Memory Lane



Billboards in Bohemia

At one time, part of the landscape of Bohemia, New York, were billboards advertising their various products. Long-time resident, Lorraine Mays, told us in an interview that they were located at the corner of Smithtown Avenue and Church Street (where Lucky Lotto is now), and that the signs advertised consumer items such as cigarettes. When exactly they were erected, or when they were razed, we were unable to find out. However, a Suffolk County News article from December 1959 reported that one of the billboards had been blown down during a winter gale. (1) Judy Pedneault, President of the Bohemia Historical Society, believes it was around that time (the late 1950s or 60s) when they came down for good.

It was also during that very same time period that billboards were becoming thought of as “visual pollution.”(2) In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Highway Beautification Act, which banned billboards from the flanks of the interstate and primary intercity roadways. By the late 1970s the Town of Islip adopted a sign ordinance which included phasing out pre-existing oversized signs and billboards in accordance to their age and the amount of money invested in them. Stephen Jones, who was the Islip Town Commissioner, commented that “signs and the way they are handled often times are indicative of a town’s image to the motoring public.” (3) The current Town of Islip Code prohibits commercial billboards used to advertise a product, service, or establishment which is not the principle product, service, or establishment found on the property containing the billboard. (4) This would explain why billboards advertising products like cigarettes and liquor, such as the ones that were at the corner of Church Street and Smithtown Avenue, are no more to be seen.

Listen to Lorraine Mays relate a story about how neighborhood children found another purpose for the Bohemia billboards, and not something all residents were happy about.


  1. “Winter Gale.” Suffolk County News. December 10. 1959. PG. 7. NYS Historic Newspapers. Accessed September 27, 2016.
  2. Linda Charlton, “Quarter-Million to Go: The Billboard Act is Taking Effect, Ever So Slowly.” New York Times, March 26, 1978, New York Times, digital image, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times with Index. Accessed September 27, 2016.
  3. “Speaking Out in the Town.” Suffolk County News. February 18, 1982, digital image, Old Fulton New York Post Cards ( accessed September 27, 2016).
  4. The Town of Islip Code, digital image, Accessed September 27, 2016.


Lorraine Mays Interview