The Dolle’s sign – past and future

September 12, 2021

Is life just a box of popcorn? Life on the Boardwalk was watched over by a big red-orange sign, a beacon of Rehoboth Beach as you rode into town, growing ever larger as you scored a parking spot. I've been looking at it and painting it for years, surreptitiously searching the tops of the trash cans for the iconic black and white popcorn boxes for my collages.

My childhood friend Georgeanne and I planned our Boardwalk maneuvers under the golden light of Dolle’s eaves on starry hot moonlit nights, the bins of taffy glowing in the background. We ran around, pausing only for a drink from the water fountain which stood there as a sentinel. The same as always. Having been erected there after the storm of '62, the Dolle’s sign has looked down on many changes. Brown weathered wooden benches became freshly painted white ones that glow at night.

There was once a boardwalk that we could crawl under and treasure hunt for coins that fell through the cracks between the boards. Now there are protective dunes and seagrass right up to the edge. You must stand tall to see the blue sea and crashing waves, along with faraway ships blinking in the nighttime darkness.

The landscape has changed, and so has the Boardwalk dress code from long ago. My father used to wear a seersucker suit, and my mother wore her Sunday best. It was like a town square. Local townspeople would congregate, exchanging news. Exotic travelers from the "ferry" would parade past the bench-filling audience.

Funland is still there, the monument of familiarity – the sound of the rides, and the sparking bumper cars along with the smell of their greasy black floor that still fills the air. The Sea Dragon still sways, filled with screaming thrill seekers. Of course, the focal point is still the ornate merry-go-round moving slowly round and round, like the years that have passed.

I still savor it all, a spool of green tickets clutched in my hand, now for grandchildren. I'll tell them of my childhood days at our summer cottage by the pier in Dewey Beach. It was like that old movie, "The Summer of '42." Crabbing and running around the dunes by day, and turning our big finned woody station wagon toward the big red Dolle’s sign at night.

I suppose that it's coming down eventually from its present place of honor against a blazing cerulean blue sky or stormy clouds. A fresh wave of tourists and locals will grow familiar with its new home just down the street, the hungry sea gulls squawking and lurching for a popcorn prize the same as always.

That big red sign – it's been good to me!

  • Pam Bounds is a well-known artist living in Milton who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art. She will be sharing humorous and thoughtful observations about life in Sussex County and beyond.

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