Billboards, Boots, and Beans

Billboards adorn a stretch of road between Myrtle Beach and Florence SC.

Billboard - Biker Boots

sign - booty bros

OK, maybe “adorn” is too strong: maybe “abut” is better.

Having travelled this stretch of road a few times on our sojourn in Myrtle Beach, I was ready with my camera as we left town at the end of March, homeward bound. I figured that these billboards would make an interesting photo essay.

Actually, I figured that they would make a best-selling sociological study of 21st century America. You know the sort of thing, I’m sure . . .

Signs of the Times:
American Heartland, American Billboards

Unable to convince the Big Guy that this was my chance for fame and fortune, I was also unable to persuade him to add a day or two to our journey to find me safe places to stand along this highway, unabutted by sidewalk or shoulder as it was, so that I could get coffee-table-book quality photos.

No, once again I was reduced to shooting out the car window and to hoping that, one day, curators would see my output as folk photography, its technical deficiencies bestowing an authenticity sadly lacking in so much of the merely superb photography littering the internet.

Boots aside, most of the billboards advertise canned food. Now, you might be wondering whether “canned food” is an oxymoron, and I understand, but let’s just see what’s on offer, shall we, and what it might mean.

Yes You Can!

Encouragement and puns both seem to be essential to marketing here, even when the word play isn’t real clear. As easy as cabbage?

yes you can collage3


Unresolved Conflict

They seem conflicted about boiled peanuts: Do they represent treat, obsession, or danger? I understand completely, and admire their willingness to acknowledge their confusion.

peanut collage

Strong Preferences

Yams, apparently, are big, especially in syrup.

yam collage

Inexplicable Preferences

Cooked leaves are popular, too: mixed greens, turnip greens, and collard greens (regular and low-sodium).

greens collage

Completely Unacceptable Preferences

They like lima beans.

Billboard - Lima Beans


Honestly, there’s just nothing more to be said: They like lima beans.

I guess that’s it for my famous book. Some cultural commentary evidently requires a cultural insider.



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12 Responses to Billboards, Boots, and Beans

  1. Tom Watson says:

    And a pretty good book it is. Bless your heart!

  2. Marion says:

    I love this kind of billboard. They bring back memories of family road trips to and from Baltimore, Burma Shave signs and the like.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Marion – Yes, we also used to watch for the Burma Shave signs when driving through the US of A on family trips. Unencumbered by seat belts, we’d practically stand up in the back seat, trying to be the first one to see the next sign and read it aloud!

  3. Jim Taylor says:

    If a good thing, taken to an extreme, can turn into a bad thing, then maybe a bad thing — billboards, specifically, a blight on the landscape — can turn into a good thing, or at least a thing of interest, when also taken to an extreme. I’m thinking particularly of BurmaShave signs, which used to unfurl little bits of doggeral along the side of highways. The cognoscenti ridiculed them, but now that they’re gone they’re remembered as a brilliant campaign, indicative of the American psyche, etc. etc. Here in a Canada, ahem, we all know that billboards are the only way of distinguishing “Indian reservations”…..
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – I wouldn’t have said I was a fan of billboards in general but, somehow, along this stretch of highway, they seem OK. Although I prefer to ones with cheesy puns to the ones advertising biker boots . . .

  4. “Yes You Can! actually should read “Yes WE Can!”

    Lima Beans!? They have got to be the most disgusting “veg” to put in your mouth. They would be better used as calking.

    The last Burma Shave signs I saw were in Nebraska, but leading up to their museum which crosses I-80, going bankrupt when we were there doing research on my Nebraska By Dummies, Vol.II. They expected to get a million visitors a year!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Yeah, caulking with lima beans might work. I think I understand how my father felt about peanut butter – he couldn’t see any good use for it. As for the Burma Shave Museum – I’d have visited it, if only I’d known about it. Maybe they should put up little signs along the highway . . .

  5. Jim Robertson says:

    Well seen/done Isabel !!

    PS: I am with your father re peanut butter !!!! ☺

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