Friday, June 14, 2019

Burma Shave Safety Reminder Jingles


It all began as an ad campaign in the 1920s when the brushless shaving cream Burma Shave decided to take advantage of the open road. Burma Shave was released in 1925 by the Burma-Vita Company in Minnesota. By 1947, more than 7,000 sets of signs could be found along the nation’s roads and byways in 45 states. Burma Shave had become the second-highest selling brushless cream. But sales began to drop in the 1950s, and by 1963 the last Burma Shave sign had been posted. By 1966, all were gone from the roadways.

The signage ad campaign was composed of four or five roadside signs that rhymed their message with the last sign bearing the name of the company – Burma Shave. Signs were posted about 100 feet apart for easy readability from cars traveling 35mph. The signs were always done in capital letters because they were easier to read when traveling down the road. Drivers and passengers found the signs to be entertaining and interesting - a welcome diversion along America’s byways.

In the late 1950s the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System was developed. Roadways were kept in better shape and vehicle speeds were increased making it more difficult and dangerous for drivers to try to read the signs. 

When Phillip-Morris Company took over the company in 1963, the signs were discontinued upon advice to their attorneys. Television advertising also dealt a death knell to the signs because it was more economical to write a thirty second commercial than to write, paint and post signs around the country.

For the first couple of years, the ads were rather unimaginative. Here’s a verse from 1926:
SHAVE THE MODERN WAY
NO BRUSH
NO LATHER
NO RUB-IN
BIG TUB 35ç
DRUGSTORES
BURMA SHAVE

But by the 1930’s, the puns and rhymes were everywhere along the roads.

KEEP WELL
TO THE RIGHT
OF THE ONCOMING CAR
GET YOUR CLOSE SHAVES
FROM THE HALF POUND JAR
BURMA SHAVE

By 1939, roadside safety messages began to appear all over the country and continued until the end of the campaign in the early ‘60s. Here are some that reminded drivers in  a humorous way that the Grim Reaper was never far away. 

HER CHARIOT RACED
AT EIGHTY PER
THEY HAULED AWAY
WHAT HAD BEN HUR

ALTHOUGH INSURED
REMEMBER, KIDDO
THEY DON’T PAY YOU
THEY PAY YOUR WIDOW


TRAIN APPROACHING
WHISTLE SQUEALING
PAUSE! AVOID THAT
RUNDOWN FEELING


SPRING HAS SPRUNG
THE GRASS HAS RIZ
WHERE LAST YEAR’S 
CARELESS DRIVER IS


PROPER DISTANCE
TO HIM WAS BUNK
THEY PULLED HIM OUT
OF SOME GUY’S TRUNK


AROUND THE CURVE
LICKETY-SPLIT
IT’S A BEAUTIFUL CAR
WASN’T IT?


VIOLETS ARE BLUE
ROSES ARE PINK
ON GRAVES OF THOSE
WHO DRIVE AND DRINK


HE TRIED TO CROSS
AS FAST TRAIN NEARED
DEATH DIDN’T DRAFT HIM
HE VOLUNTEERED


ANGELS WHO GUARD YOU
WHEN YOU DRIVE
USUALLY RETIRE
AT SIXTY-FIVE


PASSING CARS
WHEN YOU CAN’T SEE
MAY GET YOU A GLIMPSE
OF ETERNITY


IF DAISIES ARE
YOUR FAVORITE FLOWER
KEEP PUSHIN’ UP
THOSE MILES-PER-HOUR


HE LIT A MATCH
TO CHECK GAS TANK
THAT’S WHY THEY CALL HIM
SKINLESS FRANK


YOU CAN DRIVE
A MILE A MINUTE
BUT THERE IS NO
FUTURE IN IT


SAW THE
TRAIN AND
TRIED TO
DUCK IT
KICKED FIRST
THE GAS
AND THEN
THE BUCKET


HARDLY A DRIVER
 IS NOW ALIVE
WHO PASSED
ON HILLS
AT 75


DROVE TOO LONG
DRIVER SNOOZING
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
IS NOT AMUSING


SPEED WAS HIGH
WEATHER WAS NOT
TIRES WERE THIN
X MARKS THE SPOT


AT INTERSECTIONS
LOOK EACH WAY
A HARP SOUNDS NICE
BUT ITS HARD TO PLAY

And the one everyone remembers:

