About the Colony

Old Burma-Shave signs inspire Atascadero rhymes

Lon Allan
Lon Allan

If I learned anything from last week’s column, it is how many people remember those delightful Burma-Shave signs.

I had suggested that Atascadero could revive the popular roadside signs as a local gimmick to draw people off the freeway who are on their way to other towns with their own attention-getting gimmicks, like wineries, an ocean or even butterflies (now there’s a really great gimmick). Is it even possible to persuade 45,000 butterflies to vacation someplace new, such as Atascadero?

The Burma-Shave signs had sage advice about the evils of alcohol and tobacco, or great philosophy or how getting a close shave can make you popular with the ladies, such as: “Use this cream/ a day or two/ then don’t call her/ she’ll call you.” Each group of signs ended the same: “Burma-Shave.”

Allan Odell, whose father owned the company, came up with the idea despite some resistance from his dad. But when sales jumped, Clinton Odell was, of course, happy about his son’s persistence.

Even The Tribune joined in the fun with its headline on my column on the website, which read: “Atascadero needs a gimmick; here’s an idea we can mimic.”

A number of friends had their own ideas as well.

Henry Mulder of Templeton sent me this one: “Looking for a / Mexican restaurant/ big or small/ Atascadero’s got them all.”

And local eye doctor Sage Hider offered: “Between the hills/ the streets are narrow/ that’s how we build them in Atascadero.”

Lee Swam, the man who gave us Tuesday Night in the Park (with help from the late George Beatie, director of the Atascadero Community Band) and most recently is trying to get thousands of daffodils planted here, gave me this: “As you drive/ our Atascadero hills/ please enjoy/ our daffodils.” Swam’s ultimate goal is to plant 28,000 bulbs in Atascadero, one for every person living here.

And finally, longtime friend Mike Lucas emailed me this little piece last week: “Need a place to/ hang your sombrero/ look no further/ than Atascadero.”

The Burma-Shave company, at one time, offered money for those little literary gems, receiving thousands of poems a year.

Look what I got here, and I didn’t offer anything except fleeting fame.