liquor, and cigarettes were sold in prime time. It was about a simpler time but my thoughts went further back,…some might have been a little dark.

“On a dark desert highway…Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light.”  In my fragmented brain, the light was shimmering in gaudy neon.  Red and green, it flashed, maybe flickered as if a neon tube was going bad, “Welcome to the Hotel California.”  Below would be another sign advertising “Vacancies” or “Rooms to Let.”  “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave,” sings in my head.

For some reason, I’m drawn to the gaudy neon.  Old signs flashing in green, pinks, yellows, and red.  “Cold Beer”, “Cigarettes Here”, red and green Coca Cola signs.  Seems you could advertise better with neon…or more brightly.

I associate neon with the hole-in-the-wall places where I spent too many hours during the misspent youth portion of my life.  There seemed to be a bit of the nefarious associated with neon…if not criminal, wicked at least.  If I were creating a scene it would be in a backroom of a pool hall or a bar advertised by harsh neon. Hard men with fedoras pushed back on their heads and Pall Mall unfiltered cigarettes hanging on a lip. They squint to see their cards as smoke circles their heads. Women that Andy of Mayberry would have considered fast “fun girls” in tight shimmering gowns watch the game. Maybe a bit past their prime…trying to hang on for table scraps.

Maybe it was the signs that advertised cold beer and live music, “Girls, Girls, Girls” or the martini glass with a naked young lady in it.  I never liked martinis but girls were another thing as was cold beer and music. Somehow they seemed to be related in the dim light of my past. 

I am reminded of late-night road trips through small towns with darkened streets except for flashing neon. The themes of Perry Mason and Peter Gunn reverberate in my mind in black and white but I see the neon flashing in color.

In a “lighter” time, I remember family vacations, rolling through the twisting and narrow roads in the Blue Ridge and seeing barns on hillsides.  Slab barns with metal roofs with “Visit Rock City” or “When You’ve Seen Rock City, You’ve Seen it All”  painted on them. Sign painter Clark Byers painted over nine hundred barns advertising Rock City after it opened in 1932.

Some thirty years after it had opened, I found Rock City atop Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, and remembered standing in line to step to a spot where I could see seven states, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama.  I might have been ten or so. I also remember a rope bridge I wanted no part off.

On other trips, roadside signs ranged from professionally done to hand-lettered.  The hand-lettered ones, the work of someone who felt strongly about his religion or his politics. Strongly enough to pound them into the ground on the side of the road.

Weathered red paint on whitewash. Single words or phrases spaced over the road’s shoulder.  Many foretold of doom, “Repent…our…time…is…nigh”  or “The…end…is…near…REPENT.”  Quite ominous for a pre-teen raised in a strict home.

Others advertised Alligator Farms, the best fried chicken, Stuckey’s Candies, or Big Gulps. Sometimes all four could be found in one building.

Then there were the Burma Shave signs and the post that began my wanderings.

The Burma Shave signs weren’t as ominous and were professionally done but many displayed lessons to be learned.  More than a few displayed bullet holes as if someone took offense to them.

Burma Shave, at one time the second-largest producer of “brushless shaving cream”, was famous for its advertising gimmick of posting humorous rhyming poems on small sequential highway roadside signs. The company sold out to Philip Morris in the early Sixties but their signs lived on and were culturally impactful in TV, movies, and literature. They were culturally impactful to me it seems.

Burma-Shave - Wikipedia

One of their advertising sequence of signs read, “Cheer up face…The war is past… The “H” is out…Of shave…At last…Burma-Shave”, another “A shave…That’s real…No cuts to heal…A soothing…Velvet after-feel…Burma-Shave.”  I don’t know what the “H” in the first one stood for. I know the war it referred to was the First World War.

During World War Two they joined the war effort with rhymes like, ‘Let’s make Hitler…And Hirohito… Feel as bad…as Old Benito…Buy War Bonds…Burma-Shave’ and “TOUGH-WHISKERED YANKS…IN HEAVY TANKS…HAVE JAWS AS SMOOTH…AS GUYS IN BANKS!” Oh the humor.

A lesson to be learned, hopefully before a crash occurred.


The last Burma Shave rhyme landed in 1963, well before I began the daily scrapping of my facial skin. “Our fortune…Is your…Shaven face…It’s our best… Advertising space…Burma-Shave”. 

Until my next pig trail please remember, “Train approaching…Whistle squealing…Stop…Avoid that run-down feeling…Burma-Shave.” Here are three more on the signs that adorned many roadsides. The one on the right fits me perfectly.

Don Miller’s newest release, “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes” is live on Amazon. It may be purchased in paperback or download. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09GQSNYL2

A Young Toad-Frog’s Fancy



I am happier, and usually saner, with the advent of spring and the end of winter than I am with the death of summer and fall.  Certain birds finding their way to my feeders that weren’t there a few weeks ago, the finches and mourning doves, the return of my Redtail Hawks. They came early this year.  The deer eating my privet, not eating enough privet, certain flowers blooming at certain times and my toad.

I first wrote about “The Toad in the Corner” a year or two ago, a huge American toad that has appeared outside my back door for years.  I found it comforting to see her having backed herself into a shady spot at the corner of my foundation and rock wall during the heat of the day.  Coming out to wreak havoc on the insect population at night, sitting on a flat rock, all fat and sassy.  Unconcerned about my entrance into her realm.

Despite her ambivalence toward me, I worry about her.  The average lifespan for a toad in the wild is about a year.  She’s been extremely lucky for some five seasons now, somehow avoiding Mr. Herbert No-Shoulders, the huge black rat snake that resides in the same area along with Mrs. No-shoulders and her brood…maybe Toady has just gotten too big to eat.  She is uuuuuuuge!

