For almost 30 years there is a sign on the flat roof of Mark Gubin’s building in the flight path of Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. A sign painted in letters 6 feet tall tells people arriving by air: “WELCOME TO CLEVELAND.”
“There’s not a real purpose for having this here except madness, which I tend to be pretty good at,” Gubin said.
He was having lunch one day on the roof in 1978 with a woman who worked as his assistant. Taking note of all the low-flying planes, she said it would be nice to make a sign welcoming everyone to Milwaukee. “You know what would even be better?” Gubin said.
One thing led to another and he’s out there on the black roof with a roller and white paint creating the sign Welcome to Cleveland. A story about his confusing sign ran in thousands of newspapers and magazines, on national TV news, all over.
Over the years he heard some stories. Supposedly there was a regular Northwest Airlines flight from Denver to Cleveland that would announce to Milwaukee passengers just before landing here on a stopover that they had not missed their stop, despite what the sign says. And the security people who hover overhead when the president visits say they use his roof as a landmark because it doesn’t do much good to single out just any old roof or steeple.
No one from the airport or airlines ever complained for real about his humorous bit of misdirection.
“It was all tongue-in-cheek, just for fun. Living in the world is not a dress rehearsal. You better have fun with it,” Gubin, said.
Gubin still thrills at the thought of passengers looking out the aircraft windows during final descent and either having a laugh or summoning the flight attendant in a panic.