This photo was taken as "WHEN Radio's Gone Bananas" Promotion Was About To Get Underway.
The Station's Big Banana Was Hoisted Into Place By The Two Cranes Shown And Mounted On The Side Wall of The Former Fleischman Furniture Building In Downtown Syracuse. Air Personality John Simmons Remembers WHEN...
"Good Lord! That picture brings back a lot of memories. The year was 1974, July I believe. You can deduce the era from the cars parked in the lot and the guy in the lower left's plaid pants.
I was approached by Bud Stiker and Jim Ashbery about doing this promotion, "WHEN Has Gone Bananas" that spring. The banana was approximately 35 feet long with an entryway on the floor and descending ladder. It also had an opening in the front where you see the decal that opened for interaction with people who came down to see it. When completed it was outfitted with a 2-burner hot plate, cot, chairs, commode, TV (with aerial, no cable), table and lamps. As you noted it was hung some 15 feet or so on the side of that furniture store adjacent to a busy parking lot.
The idea of the promotion was that I would live in the banana--24/7-- until someone answered their phone "WHEN has gone bananas" at which time they would get $1000 (big money then) and I would get out. It took 10 days and, believe me, I was ready to leave. I was paid the princely sum of $75 a day plus my salary. Wonderful meals were catered by downtown restaurants and I was also able to lower a basket on a rope out the opening for people to drop off goodies, which they did in abundance.
I did call-ins several times a day with Phil Markert in the morning, Dr. Al Adams, middays and Jack Mindy in the afternoon. I don't recall who was filling in for me at night while I was in the banana.
The most vivid memories are of a tremendous thunderstorm that had me on the cot under the covers certain that I was going to be toast any minute and a "security" guard who didn't provide a lot of security. One night--early morning really--I heard someone throwing stones at the banana. I opened the porthole and it was the security guard. He had a group of drunks with him who wanted to see "The Banana Man" and he was happy to assist them. Almost every night there was a disturbance somewhere in the area that would keep me from getting a good night's sleep. I also was allowed conjugal visits from my then-wife but given the surreal surroundings we opted for a few games of Yahtzee and a couple of beers.
It was a different radio age, wild stunts and promotions and I was happy to have participated."
Former WHEN Radio General Manager, Bud Stiker Muses On The Station Going Bananas:
I tried like hell to sell the Banana idea to both Dole and Chiquita with no success. The banana was built by a carpenter from Cazenovia and cost around $10,000. Neither local paper gave it any coverage nor did WSYR TV.
Pretty narrow thinking. I also remember from that era the papers would never mention a station's call letters. It was always "a local radio station etc". Petty.
Back to the banana. I stole the idea from Meredith's sister station in Omaha, WOW. After the promotion, the Syracuse Museum displayed it as "Pop art". Then our promotions director, Linda Arnold came up with the idea of selling it to another station somewhere. We put an ad in Broadcasting and wonder upon wonders, CKLW in the Detroit market bought it. I also remember the guy who painted it wanted to know how old we wanted it to be. "How old"? Duh. The older a banana, the more brown spots. We settled for 3 days.