Slow down Pa, sakes alive

One of the joys of driving in the country half a century back was the Burma Shave sign sets. Burma Shave was a shaving cream and they hit upon the idea of putting up these four or five sign sequences with a clever saying on each..well not clever as much as just fun to find and read. Burma Shave, the product, was famous because of the association with these things and did very well until, so the story goes, Lyndon Johnson's wife, LadyBird, did this highway beautification act thing and a lot of signs had to come down or be moved. The real reason was the popularity of the electric razor but all that is secondary to the point...obscure as it might be.

I was just trying to think, make a mental list if you will, of things that are fond memories - things you can look back at and say to yourself "oh that was nice". This or any Burma Shave thing was one of them.

I was driving with my father in the upper peninsula of Michigan just north of the town of Manistique (and I remember that name really well because of the "que" spelling which at age 8, I thought it kinda odd). He wanted to take me to see Lake Michigan from the north instead of the south - if that makes sense and Manistique is on the edge of it (shore is a better word). He really just wanted to escape the cabin where we were staying on vacation.

Manistique grew up where the Manistique River empties into Lake Michigan (well duhhhh). Rivers were the roads inland and even though you could only take a canoe on them due to rocks and rapids and the like, they flooded in the spring with the ice and snow melt and you could float logs down them to a port and ship them to market. Rivers or streams were also pretty much “one way” as paddling upstream – well that phrase has the perfect meaning even today.

I looked for Manistique the other day, not only in my mind but as it has something to do with a client project I’m working on and ran across a picture of the harbor lighthouse and also a little street near a church in town. I’m pretty sure my dad would have driven down that street in our exploration trip as he did tend to wander about just looking around. There was always a little café that served breakfast all day and either little bends on a side street that had to have a story. You see, roads should go straight and unless there is a geographic reason (river, mountain etc.) then it’s a good bet that if the road makes a zig then what it is zigging around was there before the road and the road follows a property line. My dad was keen to point that out and would make up little stories about why.  I'm pretty sure (now, looking at google earth) that this little side road in Manistique is Walnut Street and that bend in the road is where it turns into Range St..  You see, Walnut Street was extended into a section of land (1/4 mile square) and probably when that church was built the farmer gave some of that section to build a church and a neat 1/4 of the section for the minister to use for grazing and farming.  After a while the section was squared off with an extension north of Range St.  The farmhouse at the end of the block, looking down Walnut, well the street was the driveway - you can tell by the old trees and it going straight up to the front porch.  It is all very clear.

At age 8, you take most things said by parents as the Gospel but in your heart of hearts a half century later you get it that these were just stories but that is OK. Life is made up of stories....and Burma Shave signs.