When Billboards Reigned Supreme

Scan0245One of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s
enduring legacies
was the development of
the Interstate Highway System.

Eventually joining the two coasts
and all points in-between,
it provided a thoroughfare
to move commerce and
travelers, alike.

Motels, restaurants, gas stations and
tourist attractions
sprung up at every bend in the road.

And following close behind were
billboards…
the latest and greatest way
for businesses
to put their message out there…
roadside
to lure in customers.

One of my favorite advertisers
was Burma-Shave,
famous for posting their message
on multiple small sequential signs
along the side of the highway.
There was always a clever
punch line:

Does your husband
Misbehave
Grunt and grumble
Rant and rave
Shoot the brute some
Burma-Shave

Past
Schoolhouses
Take it slow
let the little
Shavers grow
Burma-Shave

Of course, more is not always better.
Billboards proliferated like weeds
until the visual eyesore
began to obscure the countryside.

Lady Bird Johnson
took the lead in applying ‘Round-Up’
to the billboard infestation
by promoting passage of the
Highway Beautification Act in 1965.

While a few still remain,
their numbers continue to
dwindle
as other forms of communication
have rendered billboards
increasingly obsolete.

Now, GPS navigation systems in cars
and smartphone apps
keep us informed of exactly
where we are 24/7
and what amenities and attractions
lie ahead,
without the roadside clutter.

Score one for technology.