IF YOU DON’T KNOW
WHOSE SIGNS THESE ARE
YOU HAVEN’T DRIVEN
VERY FAR
BURMA SHAVE

~ Joy


















Friday, June 7, 2019

Worth a Visit: Gill's Funeral Practices Exhibit


The small town of Washington Indiana has a nostalgic feel with laundry drying on the clotheslines, quilting parties still in vogue, and horse and buggies traveling the roadways. More than 800 Old Order Amish reside in Daviess County, which is home to one of the largest Amish settlements in the country. But that is not what spurred my visit this spring. As a Tombstone Tourist, I went in search of Gill’s Funeral Practices Exhibit.

Daviess County Historical Museum
Located in the former Masonic Lodge, the Daviess County Historical Society is home to this rare and interesting collection.The exhibit can be found on the fourth floor of the museum and “viewing” the historic equipment is available only with a guided tour you must request. But the artifacts on display show the amazing story of how funeral practices became accepted in our society.

             
The Parlor
The entire presentation is done quite tastefully and is suitable for families. In fact, it was interesting to see the reactions of my nine-year-old granddaughter Alessa as our guide carefully explained the procedures used in the 19th and 20th centuries to prepare a body for viewing and burial. Instead of being “icked out” by the equipment, she was fascinated and highly involved throughout the tour.

Casket with Window
Done in chronological order, the tour begins in the parlor of the deceased with a wooden casket complete with a viewing window to check for signs of life during the wake.




Portable Embalming
From there we continued down the hall to the bedroom where the death occurred. The portable table had been prepared and the equipment was set up to begin the preparation and embalming process.




Funeral Home Embalming Room




The embalming room set up for the early to mid-century funeral home is stark and clean with licenses on the wall and necessary tools at hand.




Funeral Parlor
A funeral parlor visitation room is filled with flowers and wooden seats from the past.

Zinc Casket
From there, you can get an up-close view into some of the different types of coffins that were available over the decades including one for an infant, a child and an adult along with coffin moving equipment. Two intriguing casket styles included a wicker coffin and a zinc casket.
 

Embalming during the Civil War
The exhibit was made possible by James Pirkle and the Gill Family Funeral Home, which has been doing business in the county for almost 150 years. In 1865, cabinet-maker Joseph Gill returned home to Washington after serving in the Civil War where embalming was introduced. Gill was hired by Bonham Brothers Furniture and Undertaking Company. 

Funeral Home
In 1892, Gill and Son opened their own funeral home in the city. The business moved several times in the next fifty years as the need for services increased. In 1974, the last of the Gill family retired from the business and sold the business to their funeral director and mortician, James Pirkle who has since retired. But today Gill Funeral Services continues as the oldest continuously operating business in the town.

Historic Downtown Washington
The Daviess County Historical Museum is located at 212 East Main in Washington, Indiana. If you’re traveling from Indianapolis, Indiana, its 114 miles, and from Louisville, Kentucky, it's 91 miles - well worth the trip, if you're a Tombstone Tourist.

While you’re there –
Oak Grove Cemetery
Be sure to visit Oak Grove Cemetery where two US Congressmen are buried. If you are a fan of tree stones or white bronze monuments, there are several located here. Plus, I have visited here three times and two of the three trips, all made during the day, I have left with unexplained occurrences happening.

Safe Travels!
 
