A Very Useful Landmark
Column for February 10, 2005
Long before The Weather Channel existed and more than a decade before Flint even received cable TV, people in and around downtown Flint could look at the top of the Citizens Bank building and figure out the weather forecast every evening. Ever since the Citizens Bank Weather Ball was built in 1956, Flint residents and visitors who knew the Weather Ball rhyme knew what to expect:

When the weather ball is red, higher temperatures ahead.

When the weather ball is blue, lower temperatures are due.

Yellow light in weather ball means they’ll be no change at all.

When colors blink in agitation, there’s going to be precipitation.

The Citizens Bank Weather Ball turns 50 next year. It was built over a four-month period on the top of the Citizens Bank headquarters, built in 1928 on the site of its original location established in 1871 at 328 S. Saginaw Street. The Weather Ball has been the symbol of Citizens Bank ever since. Of course, the Weather Ball has become a symbol for Flint, just like the Statue of Liberty in New York, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. When you see the Weather Ball with the initials C B underneath, you know you are in Flint. The Weather Ball corporate symbol of Citizens Bank has changed over the years. My historic favorite is the mascot "Mr. C.B." from the 1960s. Last year, Citizens introduced its current corporate depiction of the Weather Ball, a red ball with white diagonal curved lines. This version is on new Citizens Bank signs in place or soon to be in place on every Citizens Bank branch office. Citizens Bank has been opening new branch offices in Oakland County and the new Oakland County branches are helping Citizens’ bottom line judging from Citizens’ latest financial figures. Citizens’ parent company Citizens Banking Corp. is the second largest bank holding company based in Michigan. Only Detroit-based Comerica Inc. is larger. All other big banks in Michigan are headquartered out of state (and in the case of Standard Federal Bank–soon to be LaSalle Bank, based out of country with parent company ABN AMRO Bank N.V. based in the Netherlands.) Also expect to lose Bank One as Bank One signs will be replaced by Chase signs later this year.

Thanks to Citizens Bank, I have some Weather Ball facts:

The Weather Ball is operated by Citizens Bank based on forecasts by the National Weather Service.
The Weather Ball was constructed by craftsmen from 10 skilled trades.
The Weather Ball’s construction materials include 800 square feet of Plexiglas and 667 feet of lighting tubing.
Weight: 2.5 tons; Height: 15 feet; Diameter: 15 feet; Circumference, 47 feet.
The Weather Ball can be seen for 25 miles and is designed to withstand winds of up to 120 mph.

The inside of the Weather Ball has to be an impressive sight with the alternating red, blue and yellow neon tubing inside. There are or were other weather balls, constructed by banks such as the ones built by Michigan National Bank in Grand Rapids MI, Texas National Bank in Houston TX and Northwestern Bank in Minneapolis MN. Grand Rapids TV station WZZM channel 13 bought the dismantled Michigan National Bank weather ball, restored it and moved it to its studio location at the I-96 and US-131 interchange. KCAU-TV in Sioux City IA also has a weather ball. You can see the various past and present weather balls using your favorite Internet search engine using either "weather ball" or "weatherball" as the keywords. Citizens Bank is on the Internet at http://www.cbclientsfirst.com Michigan’s Citizens Bank is not affiliated with the larger Providence RI based Citizens Bank whose parent company owns Charter One Bank branches in Michigan.

My next planned Flinn’s Journal will talk about a long-defunct Flint-based retail chain which had locations throughout Michigan which I hinted about in an earlier column. I’ll include pictures of a closed location which has since been torn down.