Some examples of the poems from these signs are: Our fortune / Is your / Shaven face / It's our best / Advertising space / Burma-Shave; When the stork /Delivers a boy / Our whole / Darn factory / Jumps for joy / Burma Shave; Said farmer Brown / Who’s bald / on top / Wish I could / Rotate the crop / Burma Shave; She eyed / His beard / And said no dice / The wedding’s off / I’ll cook the rice / Burma Shave; and, If you want / A hearty squeeze / Get our / Female / Anti-freeze / Burma Shave. I remember looking forward to seeing these along the highway as a kid traveling with my family. They are gone now as bigger, faster highways increased the average speed of driving and made them hard (perhaps dangerous) to read. I also don’t think Burma Shave is still being made.
Anyway, this train of thought led to my thinking about the signs I see along the side of the road and how they can, on occasion, catch one’s eye. So, I thought I’d write a post about some of the signs I have seen which struck me as being interesting or funny. For example, the other day I saw a sign in front of a local church that said: “Having trouble sleeping? Come hear our Pastor. Services at 9:30 & 11:00.” It may not have been intentional, but the idea of encouraging church attendance by saying that the pastor will put you to sleep struck me as wonderful.
Churches seem to be particularly good places to find interesting signs, at least in my experience. A local church here in Omaha had a whole series of announced sermon topics based around the performances of the tour of the musical Wicked a few months ago. These sermon titles included: The Emerald City; Defying Gravity; Sentimental Man; Popular; Dancing Through Life and No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. I confess that I found it intriguing that these could become the basis for sermons, although it does seem possible.
I also remember a sign in a church parking lot in Tryon, NC (I think), when I visited there on a Girl Scout excursion with my girls many years ago, which said: “Here thou shalt not park.” That seemed more appropriate than the usual “No Parking.”
The sign identifying the “Oasis Southwestern Grill” (with a drawing of a palm tree) made me (and Bonnie) wonder if that meant that there were belly dancers performing to a Mariachi band. Then, the sign for the “Terminal Café” made me wonder about the life expectancy of its patrons.
The “Les Bourgeois Café and Winery” puzzled me as to whether the proprietors thought that this reference to the tasteless “Nouveau Riche” conveyed some sort of sense of class to their establishment. My limited understanding of French, led me to interpret this as more of a suggestion of exactly the opposite of a “high-class” environment.
Then, there was the billboard I saw in Missouri for the “Tiger’s Bank” which showed a picture of a chipmunk with the text “Bank high on the food chain.” This suggested to me the idea that the bank intended to eat the customer for lunch, but that was, probably, not the idea they wished to express.
The used car dealer sign with the slogan “We’ll tell you where to go” also seemed to be conveying a message different from what I suspect they probably intended. And, I confess that the sign for “Naked Live Bait” (now gone, sigh) left me wondering exactly what was being advertised.
I’ve seen a number of signs for gun dealers which struck me as a bit odd. The “Bootlegger’s Gun Shop” with a picture of a Thompson sub-machine gun seemed a bit worrisome, as did a sign for another gun shop advertising “Big Boy Toys” with a similar picture and yet a third gun shop proclaiming its name as “Black Market Arms.” None of these struck me as exactly the sort of thing which the NRA would like to project to enhance gun ownership, but I could be incorrect.
Even what apparently are official street (highway) signs have their moments of weirdness, like the (at least official appearing) red on white “No Parking” sign I saw somewhere which read “NO PARKING BETWEEN THIS POINT” with a double headed arrow underneath it which looked like this “⟷.”
Of course, my warped sense of humor has always enjoyed those standard official signs which say “ROAD ENDS – NO OUTLET” or “NO RETURN TO HIGHWAY” which may be perfectly legitimate but have a sense of finality about them which is both funny and a bit scary.
What may be my favorite sign of all time, however, is probably a comment on our having had children at the correct moment in history to have enjoyed a particular 1974 book (and poem) by Shel Silverstein. The picture of this sign (below) was sent to me last October by Kate, our older daughter (who was fond of the book as a child, as was Maggi,) in an email which just said “I found it!”
Perhaps I should explain that Silverstein’s book, and its title poem, are called Where the Sidewalk Ends (it’s still in print). Some of you may know and love it, too.
On a completely different tangent, in honor of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, I've decided that I should end this post with --
P.S. If this has to be explained, shame on you.