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Wine Country Blog: INNsights to the Wine Country

Sonoma County...silly, wacky, and wonderful!

Posted by Meilani N on August 12, 2011

Sonoma County does it again...Have you noticed the red signs strung beside the road following the Russian River from Santa Rosa out towards Guerneville? You can head down the road both directions from the Farmhouse Inn in either direction to run into them.  Remember the old Burma Shave signs...well maybe not if you are a youngun' but I remember hearing about them in a marketing class in college.  You could equate them to life sized "twitter" posts with a sense of humor. The signs were up along our earliest roads from the '20s until 1963 and were an early form of our modern billboards advertising a shaving cream.  Here's an example in case you have no idea what I am talking about:

Burma Shave Sign


Most of the signs have something to do with beards/shaving or driving today's speeds maybe a bit of distraction but they have been up along a busy road for a couple of months and I haven't heard of any problems.  When Wendell Joost of Guerneville decided to re-create the old signs along the road earlier this year he was attempting to draw business from the car clubs that come through the town each year and just shine draw attention to the area.  A bit of a furor...most people see the sense of fun but there have been a few detractors;  "eyesore", "dangerous", "ugly", etc.  Personally I have been getting a kick out of them.  I heard even some tour buses have been making a detour through the area.  Here are a few of my favorites (they all end with "Burma Shave" of course:

      • His tenor voice... she thought devine
        'Til whiskers scratched ...Sweet Adeline
      • Grandpa's beard... was stiff and coarse
        And that's what caused... his fifth divorce
      • Don't stick your elbow... out too far
        It could go home another car
      • When you're frisky...from whiskey
        Don't drive...'cause it's risky
      • If these signs blur...and bounce around
        You'd better park...and walk to town
      • It would be more go by air
        But we can't hang these signs up there
      • His face was smooth...and cool as ice
        And oh, Louise...he smelled so nice
      • If you don't know...whose signs these are
        You haven't traveled...very far
      • Around the corner...lickety split
        Beautiful car...wasn't it

And finally my own slightly re-written version of one of the old signs-

      • Grab your pants...don't lose your load
        You're about to ride... down River Road!

There were 600 of these original jingles (some sent in by their customers)... if you are curious collections can be found in "Sunday Drives" by Michael Larson and in "The Verse by the Side of the Road" by Frank Rowsome, Jr. or Wikipedia has quite a write up about it too.  The signs are due to come down by the end of the month after the Antique Automobile Club of America comes through Santa Rosa -  the AACA Annual Grand National and Western Fall Dual Meets. 

Antique Automobile Club


                       antiqueautomobilesDSC00539 0052








What a great way to see the wonderful wacky side of the Sonoma Wine Country!

We have had our own version of the Burma Shave signs here for years- another unique approach to advertising.  Have you passed by one of the Clover Stornetta Dairy billboards lately?  "Clo" is their mascot cow that has her own version of crazy billboards and a book "Wholly Cow", a collection of the famous billboards.

Clo billboards

Above sample billboards should get the idea across... don't forget this is the last weekend of the Sonoma County Fair and "Clo" is there in "person" Clover ice cream every afternoon. Here she is at the Ice Cream booth with Brent Farris from the  local radio station KZST - bet he had seconds.


Clo and Brent Farris


More billboards here...

Clo billboards    


       Clorus Line 




          and one of my favorites used to out on
      highway 37...they change periodically so 
      don't know if this one is still up.





Off to the Fair on Sunday...Destruction Derby Day and last day of the horse races.

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My grandgirls are coming up so am trying to take in the Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol too...another busy weekend.  More Sonoma County fun and the weather is perfect- yet again. I hope you are able to get here to see the Burma Shave signs before they leave.  But if not- check them out on-line.  Good for a chuckle. 

What's up in your corner of the world?  Any favorite wacky things in your area you might want to share?

Topics: Sonoma, wine country, Russian River, Sonoma County, Sebastopol, Clover Stornetta Dairy, Burma Shave, Farmhouse Inn

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