Signs of change

The cityscape along Route 93 in Dorchester has changed significantly once again. The sign that for ages hawked Sunbeam Bread and a Cape Cod-named product (how sad is it that I can't remember already), was painted over this week and a big sign is offering it for rent.

As a kid, I remember riding 93 with anticipation to see the Curley Lumber sing, a big billboard in the shape of a log. I always thought it was funny because it was named after one of the Three Stooges (ah, the mind of a child). That disappeared at some point in the late 1980s or early 1990s, never to be seen again. I think I remember another distinct sign on that stretch of road, but can't quite picture it. But amid all that change, the Cape Cod (was it chips?) and Sunbeam sign hung on.

It appeared to fall into disrepair over the past year, with several panels missing from the Cape Cod section, which also had an electric clock on top, and a friendly message saying "You're almost home!" The blue Sunbeam Bread letters also disappeared, leaving a ghost of decades of road grime to spell out the name on the yellow field.

Then, late last week, I noticed the missing panels were replaced. I knew something was up and my gut instinct was that the days were numbered for the old sign, but I held out hope that maybe the sign's owner would let nostalgia win over commerce. Well, my gut was right. The sign was painted a stark white, and the rental pitch was lashed to both side of the board, not only pitching the sign's availability, but the building beneath it.

Luckily, and at least until the sign is rented, the words Sunbeam Bread can still be made out through the white paint. That sign was probably the last of the real landmark billboards on Route 93 that recalled a different era of highway advertising. Now, it seems, we are left with the bland uniqueness of billboards that rotate ads and vertical billboards like the one that has shrouded the Pine Street Inn for a decade and the other one near the Pine Street on Albany Street that for the better part of a year advertised the Boston Globe's silly youth-oriented tabloid "Sidekick."

The change leaves me cold because now it seems like driving into Boston is no different than driving into Cleveland or Jacksonville. It wasn't a major landmark, but it was one that reminded me of some great childhood memories of coming into Boston.


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