~ Joy

Friday, March 15, 2019

Beware the Ides of March


Beware the Ides of March. This famous warning was issued by a soothsayer to Roman leader Julius Caesar. Caesar paid little attention to his demise and was murdered on March 15. But the date seems to draw interesting tragedies to it.
Czar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated his thrown on March 15, 1917. NASA announced on March 15, 1988 that the ozone layer over Northern Hemisphere was depleting three times faster than predicted. And then there was the blizzard of the century …

March 15, 1941 had been a delightful day in the Red River Valley region of North Dakota. The sun had come out and the snow was beginning to melt. Spirits were high because spring couldn’t be far behind. It was Saturday night and local residents were enjoying a night on the town after a week of grim war news from Europe.
The weather forecast was typical for the area -snow with colder temperatures arriving overnight. No one knew that the weather system bearing down on the region would be remembered for decades as the Blizzard of the Century.                                                                          
It began with the wind – intensely cold wind that kept building until it sustained at 50 mph with bursts up to 85 mph. People were driving to activities when the winds hit. Reports indicated that temperatures dropped 20 degrees within 15 minutes that evening as artic air roared through bringing blizzard conditions. Many families froze to death in their vehicles or trying to find shelter. Snow drifts measured 7-feet high, some reaching up to 12-feet. When the storm had passed, 151 people had perished - 39 in North Dakota and 32 in Minnesota.
This freak storm brought about a necessary change in how blizzard watches and warnings were handled. No longer would Chicago weathermen issue alerts for regions outside the Windy City.  Local weathermen would begin to establish control over their region’s forecasting, and issue alerts and warnings as needed.
Here’s wishing you a calm and enjoyable Ides of March!
Joy

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Great Molasses Flood of 1919


Boston Globe Headline
One hundred years ago, Boston was deluged in one of the stickiest messes it’s ever had to face. Around midday on January 15, 1919, a 58-foot tall storage tank at the Purity Distilling Company, a subsidiary of the United States Industrial Alcohol Company, burst apart releasing more than two million gallons of hot molasses. According to The Boston Globe, there was a “tidal wave of death and destruction stalking through the North End.” The sudden release of millions of gallons of molasses sent waves of the sticky substance surging between 15 and 40 feet high through the area. 

Why were millions of gallons of molasses being stored in Boston? The molasses was held waiting to be processed into industrial alcohol, according to United States Industrial Alcohol Company.

The North End of Boston Covered in Deadly Molasses
Known as the Great Molasses Flood, the syrup covered people, horses and automobiles. Workers ran for cover as rivets popped loose from the tank and peppered the area like bullets. Structures were knocked off their foundations including the fire station - home to Fire Boat 31. The Boston Elevated had just passed the tank before it burst. Molasses then surged out leveling the elevated trestle with a wave of syrup as the tracks fell to the street below.

Rescue Attempts
Twenty-one people were killed; two were 10-year-old children walking home for lunch. Seventeen more were nearby workers. Most died of suffocation as the molasses congealed quickly in the cool winter air hampering rescue efforts. More than 150 people were injured. Dozens of horses were killed in the flood of syrup. Railroad clerk Walter Merrithew was trapped against a freight shed where he hung several feet above the ground watching horses trying to outrun the rushing brown substance. Rescue attempts took four days, and clean up of the area took another six months to complete. Damage to the city was estimated at around $100 million.

Parts of the Exploded Tank
The court battle was one of the longest in the history of Massachusetts. Rumors of anarchists with a bomb were floated by US Industrial Alcohol Company, parent company of Purity Distilling. Others said the molasses had fermented in the tank, which led to the eruption. More than 3,000 witnesses were called to testify including engineers, scientists, and metallurgists. It took six years before investigators ruled that shoddy tank construction was the cause of the explosion. The United States Industrial Alcohol Company was found to be at fault and ordered to pay  $1 million dollars in damages.

In 2015, researchers determined that the disaster was indeed caused by the thin steel used in the design of the tank. The casualty rate was aided by the chilly winter air, which caused the molasses to thicken quickly trapping people as it rolled through the neighborhood.
Today the location of the plant where the tank was stored is now a recreational complex. Some say on extremely hot summer days you can still catch a whiff of molasses...
~ Joy