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When I was a child, there were billboards everywhere. You couldn't get into the car and make a short trip without seeing dozens of them. And, when the contract for the advertising was up, if the owner of the billboard didn't have a new client, the message would weather, and ultimately, begin to shred, and you'd see layers of previous advertisments begin to peek through.
In 1970, the Federal Goverment passed the Highway Beautification Act, in response to Ladybird Johnson's efforts to protect scenic highways. States were required to adopt stringent billboard laws on "federal aid" highways, or loose federal funding. Most states rushed to enact anti-billboard laws, but Illinois dragged its feet.
So, for the past thirty years the Illinois courts have been flooded with cases of contested signs. The district courts have disagreed, reversed themselves and been overridden by higher courts as case after case has been argued. Ultimately, with the help of federal appeals courts, it has been decided that home rule cities have the right to control billboards along federal highways.
The Illinois Highway Advertising Control Act of 1972 allows billboards along federal aid highways to 1,200 square feet in area, 30 feet in height and 60 feet in length. Signs may not be closer together than 100 feet in incorporated areas.
So now, rather than dozens of signs, cutting off our view past the roadway, we have huge towers, with signs the size of small apartments, standing sentinel along our federal highways
I don't understand just why Illinois was so unwilling to follow the lead of other states to clean up our roads. There must have been one heck of an advertising lobby, or a HUGE bribe somewhere, for them to have dragged their feet all these years. It's disgusting that the first thought in my mind is "bribe," but the actions of our officials leave little else to the imagination.
Of all the signs along the road, my favorite had to be the Burma-Shave signs. Signs in groups of six began appearing along the roadside in 1925. At their peak, there were 7,000 Burma-Shave signs marching across America. 1963 was the last year a new Burma-Shave sign went up. Here's an example of their homilies:
On the curves ahead
That rabbit's foot
I wonder what the State of Illinois would have to say about the Burma-Shave signs?
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