Billboards and Burma Shave

small townIt’s a beautiful country we live in – the United States of America.  I’ve been privileged to see quite a bit of it, mostly by car.

In my early days, my family took several car trips from Pennsylvania to Colorado, Maine, and Florida.  This was prior to air-conditioned automobiles!  Our mode of operation was one child in the front passenger seat, my mother in the center of the backseat with another child on both sides, and my father doing all the driving.  We would leave each day at 6 am, stop for a picnic lunch, perhaps a stop at some cheap place for a quick dinner, then to the motel in time for bed.  Breakfast was always in the motel room.  Not only was this the pre-air-conditioned auto days, but no breakfast was served at the motel and barely if any interstates were built then.  Hand-held devices consisted of books, or paper and pencil.  The radio station, if one could be found, was always tuned to “easy listening”.

My dad always drove a Buick, always stopped for gas at Texaco, and always had a AAA Triptik!  It’s actually how I learned to read maps.

The motel room consisted of two double beds and a cot (for me).  I guess folks were smaller back then! 🙂  Usually there was a pool but we never got to use it because it was always bedtime.  My dad was destination driven!  Obviously.  There was this one time – ONE TIME – I remember we actually stopped in time to use the pool.  My mother must have insisted.  It was such an occasion that I still remember:  It was a motel called South of the Border, somewhere on the way to Florida.  It was big and fancy with many, many neon lights and a pool which we swam in!  It was memorable.

On another occasion, Easter weekend, while traveling to Florida, my mother managed to hide and then smuggle our Easter Baskets into the bathroom for us to find in the morning!

Another memory of our drives to Florida (and there were many because my grandparents lived there) was driving through poor areas – right down the streets (remember, no interstates).  The houses were basically shacks but I recall my dad pointing out just about every house had a big shiny TV antenna on top.  (also pre-cable).  It was a lesson in priorities.

We traveled to New Mexico on Route 66, when there still was a Route 66.

And I remember the Burma Shave signs.  How fun were they!!  As Wikipedia describes, for those of my dear readers too young to remember,

Burma-Shave was an American brand of brushless shaving cream, famous for its advertising gimmick of posting humorous rhyming poems on small sequential highway roadside signs.”

They were always cute signs, a lot of times spaced around  a curve that one couldn’t wait to hear the punchline.

220px-BurmaShaveSigns_Route66

Again, quoting Wikipedia, As the Interstate system expanded in the late 1950s and vehicle speeds increased, it became more difficult to attract motorists’ attention with small signs.”   

The signs were removed in 1963.

Now with interstates in every direction and more being built every year, car travel is quicker and faster than ever.  And our beautiful country becomes just a passing blur.  Don’t get me wrong – I can be very destination driven.  But nowadays when Hubby and I take car trips, sometimes we avoid the interstates and go through the little towns with their center square, church steeples, maybe a four-way stop sign and the speed limit lowers to 35 mph.  Every town, it seems, has a Main Street.  We look for local dining places and just enjoy the surrounding culture.

Several years ago, Hubby and I took an off-highway road trip through southern Illinois.  The route took us through all these little historic river towns, so important in the day of river travel for EVERYTHING.  But now these towns were basically dying.  It was a sad yet educational trip.  One such town we visited was Thebes, Illinois where Abraham Lincoln practiced law and where Dred Scott was imprisoned for a time.

I wish we had done this when the kids were little.  But again, we, like everyone else, were anxious to arrive at our destination.  We’re all in a hurry or in a time crunch.  I wish I had told the kids to put down the hand-held devices (in that day, a precious Gameboy) and look out the window.  Hindsight.  Sigh.

Maybe, just maybe when their years advance, and they have the time, they’ll leave the highway and enjoy the view, close up and personal, of our great country.

I’d love to hear of anyone else who has experienced off-highway travels.

God Bless America!

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