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“If you don’t know whose signs these are, you can’t have driven very far.” Burma-Shave

 Small red signs with white letters dot the roadside near I-90 west of Wall.

“There once was a girl from Pierre,

She only drank Firehouse beer;

Because when she drinks liquor

She loses track of her knickers,

If you care to meet her, come here.”

Have the Burma-Shave signs – missing for 50 years or more – been resurrected?

As the above verse illustrates, the catchy jingles of yesteryear have been replaced with something more, uh, racy.

Some would say graphic.

Compare to an actual Burma-Shave verse from the early 1960s, before the signs sank into the dustbin of history:

“Dear Lover Boy,

Your photo came,

But your doggone beard,

Won’t fit the frame.”

Since there are nearly 900 billboards, large and small, along westbound I-90 it’s possible that the new “Burma Shave” signs could be missed. Especially now, since they have been removed.

The new signs promoted not shaving cream, but a foam of a different nature, as in the froth atop a cold mug of beer you’ll find at the Firehouse Brewery in Rapid City, which took a page from the Burma-Shave playbook.

When the signs disappeared this summer, I wondered if someone had complained about the bawdiness of the rhymes. The reference to knickers was reminiscent of one of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s infamous quotes about a potential new employee: “Will she shuck her knickers?”

Firehouse owner Bob Fuchs acknowledged that “We had some complaints,” but said the verse was edgy “by design.”

The signs are temporarily gone because the brewery leases the space for a portion of the year, relinquishing the balance to the owner.

New signs will be back in the fall.

Although the state Department of Transportation handles all permits for roadside signs, it does not screen them for content. Tom Newell of the DOT said he doesn’t recall receiving any complaints about language or visual images for any signage.

So, as Burma-Shave would advise:  “If our roads signs catch your eye, smile, but don’t forget to buy.”

Aug. 24, 2016