I found her waiting for me early this morning while I waited for my fifteen-year-old puppy dog to find her spot.  Toady was sitting on her flat rock, but she wasn’t alone.  She had a friend, a friend with benefits I might guess.

At first glance, I thought something was wrong.  She looked deformed.  Was it that bad a winter?  I looked closer and saw what I thought was a deformity was a much smaller toad riding high on her back.  I was reminded of a baby riding on one of his parent’s backs.

I don’t think she was his momma…or maybe she was his “Hot Momma.”  I’ve seen her several times during the day and her suiter is still riding on her back.  She walks, he rides.  Mentally I make a note to look up the range of an American toad…as far as a mile from their breeding sites.  Now I’m Googling their breeding habits.

You can tell this quarantine thing is getting to me.  Combined with sciatica, rainy weather and a sick tractor, I’ve got too much time on my hands…and there is laziness too.

Through research, I found out it is not unusual for the female to carry her suitor to her breeding grounds…the breeding pool of water which I assume is the stream below my home.  For some reason, I thought about frog gigolos, “Hey baby, goin’ my way?  How ‘bout a lift.  What’s your sign?  Can I buy you a drink?”  Louis Prima is singing “Just a Gigolo” in my head.  I guess it could be the David Lee Roth version.  I’m thinking of disco, glitter balls and lime-green leisure suits, colorful, long collared “catch me, f@#$ me” shirts and gold bling.

I found out if females are scarce it is not unusual for many waiting males to climb on board creating a “toad ball.”  The orgy scene from Caligula flashed briefly before my eyes…I only read about it…maybe.  I really wanted to laugh but as I read on, I found it is usually fatal for the female.  “I love you to death” takes on a new meaning.

Image result for Toad ball

I obviously need more humor injected into my life and something productive to do.  Something is very wrong contemplating the sex life of toads and frogs or as we say here, toad frogs.  Well, it is spring when a “young man’s fancy turns to love” or a young toad’s fancy is to ride around on a big ole’ momma toad waiting for her to make the trek to her egg-laying site.  I just hope she survives her “La danse de l’amour.”  French is such a sexy language…even when describing toads.


Don Miller writes about whatever strikes his fancy.  His author’ page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0Tk_BUmCRpeCR63Kr59dyLywOMUia36e7djQlIDqefkK6aKUYyW9svuK4

The featured and last images are from https://www.ephotozine.com/photo/toad–mating–ball–53338916

The first image is of Toady and her suitor.


Signs, Signs, Everywhere….

I see signs, not those signs.  I see and hear true believers espousing the nearness of the apocalypse; wars, and rumors of wars, national disasters, the anti-Christ, prayers for the rapture.  Those are not the signs of which I speak…mainly because doomsayers have been warning us since the book of Revelations was written, I guess.  The doomsaying is probably warranted but I have hope and believe humanity will come to its senses before we self-destruct.  Regardless, the Earth will continue to make its trips around the Sun whether we are around to enjoy the change in seasons or not.

No, not those signs but signs of changes none-the-less.  Here in the South, it is hotter than forty hells even in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.  Not the pressure cooker heat of the lower Southern states but plenty hot for me.  The heat will continue for the foreseeable future if the weather gurus are to be believed.

Image result for melting in South Carolina

Still, the signs of fall are upon me.  Years ago, I promised I would never protest the heat due to a particularly cold baseball season and my depression which intensifies as the days shorten.  This summer is taxing my promise, but I realized yesterday, the signs are everywhere.  The days are shortening, and dark days of winter will be too soon be upon me.

First, there will be Autumn, maybe a whole two hours of it…but there will be Autumn.

Many years ago, I noted the change when football practice and school began.  Since my retirement, I monitor the changes in more subtle ways.  The writing spiders spinning their webs, vees of geese flying south, a pair of wood ducks I haven’t seen since spring, bees and butterflies working the remaining blooms as if their very lives depend on it…or upcoming generations lives.  Damn the yellow jackets, the little bastards are working too.

animal-beautiful-bee-266731 (1).jpg

My wild birds have returned to the feeders from the mid-summer break as they fed their young juicy bugs and worms instead of my sunflower seeds.  New birds, small and quick, are flitting hither and yon.  There seems to be a bumper crop of gold and purple finches.  A new generation to enjoy our symbiotic relationship…my viewing enjoyment for their food.  Despite the cost of sunflower seed, it seems to be a fair trade.

Image result for yellow finch sunflowers

The turkeys are on the move too.  Hens followed by Jakes and Jennies and even smaller poults are passing through my backyard.  I didn’t see a Tom but there must be one somewhere…although I didn’t get much of a chance to see.  Despite Mr. Carlson thoughts on WKRP, “Turkeys can fly”…at least wild ones.

Image result for wild turkeys on the move

I stepped outside last night to partake of one last puff on my cigar…the one I have been nursing all day.  The air was filled with the smell of citronella from the torches I burn to keep the mosquitoes at bay.  I watched the smoke dissipate into the freshening breeze…a breeze that seemed different than the humidity filled breezes from earlier in the day.  There was a hint of fall in it, just an underlying current of cool.  The best sign of all despite my wish not to wish my life away.    Pumpkin pie and ripening persimmons are just around the corner.


If interested, more of Don Miller’s wanderings can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image of geese at sunset is from https://blog.theclymb.com/tips/signs-autumn-northwest-enjoy/

All photographs were legally lifted from Pexels.com.