By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
This was Sea Isle City’s version of the Powerball or Mega Millions lottery.
Would-be winners began lining up at around 6 a.m. Saturday for a chance at getting their hands on the grand prize – or in this case, the grand prizes
But instead of dreaming of winning millions and millions of dollars in cash, people were clamoring at the chance of owning a unique piece of Sea Isle history – old street signs that the city sold to the public.
The old signs would otherwise have been thrown out, but Sea Isle wanted to make them available to people who would appreciate their novelty and nostalgia.
“I think it’s a sentimental issue for a lot of people,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
In the last two years, Sea Isle installed hundreds of new street signs from First Street in the north end of town to 94th Street at the southern part of the island. The old-fashioned green street signs were replaced with modern signs with a black background and white lettering.
Inspired by a similar street sign sale held two or three years ago in Wildwood Crest, Sea Isle officials decided to part with their old green signs in similar fashion.
The sign sale was limited to Sea Isle residents and local property owners. More than 300 signs were up for grabs on a first come, first served basis. Each street sign was sold for $35 and there was a limit of three per buyer.
The doors officially opened at 8 a.m. at the Sea Isle City Community Lodge. As people anxiously waited to get inside the Community Lodge to buy their favorite signs, a long line formed and snaked up the block.
Shortly before 9 a.m., the signs were sold out.
“It was an amazing turnout. We were surprised by the turnout,” Custer said. “We expected it to be a good turnout, but we were still surprised.”
Marci Schankweiler was one of the Sea Isle residents lucky enough to buy some of the signs. She got three of them – First Street, 45th Street and 48th Street.
There were emotional attachments for the signs Schankweiler purchased. She explained that 45th Street is where she grew up in Sea Isle and 48th Street is where she lives now.
As for First Street, Schankweiler said it symbolizes her feelings that Sea Isle will always be No. 1 in her heart.
“For me, it was all about those beautiful memories, and Sea Isle being No. 1,” she said.
Schankweiler is the founder and chief executive officer of For Pete’s Sake, an organization named in memory of her first husband, Peter Bossow Jr., a former Sea Isle lifeguard who died of testicular cancer in 1999 when he was just 30 years old.
For Pete’s Sake provides respites on Sea Isle’s beaches and other places to help people with cancer and their families temporarily escape the emotional and physical trauma of the illness.
Schankweiler grew up in Sea Isle as Marci Kuttler, the daughter of Mariann and Herb Kuttler. The Kuttler family has owned the Maryanne Pastry Shoppe in Sea Isle for more than 50 years.
While Schankweiler was one of the fortunate people to buy some of the street signs, others who showed up after they were sold out were certainly disappointed.
“I came up here and it was already sold out,” said Ron Salerno, who wanted to buy a sign for 74th Street.
Salerno, who owns a summer vacation home on 74th Street, thought that a sign would be one way to preserve the fond memories he has of Sea Isle.
“This is a great town. It’s a wonderful town. We enjoy our neighbors. It’s 25 years of memories,” said Salerno, who lives in Skippack, Pa., and has owned his Sea Isle vacation home with his wife since 1997.