Here's your sign

Published 11:28 am Wednesday, October 15, 2003

By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
Seems there is a sign that defines every generation, whether it be for a cold drink, hair tonic, or even those old Wonder Bread signs that hung on the screen doors at the corner Mom and Pop grocery.
The sign that defined my childhood, the Pensacola fish sign, is going up for auction.
You may or may not know what the heck I am talking about, but this was a multicolored sailfish that marked the turn to the bridge from Gulf Breeze to Pensacola Beach. It carried no advertising, hawked nothing except the beach, and neither does the duplicate. It is too new to be considered art deco, too beautiful to be 60s kitsch.
According to Sonya Smith, who handles press releases and such for the good folks in Pensacola, the original sign was replaced last year with a duplicate. The original was put up about 1960 – although I have heard it is 50 this year – and had been damaged by time and hurricanes.
I am as old as the sign, and it is firmly entwined in my childhood memories of the beach.
It used to be that there were no air-conditioners in automobiles, and that meant in the summer they were ovens on wheels. Take one of those ovens and put it on Three Mile Bridge in a July traffic jam and fill it with several fidgeting, impatient children, and it becomes one an outpost of Hell itself.
But then we would get to the sign.
It really stood out in those days, because there was nothing in Gulf Breeze then.
And it meant that we were nearly there, almost to the beach. Relief from that car, and those sisters, and the heat, and boredom, was in sight, literally.
It was a rare treat that we, a farm family from Cantonment, made the 30-mile plus trip to the water.
Back then, you could get the nicest cottage on the beach for $40 a week, and that was in the summer months. The only development out there that I recall was the picnic grounds at Quiet Water Beach.
Of course, today, $40 won't get you a night's stay on the beach.
I'm glad that the sign was duplicated, that a sign that advertises nothing is still considered viable today. But on the other hand, I am saddened that the original is going into the hands of a private collector.
It had occurred to me to bid on that old sign, but my husband said no how, no way. He had all the usual arguments against large, expensive collectibles; too large, too expensive, doesn't match the couch.
Besides, I think I am far better off with the sign in my memories, the one that meant something, without saying anything at all.
Connie Nowlin is managing editor of the Atmore Advance and may be reached at 368-2123 or email at

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