The following pages are a celebration of a couple important aspects of my life. First, my wonderful travel history of the RT 95 corridor, having been a passenger in my Dad's car way back in the 1960's when I enjoyed my first drive to FL. I have repeated this drive no less than twenty times since then. Another aspect of my life that is celebrated here is advertising, a field in which I have made my living since the late 80's. South of the Border (SOTB) spends no less than $40 million a year attracting travelers into their roadside attraction. As anyone who has ever made the drive to FL knows, the SOTB 'Pedro says' billboards certainly help to liven the trip through the Carolinas.
And whether you decide to stop and lighten your wallet on a meal, fuel, fireworks, room, or trinkets, SOTB is an eye catcher. For me it has always been one of those milestones on the ride south that gives you hope that you're getting closer to the FL state line. On the way back north passing SOTB tells me that FL is a good distance in the rear view mirror and VA is only a few hours up the road.
The evolution of the SOTB billboard has been pretty apparent. First thing an old-timer traveler will notice is that there are fewer of them these days. It must have to do with the increasing cost of the billboard space and maintenance. The second thing travelers will notice is that Perdro no longer speaks. Here is why...
From RoadsideAmerica.com...If you haven't done it, do it. Take the time and stop at least once. The kids will love you for it and will provide them with wonderful road memories to last them a lifetime. Fear not, the shops are pretty sparce and selections are nothing compared to Wall Drug. You can take an elevator ride to the top of the sombrero and the food and coffee are not bad.Good-bye to Mexican-Speak South of the Border Billboards
The last South of the Border (SOB) billboards along I-95 have been redone to remove the "Mexican-Speak" of cartoon mascot Pedro. For over forty years, the 250 billboards, strung from New Jersey to Florida, have delighted children and annoyed parents forced to pull off at America's premier "Mexican Theme World," a huge roadside attraction in Dillon, SC. After years of disapproval by the forces of political correctness, Pedro will no longer be able to entice with his corny epithets and awful broken English puns.
According to an article in the Raleigh News and Observer, 83-year old SOB owner Alan Schafer said "We have to communicate with the present generation -- these baby boomers do not have a sense of humor." The billboards, which increase in density as one approaches Dillon, will continue to be the focus of SOB's $40M advertising budget. They get 8 million people a year to pull off and gas up, buy fireworks or "dirty old man" gifts, or eat a steak in a building shaped like a sombrero.
For years, SOB has been criticized for apparent insensitivity when it came to portrayal of Mexicans in its advertising. In 1993, the Mexican Embassy complained about the billboards in a letter to Schafer. Schafer fired off a reply that suggested the embassy consider the $1.5 million in merchandise he imports from Mexico each year.
Although the billboard makeover began about a year ago, Roadside America had noticed a long and gradual retreat from SOB's Mexican-Speak. Brochure copy from the 1970s, cheerily garbled with cartoon broken English, was rendered in regular marketing patter by 1985. At the same time, the attraction expanded, adding specialty shops and more outlandish photo opportunities.
Despite the muting of Pedro, we have consistently recognized South of the Border as one of the " Seven Wonders." And it will probably remain so -- as long as there's no plan to get rid of the Sombrero Tower. [10/26/1997]
On to the billboards