Indianapolis' iconic signboard
OneAmerica is asking Indianapolis residents: What would you say? After a year hiatus, their iconic signboard is coming back to the corner of Illinois and New York Street, and they want your input.
Sayings can be about just about anything. If you want to submit a saying for the new sign, you have until midnight on December 30th. It cannot exceed three lines with no more than 21 characters each line.
If you work or visit downtown Indianapolis, you've probably seen the OneAmerica signboard. The locally-based financial services company has maintained the sign since the 1950s. It's been used to make announcements, cheer on sports teams but mostly just to get a few laughs.
Modern life moves so fast that our thoughts have to be cut short - sometimes 140 characters short. We update, chat, tweet, retweet. We follow, friend, unfriend, like, share, link and comment. We "favorite" and connect.
In this virtual world that runs parallel to every town, every city, you're only as important as the number of people paying attention. Words are up for an instant, then gone forever. But do they stick?
This short story starts in downtown Indianapolis, among the skyscrapers and in the middle of the hustle and bustle.
"They've got good sayings...really cute stuff," said one man walking along Illinois Street.
It's a canvas of expression. Because even though the world moves fast, everyone has still something to say, sometimes to everyone.
But when you think about it, it's nothing new. At least not in downtown Indianapolis.
"We're the original Twitter", explained Paul Branks, spokesman for OneAmerica, the locally owned financial services company. "It really has become kind of an icon for the community."
"It's something that's, kind of, part of downtown.", said Tommy Wills, as he looked at the sign through the window of his Musicians' Repair and Sales shop near the corner of Vermont and Capitol. "We used to have a guy who called once a week, he'd want to know what's on the reader board because he wanted to know if his saying made it that week," Wills explained.
Nearby, there's a prominent signboard that's solely meant to entertain.
"It's not at all about the sales of their insurance company," said Wills, "It's just for fun."
Every Friday, at just about the same time, old letters come down, and new ones go up. The sign was Installed in 1958 by American United Life or AUL insurance. That was when the company was at Fall Creek Parkway and Meridian. In 1982 the company, along with the sign, moved downtown. Originally it warned of construction hazards, but over the years it has changed.
Tommy Wills read a sign from October, just before Halloween. "It says: 'Swiss and Gouda screamed when they saw the Munster.'" Laughing out loud, he exclaimed, "That's cheesy!"
It's become an iconic billboard, now with the One America name and logo, aimed almost only at creating laughs.
"I was always wondering if you could, like, submit a saying or something," one man asked as he passed by when the letters were being changed out.
You can, and people do. They send in about a dozen or so suggestions every week from inside and outside the company. They're reviewed by a OneAmerica panel.
"The buck typically stops here, yeah," said Branks, the OneAmerica spokesman and gatekeeper of all signboard sayings.
"'Reboot your computer. Kick it again.' That's good! That's something we might consider," he said, sorting through submissions. "We want the messages to mean something, we want them to be fun and we want to make sure that they're messages that people can get in a short period of time. We don't want to cause any accidents as people try to figure them out."
And there's one person whose had a knack for making them up.
"'If you believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.' That was in 2007," said Dave Jones, who in his 40 years at AUL, then OneAmerica, has come up with a lot of sayings.
"I had one, for instance: 'My spouse loves melons, all I hear is honeydew." I love that one! I've submitted it four different times, they never did put it up."
But they have displayed 59 of his quips - the most of anyone. He has a replica sign of each one.
"I love it! I think it's a good attitude to show. Especially in times when people are down a lot on a lot of things, it gives just a little bit of an increase in their attitude. I think it's really great," said Jones, who recently retired from OneAmerica.
It's been suggested that OneAmerica switch to an electronic signboard.
"You don't fix what's not broken," said Branks, explaining the company chooses to keep using the old-fashioned plastic letters. "We have no desire or any sense of urgency to do anything different because it's a part of Indianapolis."
And if your quip is chosen to be displayed, you'll get the same payout people got 54 years ago: a check for $5 - along with the immeasurable reward of knowing you made someone think and laugh!
The next time you pass by, take a moment to observe a single, simple sign that beat technology to the punch and has literally stood the test of time.