Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Burma Shave? Better.

 As we headed south from Mendocino toward Bowling Ball Beach, we ended up spending more time than planned in Pt. Arena.  First stop in the very windy and foggy morning was this series of signs on cedar trees at the edge of the highway.  This brought back all sorts of memories for me, especially the contrast between my home state of Massachusetts which had very little roadside advertising to the South which seemed to me to have a surplus of such.  I went to pubic schools in grades 1 through 12 in Massachusetts before there were freeways, turnpikes, or other high-speed, divided highways.  THe statewide speed limit was 45 m.p.h as most two-lane roads were curvy and tree-lined.  There was virtually no open road between towns, so nearly all advertising was mounted on actual retail establishments rather than billboards.  When I went south for college in 1960, I was startled at the amount of roadside advertising of all sorts.  Billboards, crappy sign boards on wheels that had replaceable black letters, crosses with the words "Jesus Saves" to which my college buddies often added "Moses Invests," and the fancier series of signs advertising the South of the Border Motel for many, many miles in all directions from its location and the SC, NC border.  This place was "heir conditioned."  You can imagine the rest of the story.  The old Burma Shave signs (Google that brand if you're not old enough to remember.) were removed in the 60's when I was finishing college. A month ago, on my round trip to  Pittsburgh, PA, I encountered a sad modern version of this sort of advertising as I sped through Iowa on I-80.  On four sequential signs I read "Roses are red; my gun is blue.  I feel safe; how about you?"  Jeesh!!!
So, the signs on the outskirts of Point Arena gave me mixed feelings.  Click on each one if necessary to read them.  I pretty much agreed with the sentiments which I considered a sign (pun) of an improved social climate compared to what I experienced when I taught there for a year back around 1979.  I remember the town as a place of conflict between three main cultures - sheep ranchers and other agriculture traditionalists, Native Americans from the nearby Manchester rancheria, and more recently arrived New-Age types (AKA Hippies) moving up the coast from SF area.  Interestingly, a popular book at the time by a local author was titled "Can You Survive Your Escape."  Well, I'm happy to report that many people apparently did.  There were several really nice new shops including an amazing bakery, the waterfront was interesting with shops and a relatively new pier, and practically no roadside litter.  I plan to go back to Point Arena and spend more time in that area. Meanwhile, enjoy the signs.

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