2017-03-17 / Community

A Window on the Past

Photos of more modern eras are still valuable
By Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo
South Portland Historical Society


Main Street in South Portland, before Maine prohibited billboards. (Courtesy photo) Main Street in South Portland, before Maine prohibited billboards. (Courtesy photo) This week’s Window on the Past is a glimpse at an ordinary sight on Main Street in 1974. When I look at it, I think of how many photos like this have been thrown away, a person thinking that there was not much to see. Like music and clothes, photographs from the 1970s often have a unique style and feel. While it is a joy to work with stunning, crystal clear historic photos that capture vintage scenes from the late 1800s and early 1900s, photos like the one here are often just what we are looking for when we ask the public to check their photo albums. The 1970s, 1980s and 1990s are just as worthy of preservation. There might be a grainy photo taken with an inexpensive camera, but if it shows a scene that a professional photographer would likely have overlooked, it could be one of the only photos in existence. Getting that photo to the historical society is a huge help toward documenting our community’s past.

The diner in the photo here has had many names over its history – Caboose Lunch, Ferrante’s Lunch, Rudy’s Lunch and Rudy’s All Star Diner. Regardless of its name, this local diner at 449 Main St. has served generations of railroad employees and Thornton Heights residents.

Of course, what really caught my eye in this snapshot was the billboard. Such a common site at that time, but the landscape was about to change dramatically along Main Street after the billboard law went into effect in Maine in 1977. We don’t have a lot of photographs of billboards in South Portland; I don’t think many people found them worthy of photographing. I remember them along Main Street, often touting a certain brand of cigarette or alcohol, although even local businesses like Uncle Andy’s Bakery were known to have paid for this highly visible advertising. Most of us who remember them would probably agree that our state looks a whole lot better without them.

If you have family photos that capture images of your neighborhood in South Portland, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach the South Portland Historical Society by phone at 767-7299, by email at sphistory04106@gmail.com, by mail or in person at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106, or reach out to us on Facebook at South Portland Historical Society.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of South Portland Historical Society.

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