Columns

Season's harvest, post election day

Well, it’s finally harvest time. But the harvest I’m referring to is not what you might think, the kind that zillions of people from all over Long Island take advantage of every weekend for two months, packing families into every type of vehicle imaginable, forming crawling lines of traffic that stretch for dozens of miles, to buy vegetables, fruits, pumpkins, wine, pies, jams, cider, cornstalks, roasted corn, sweet corn and Indian corn.
No, the harvest I’m looking forward to is the uprooting of the sixty or seventy thousand political campaign signs that seem to have grown faster than any cash crop. Nowadays it seems that every thoughtful politician is desperately looking for anything in their voting record that shows they are environmentally sensitive, yet they plant these signs, made of plastic, on every lawn, street corner, stop sign and bend in the road.
All concerns for the obtrusive blight of real estate or contractor signs, real or imagined, seem to be conveniently forgotten during the run-up to election day. But you know what the worst thing is about the signs? They’re incredibly boring. Vote for this person. Re-elect that person. Joe Schmoe for Dogcatcher. Really, an absolute yawn-fest. I mean come on, if the campaigners are so intent on getting their names out there, why not be a little creative with them?
Back when most advertising was done on the highway, the sides of barns and on sandwich signs worn by men on the street, signs and lettering were done by artists, and the slogans were catchy and memorable. Perhaps some of the best were created by the Burma-Shave company, which for nearly 40 years used poems and rhymes spread out on stretches of road to advertise their product. The popularity of the signs was also used to promote highway safety. You can visit any one of a thousand websites and look at examples, or better yet, you can buy the 1965 book by Frank Rowsome and Carl Rose, “The Verse by the Side of the Road: The Story of the Burma-Shave Signs and Jingles,” Stephen Greene Press, and read all six hundred.
Here are just a few:
“Train approaching / Whistle squealing / Stop / Avoid that run-down feeling / Burma-Shave”
“Keep well / To the right / Of the oncoming car / Get your close shaves / From the half pound jar / Burma-Shave”
And this one, which I use even today to remind young cooking students about the safe use of propane:
“He lit a match / To check gas tank / That’s why / They call him / Skinless Frank / Burma Shave”
So let’s have some fun with the current campaigns.
Who will watch / our precious town? / think clean / think “green” / vote for Brown.
To keep / Town Council / squeaky clean / we can’t afford / to “Lewis” Christine.
Time to shuffle / when times / are hard / for the best deal / vote for Card.
“Springer” summer / winter, fall / a vote / for Linda / is best for all.
He’ll stand firm / for another term /you know it / we owe it / to Dougherty.
Your house / may be new / it might be / an “oldie”/ want the true value? / Vote for Castoldi.
Want the best / in town assessing? / The choice / is plain / choose / Joe Messing.
A seat on the council / a job that needs filling / for a real hard worker / Shillingburg’s willing.
For roads and sandings / beaches and landings / who gets the job done / you bet’chem / its Ketcham!
The road ahead / has many / speedbumps / a vote for caution / is a vote for Kornrumpf.
To keep our town / on a course / that’s steady / elect Bill Smith / a captain who’s ready!
With so many issues / affecting the “Rock” / we need Paul / to “Shepherd” the flock.
And with a nod to our long-serving County Legislator, here’s a final groaner:
To serve / us best / the choice / is plain / “lettuce” / re-elect Romaine.

So here are the rules and options for elections from now on:
1. All slogans for all candidates (limit two rhymes each) must be planted on Route 114 and nowhere else.
2. One set of slogans shall be on the southbound side and one on the northbound side. The resulting parade of dubious poetry will cause all drivers to slow down to about 20 miles an hour, thereby making it a safe road, at least for a month or so.
3. Other, boring signs shall be planted at each party’s discretion, but with the full knowledge that they will be harvested by the sign police who will dump all signs on the appropriate candidate’s lawn (or better yet, on the driveway right behind their car) for proper recycling.
4. All signs must be set up no earlier than the week before Columbus Day and must be dismantled within 24 hours of the election.
5. Defamatory signage is strictly prohibited. Only positive, jovial and good-spirited slogans allowed.
6. Violators of any of the above rules will not be permitted to erect signs for the next 20 years and must forfeit all rights and privileges in regard to Shelter Island Bridge and Tunnel Authority membership.
I guess it’s time for me to “sign” off!