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Advertisement How Marion got its first major sign for the city
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · August 3rd, 2017


Few people are aware of what the first main sign for the city was and where it is located to this day.

As we mentioned in the last story, Phil Morris was the president of the Chamber of Commerce in 1956 when the first street signs came to Marion.

Another project Phil wanted to see occur was some kind of sign placed at both ends of town so people would know they were entering Marion. He also made a mental note that a triangle of land located south of the train viaduct and on the east side of the street held a lot of trash, which was a bit of an eyesore.

His opportunity arose in 1958 when he again was the president of the Chamber of Commerce. Phil suggested cleaning up the area along 7th Avenue and placing a sign reading "MARION" on that triangle.

Once more, Phil spent all the money in the Chamber's account. Eldon Post was commissioned to make the sign. After Eldon had created it from cement and placed the letters on the ground, Art Bezdek of Bezdek Florists landscaped the area.

A root beer stand was behind the sign a ways, and it eventually became McDonald's. The sign is still located in front of McDonald's.

We spoke earlier this week with Mike Carolan, Director of the Parks and Recreation Department for the City. He said that the grounds crew from McDonald's mows and tends to the triangle, but sometimes people from the Parks Department also repaint the letters and tidy the area.

Regardless, Phil's bank, First National, was involved in part of the fixup of the area when the sign came into being. It also gave the City flowering crabapple trees for the park.

Phil told us that he and others in the Chamber had planned to erect a sign on the east side of Marion, too, but he went out of office, and when that happened, the east welcome sign never did get finished.

Flowering crabapples were not only given by the bank to the park, but such trees were also among the many different kinds of items First National Bank had as promotions and giveaways in the early 1960s, when Phil was its president. Citizens could receive them for opening accounts, purchasing certificates of deposits, making certain sizes of deposits, etc.

The reason for those promotions and extra gifts was that banks were not allowed to pay as much for interest deposits as savings and loan companies could. And if a bank increased the percentage rate it would pay, the savings and loans would just raise theirs higher. So the giveaways were one way to compensate for this.

Phil listed many of the popular items First National gave away over the years:

Ashtrays

Banks

Flowering crabapple trees

Ash trees

Dishes

Oil paintings

Prints of Marion buildings

Dictionaries

Alarm clocks

Blankets

Knives

Crockpots

Steel mixing bowls

Pan drainers

Ivy plants

Electric train sets

China settings

Phil said that a person can still see a number of the ash trees, in some places around town. And some of the little banks have become collectibles.
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