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Photo courtesy Ken Bannister
Fred Garbutt, right, and his mother Virginia Garbutt, load up a U-Haul truck with banana items.

Banana museum items land in Palm Springs area

Tennis court contractor to open attraction early next year

Star Editor

Thousands of yellow banana items have split from Hesperia and found a new residence near Palm Springs where they will comprise a featured attraction early next year.

“I haven’t gone through all the boxes yet,” said Fred Garbutt of La Quinta, who purchased the banana booty from longtime International Banana Museum owner Ken Bannister. “There are oodles and oodles and oodles of stuff.”

A contractor who specializes in tennis court construction, Garbutt says the details of the deal are confidential.

“We want to leave that up to the imagination. It was a smooth transaction, let’s just say that.”

Garbutt and his mother Virginia Garbutt plan to display the collection in a commercial building the family has owned since the 1950s. The new banana museum opening is expected in January of 2011, he added.

Earlier this year, Bannister, who began the collection in the early 1970s, put the items on eBay after receiving a letter from the Hesperia Recreation and Park District that the museum’s rented space in the Harrison building was needed for a local historic display. Bannister initially asked for $45,000 and eventually lowered the minimum bid to $7,500.

“I am truly excited about this arrangement and move,” said Bannister, who moved the collection from Altadena to Hesperia three years ago. “They are the perfect new hosts for the museum with the great attitudes and the greatest smiles.”

The Garbutts decided to put an offer on Bannister’s items after reading a newspaper article about his quest to liquidate the museum contents.

“She (his mother) called me. ‘Look at this thing,’ she said. She thought it was funny.”

But the more they talked about it the Garbutts realized a banana museum might be a fitting addition to the many unique roadside attractions that tourists and passersby stop to visit throughout the year.

“I’ve always done a lot of nutty things, so this banana thing seemed right up my alley.”

Despite the sale of the estimated 17,000 items, Bannister has retained ownership of the International Banana Club, rights to the words “Banana Club” and the smiling banana logo.

“My plans with the Banana Club include re-introduction of the Banana Bank and the Banana Float and writing my book titled ‘The Banana Man For Real.’”

Meanwhile the new owners are developing a vision that will build on Bannister’s momentum.

“We already own the building,” Garbutt said. “We can deck it out any way we want. The sky’s the limit here. We really want to full force on this and see what happens.”


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