By Tim Kelly
Keen-eyed Boardwalk observers have spotted a two-dimensional time capsule of sorts.
Renovations on the site for the former Old Salt shop on the boards at 13th street included removal of the sign to reveal much older signage from a retail tenant long since faded from the scene and another one –the last of its kind in town, still in operation.
A third sign has had much of its hand-painted characters erased by decades of Ocean City weather and “salt air.” The result is a kind of missing letter puzzle. Once solved – or at least by taking an Internet-assisted guess at solving it — the faded sign gives clues as to the location’s pre-Old Salt operation and wares. Additionally, it provides an idea of the age of the signs.
The smaller mystery sign sits atop what was once the doorway to “The Book Mark” which sold reading material and “PERSONALIZED JEWE(LRY),” according to the large main sign, which also includes an illustration of an open book and white paint over the last three letters. There is also what appears to be the remnants from an even earlier sign, with the possible characters “phy” visible across the weather-pocked blue painted capital M.
The faded sign-puzzle includes a top line we consider to be unintelligible – perhaps OCNJ Daily readers can sleuth that one.
The second line clearly includes the black letters “ER TRU-VUE at the back end of an otherwise obscured space for perhaps six to eight preceding characters. We guess it promotes the formerly popular Tru-Vue photo viewer. Another unintelligible line sits beneath that one and a bottom line advertising –we think—“DI(SNE)Y TOYS.”
There is also a numeral in blue, which looks to have been part of an earlier sign and painted around. The number apparently indicated the business address, of which “13” and “8” sandwich a blank space and are partially blocked by a wooden slat. Logic seems to indicate that the address is “1318”.
Readers of a certain age know that Tru-Vue was a popular handheld device for the viewing of slides featuring color photography and still images of cartoon characters. It was a competitor to the better-known View-Master. Both companies manufactured the so-called stereoscope viewers and the film strips and film cards used with them. When these viewers were held up to light, the images appeared in 3-D. Subject matter included famous travel destinations and landmarks, historical images and current events, and material for children. They were big sellers from the 1930s until the early 70s.
According to Wikipedia, Tru-Vue was bought out by Sawyer’s, which made the View-Master, because Tru-Vue held the exclusive rights to children’s filmstrips featuring Disney characters.
Thus, if the sign indeed touts Tru-Vue and Disney Toys, it would have to be at least 65 years old, assuming Wikipedia’s stated 1951 purchase date of Tru-Vue is accurate.
The third sign holds no mystery whatever. It gives a prominent Boardwalk ad to what was then known as “The Surf’n Sand” Bathhouse. The Bathhouse, the last one operating in OC and one of the last in South Jersey, is still in operation and still does a thriving business. It was featured last summer in OCNJDaily (The Last Bath House: Day-Tripper’s Oasis Keeps Tradition Alive). Today, only a small sign for the facility is visible from the boards, with larger signage at the backside of the building, facing its sister business, a parking lot.
We’re not sure how long the renovation process will allow these old relics to be seen before they are again covered up, taken down or otherwise relegated to memory. In the meantime, they are a visible fun reminder to passers-by of the rich history of Ocean City.