“Reinvention” seems to be one of the more noticeable outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In that vein, the Rehoboth Boardwalk and Beach Committee has indicated its concern with commercialization. While this is a step in the right direction, it’s a little like the county Planning & Zoning Commission expressing concern about developmental sprawl.
And speaking of the Rehoboth boardwalk and reinvention, what fate awaits the iconic Dolle’s sign currently perched above the building at the corner of Main Street, aka Rehoboth Avenue, and the boardwalk? The sign has been there since 1962.
The Rehoboth town fathers and mothers have indicated they would like Dolle to stay exactly where she is.
However, given that that property was recently sold to Grotto Pizza, it would seem a bit incongruous to have a sign atop the building advertising salt water taffy. Re-invention can go just so far, it needs to make business sense.
The Dolle’s operation is being folded into Ibach’s Candy by the Sea, in much the same way that corn syrup, glycerin and butter are folded over and stretched to form salt water taffy. However, the sign isn’t as flexible, and the 2022 celebration of what would be its 60th anniversary has become questionable.
Sixty years may not sound like a significant passage of time, but consider that in 1962 there was no Cape May-Lewes Ferry, there hadn’t been a NASCAR-sanctioned race at Dover Downs, and Delaware had yet to adopt “The First State” as its official nickname. Talk about reinvention.
Assuming the Dolle’s sign can be moved without damaging it, what would be its most appropriate second home, in a city filled with second homes? One possibility would be to display it in a local park, à la the LOVE sculpture in downtown Philadelphia.
Dolle’s Park does have a ring to it, and one could envision taking the Jolly Trolley to Dolle. That rhyme scheme would have the added benefit of teaching visitors how to correctly pronounce the name of our most famous local confectioner.
More promising is an idea to create a unique outdoor location for the sign and other homeless industrial relics from the local past. They could be brought together to form a Museum of Industry and Science on the Coast (MISC).
This MISC collection of artifacts would provide a long overdue venue at which the industrial and scientific history of the region could be viewed and celebrated.
Restaurants have also recently felt the need to reinvent themselves, or at least change the manner in which they provide fare to their customers.
Since March 2020, we have seen the emergence of contact-less and curbside delivery, the latter resembling the drive-in restaurant service provided by carhops in the 1950s and 1960s — but without the roller skates (though with masks, of course).
Probably more significant has been the expansion of outdoor dining, championed by Al Fresco and other local restaurateurs. In the near future, it’s possible to imagine that eating en plein air in the Nation’s Summer Capital could begin to resemble and rival the outdoor cafés one finds in European capitals.
Finally, even something as relatively mundane as coastal walking paths seem to be undergoing reinvention. They are no longer just natural paths meandering through the woods, but rather parts of an interlocking system of regional trails.
Many are now paved; go over, under, or across designated roads; are adjacent to various amenities; and serve as equal opportunity providers in that they allow use by walkers, runners, and bicyclists without user fees, trail licenses, or photo IDs.
Some are even lit at night. Milton recently approved a lighting plan for their new Rails to Trails extension, with Delmarva Power contributing some of the fixtures, but, I assume, not the electricity as well.
Although these lights are primarily intended to enhance pedestrian safety, they are also good news for those Delmarva fox squirrels that are new to the area.
Groups of them are being “translocated” (DNREC’s word, not mine) from the Eastern Shore where they are numerous to Delaware where they are relatively scarce. Whether translocations are the same as reinventions is open to question or interpretation.
In any case, these squirrels may initially have difficulty adapting to and negotiating their new terrain. Thanks to the Milton Town Council, they at least will have lighted trailways to help them find their way back to their dens at night.
Some local residents may bemoan the paving, lighting and multi-modal usage that has changed the nature of our trails.
However, no one has gone so far as to suggest placing miniature versions of the Dolle’s sign, at Burma Shave-like intervals, along the paths. Besides, given Delaware’s economic dependence on tourism, we wouldn’t want to trail behind other states, would we?
Mike Berger is a freelance writer and retired university administrator with a home in Lewes. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.