Boise--Farris Lind was the genius behind Idaho's iconic yellow road signs of the '50s, '60s, and '70s.
The signs were not only witty but captured nationwide attention.
After returning WWII, Lind had to figure out a way to compete with cut-throat Boise competition and he made his 16th and Front Boise service station world famous. He did it by scattering the yellow signs all over southern Idaho to wake up drivers bored with countless miles of sagebrush. One side advertised his 33-station Stinker Station empire, while the other side offered witty humor.
The most famous sign was near a field of lava rock, “Petrified watermelon. Take one home to your mother-in-law.” Lind got into the sign business by accident. In 1946, with the war behind him, he tried to buy exterior plywood to advertise his service station, but only interior plywood was available. That meant both sides had to be painted to preserve the wood. According to the Idaho Statesman, he was quoted saying, “As long as the backside of the sign was painted, I got the idea of putting humor or curiosity catching remarks on the back side”.
At one time, there were about 150 Stinker Station signs between Green River, Wyoming and Jordan Valley, Oregon. Lind came up with the content for every single sign. In 1954 United Press International did a feature story on Lind and the signs and a retail star was born.
Lind did get a few complaints about his signs. Some people didn’t like his sign outside of Salt Lake City that declared “Salt Lake City is full of lonely, beautiful women.” To avoid offending anyone, he had the word “lonely” removed. A similar sign about the women near Glenns Ferry prompted someone to write “Where?” across it.
One of the best signs is still standing outside of Idaho Falls. It says, “Warning to tourists: Do not laugh at the natives.” Fearless Farris Lind passed away in 1983. Rick Just's new book about Farris Lind is called Fearless and available in local book stores and Amazon.