2017-07-21 / Community

A Window on the Past

Remember when billboards were all over the state?
By Craig H. Skelton
South Portland Historical Society


A billboard on Broadway in South Portland, before the state banned billboards. (Courtesy the Palanza Collection at South Portland Historical Society) A billboard on Broadway in South Portland, before the state banned billboards. (Courtesy the Palanza Collection at South Portland Historical Society) I love the rolling hills in the Finger Lake region of New York with its multitude of greens from the wine grapes and endless corn as it contrasts with fields of golden wheat and hay ready for harvest.

During a recent drive through that area, it struck me that the one thing New York has dotting the landscape that we don’t see any more around here are billboards. Well, that’s not entirely true because there is one I know of on Main Street on the property of Downeast Energy. In 1977 Maine banned off-property billboards, which eliminated most of them throughout the state except for a few like the example on Main Street.

As far as billboards go, how can you not love the one pictured here that comes from the cover of Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo’s book, “South Portland – A Nostalgic Look At Our Neighborhood Stores.” The image brings to mind a memory of the cheese bread and English muffin bread we especially loved as toast in the Skelton household.

This billboard was a prominent feature on Broadway, as the Central Fire Station can be seen in the distance. In those days, there would have been a traffic jam if you were the second car at the nearby stoplight.

The law banning billboards was under attack as recently as 2013 when a business lobby was pushing for amendments to allow signs under certain conditions. In this day and age, we do most of our searching for places to stay, eat or to find local attractions on our phones and I dare say the billboard is largely obsolete. I’m just glad that we have wonderful photos like the one featured here that stirs such fond memories.

Note to readers: The South Portland Historical Society depends in part on readers like you who may be willing to share photos. For my part, it is photographs that excite my imagination and help me to write contributing articles. Thank you for your contributions.

Craig H. Skelton is a member of South Portland Historical Society.

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