OCEAN CITY — Valentine’s Day weekend provided the perfect backdrop for a great love story with a happy ending this week involving a pair of locks attached to a pole on the Ocean City Boardwalk by a visiting couple several years ago that briefly went missing before being found again on Monday.
Back on Valentine’s Day in 2008, Lauren Burr and her boyfriend and future husband were visiting Ocean City. The young couple purchased a large, metal lock and carved their initials on it before hanging it on a post on the Boardwalk at Dorchester Street as a symbol of their growing love for each other. A year later, Burr’s boyfriend joined the Marines. The couple got married in March 2010 and Burr’s husband then went away for a year for training.
During his absence, Burr would often visit Ocean City and return to visit the symbolic lock hanging from the post on the Boardwalk at Dorchester Street. After Burr’s husband completed his training, the couple moved to North Carolina in April 2011 and two months later learned they were expecting their first child. When Burr was eight months pregnant, the couple returned to their favorite bench near the lock they had hung three years earlier and added a second, smaller lock. The second lock was carved with the letter “C” for their soon-to-be first child Claire.
The couple returned often to the bench near the post on the Boardwalk that held the two locks, which had weathered and begun to show their age. According to Burr, the locks had survived hot summers, harsh winters, more than a few storms and even Hurricane Sandy. She said this week she was happy to see them still hanging strong after that terrible storm.
Last week, Burr’s friends were visiting Ocean City and were well aware of the locks the couple had hung. However, when they visited the site, not only were the locks gone, but the pole on which they had been attached were also missing, as were many of the other familiar poles in the same area. Through various connections, Ocean City Councilman Doug Cymek was made aware of the situation and set in motion in effort to locate the symbolic locks. Through mutual friends, Cymek’s daughter made the councilman aware of the situation.
“It was interesting how it came to my attention,” said Cymek this week. “I was contacted by my daughter, who was contacted by a mutual friend that knew Lauren and knew the story of the missing locks. I told my daughter it might be a long shot, but I would make an effort to find out what happened to the locks and the pole.”
As it turns out, that particular pole and others in the area were removed to be refurbished as an add-on to the recently approved Boardwalk Arch recoating and restoration. Cymek contacted Public Works Director Hal Adkins and City Engineer Terry McGean to find out where the poles had been relocated.
Some of the poles had been stored in a storage facility, while others, including the one with the two symbolic locks attached, had already been sent out to the contractor for refurbishing. Ocean City staffers on Monday were trying to locate the missing pole and the locks attached to it, and through a series of phone calls and other communications, it was determined the locks had been taken off the pole by simply unscrewing the bracket they were attached to and were found sitting on a bench at the contractor’s facility. As a result, the locks are safe and sound and will be reattached to the same pole at the same location in the future, likely somewhat higher than they once were.
“We were able to get a happy ending,” said Cymek. “We had a lot of people involved in finding them, many of whom were off on Monday because of the holiday. We know our visitors have a special place in their heart for Ocean City and something we might think is so small is clearly a huge part of someone else’s memories of the beach. With a little bit of help from our staff, we are hoping to restore the locks and hang them back on Dorchester Street for the Burr family to enjoy for many years to come.”
Burr, of course, was relieved the locks that had hung on the pole at Dorchester Street near the Candy Kitchen for just about six years had been found.
“I’m just so happy,” she said on Tuesday. “I never imagined so many caring people could be in one community. Ocean City has always been a special place for my husband and me, but now when we visit, it will mean so much more to us. They aren’t our locks anymore, they are everyone’s locks. Everyone has put so much effort and love into finding them and now we want to share them with everyone.”
Burr said on Tuesday the story of the lost and found locks has grown from a very personal one to a communal one.
“The first lock symbolized our love for each other, and the second lock symbolized our love for our daughter,” she said. “Now, this really illustrates the love shared by this entire community. Hopefully, this serves as a reminder for people to love one another and pay it forward.”