1930 Model A Ford with Ryan & Timmy Ritter in Rumble Seat is part of unveiling of repl;acement "Burma Shave" Signs in Vincentown. L-R: Holly Doyle, Rick Allen, Mayor Jim Young, Joe Laufer, Dot Best, Dot Chapp
Sixteen years ago, four nostalgic Burma Shave signs appeared on E. Landing St. (Rt. 641), just outside the Village of Vincentown on Jack Allen’s Dairy Farm. The signs immediately conjured up memories for the old timers in the area, who recalled Sunday drives in the country as children when they encountered the rhyming signs along the highway promoting the mugless, brushless shaving cream known as Burma Shave. They immediately became a hit, and it was soon learned that they were the only Burma Shave signs in the state of New Jersey.
The Vincentown signs went up on May 30, 1996. They held up pretty well for about twelve years. By 2007 they began to show their age. Eventually, one by one they disappeared. No, they weren’t victims of vandalism – but were ravaged by the wind, rain and elements, eventually falling to the ground and being covered with the rich farm soil during the plowing and harvesting seasons at the Allen farm. By spring of 2012 only one sign remained – the one that read “Sure Missed a Treat” – meaningless now in isolation.
For Joe Laufer, Burlington County Historian (and Vincentown resident), the loss was not only regrettable, but intolerable. The story of the only Burma Shave signs in New Jersey was a part of his most popular lecture on “Burlington County Trivia.” He would tell the story of how the signs ended up in Vincentown in 1996, but then lamented how just as the vintage Burma Shave signs of the 1930s and 40s were a memory, now their 1996 re-incarnation was but a memory, since only a single remnant remained. He would tell his audience how he’d like to have them replaced. While giving his talk to the Medford Historical Society last year, at the end of the presentation, a member of the society offered to letter the signs if Laufer could provide the basic raw materials. At last! – an incentive to restore the signs.
It all started back in 1995 when the late Jack Allen read an article in Reminisce Magazine offering to provide one set of nostalgic Burma Shave signs to each of the 50 US states. The signs would go to the community which made the best case for the honor. Jack felt that Vincentown was the best place in New Jersey for the signs, and suggested to Dot Best, Southampton’s local historian, that she submit a nomination for Southampton, which she did, and lo and behold, won. The verse selected for the New Jersey set was: Today’s Kids…Sure Missed a Treat…No Moonlight Rides…In a Rumble Seat. Jack Allen offered his property for the signs and installed them on the edge of his E. Landing St. farm.
When Holly Doyle, the Medford Historical Society member, stepped forward and offered to help Laufer restore the signs, neither of them suspected that they had to start from scratch. Joe went to the property to try to retrieve the fallen signs from the earth. He found two, but they were hopelessly deteriorated. A third was accidentally found last week when preparing the ground for the post-hole digger. Even the one last-standing sign was so deteriorated that it couldn’t be restored.
So Laufer purchased the wood for the new signs and prepared them for Holly by sanding them and applying two coats of redwood paint. Holly operates “Jersey Made,” a shop on White St. in Mill Race Village in Mount Holly, where the signs were dropped off early this Spring for her to letter, using the pictures of the original signs from Laufer’s Power Point presentation for accuracy. He decided to add a fifth sign to the series, the final one which contains the “Burma Shave” logo. He claims this touch adds to their authenticity.
There was a brief ceremony to unveil the restored signs on Landing Road on Monday, July 2 at 5:15 p.m. in front of the Jack Allen Early Country Living Museum in Southampton. So that the younger generation would have a sense of the history associated with the 1930’s “Rumble Seat” referred to in the fourth sign, Laufer invited Coles Roberts, local agricultural historian, to bring his Model “A” Ford to the event, and seat some kids in the rumble seat for a photo opportunity as Dot Best, Rick Allen (son of the late Jack Allen) and Holly Doyle participated in formal unveiling of the new signs. Representing the Southampton Historical Society at the event was its President, Bob Ritter.
The new Southampton Township website contains an article from the January, 1997 issue of Reminisce Magazine describing Vincentown’s participation in the national contest and listing the towns in other US States selected for the Burma Shave signs. Click here to link to article.
Dot Best, Joe Laufer, Mayor Jim Young and Committeeman Jim Minster
Timmy & Ryan Ritter, Dot Chappini, Joe Laufer, Bob Ritter, Mayor Jim Young and Jim Minster
ORIGINAL SIGNS WHEN INSTALLED IN MAY, 1996
L-R Mayor Young, Jean Allen, Dot Chappine, Dot Best, Jack Allen - May, 1996
Mayor Jim Young (in tie) and Jack Allen (in hat) - May, 1996