Life’s Lessons Learned #48: Summer Subs
In an earlier blog I had said that LCFNB had 14 branches, and they certainly did, but try as I may, I cannot remember all of them. In the summer of 1969 I was called upon, as a management trainee, to travel to several of these branches and serve as acting branch manager, while the branch managers took their vacation. I learned a great deal from the branches that I visited.
The James Street branch was located in the northern end of Lancaster at the corner of West James Street and North Prince Street. It was a stand-alone building with a separate stand-alone drive up window and a large parking lot. The manager was Charlie Rutter, and he had a corner office somewhat removed from the main floor. This was my first time as a “manager”.
I learned a great deal about employee dedication to work during my time at James Street. At the end of one day, one of my tellers was $100 off in their cash drawer. This was a big deal, and the teller was quite distraught. During my time in the “proof department” I had learned the process of running the batched work from the teller’s window and was familiar with how the teller’s deposited checks, adding machine tapes of each transaction, and the closing cash count all had to balance. Each element of their paperwork was stamped, as a transaction was completed, using the teller’s individual “key”. This provided a transaction trail to follow for each different teller. I still have my teller key in one of my dresser drawers. At the close of the day, try as hard as we could, the head teller, the teller, the proof department and I could not find the error. The teller was sent home quite upset, with a shadow hanging over them. The head teller met me the next morning when I came in to open the branch. He had already been there for about an hour. He had come in early to go through the branch’s garbage and trash. It was there that he found a scrap of paper that explained the $100 shortage error.
As an acting branch manager I had been given a small lending authority. While at the James Street branch I made my first loan. I will never forget that loan. It was a debt consolidation loan for one of my former Franklin & Marshall College professors. He came in and sat across the desk from me. With him was his elderly dog that had sat so often next to his desk in the front of his classroom. It was a very strange feeling of power reversal in our rolls that we experienced that day. He was a professor of whom I had fond memories, and there he sat, across from me, disclosing his personal financial problems. I remembered this day, years later when I read his obituary in the local newspaper.
The North Queen Street branch was only two blocks from the main office. It had been an impressive, marble columned, building in the middle of the block – a building memory of another bank, a bank that had long before merged into LCFNB. With the advent of downtown urban redevelopment the second block of North Queen Street, along with the bank branch, had recently been torn down (more about this in next week’s blog). What was left of this bank was a memory housed in a trailer in a parking lot at the corner of North Queen Street and East Chestnut Street. This trailer was legally preserving the location for a new branch to be built as part of the redevelopment.
Charlie Slaugh, one of the bank’s oldest and most tenured officers, managed the North Queen Street branch. Charlie had been passed by and left alone as bank operations and policies had evolved and changed. He was a throwback to what bankers used to be. Banking was rapidly changing and becoming removed from its customers. He predated ATMs, credit and debit cards, installment loans… Charlie was an old time banker. He made small 30-day note loans. He knew his customers, and as a result, rarely had to charge off a loan. His branch was also less profitable. Because he was widely loved and respected in the community, senior management sort of looked the other way as Charlie went off in his own direction. I remember that some of the loan managers in the Main Office installment loan department would quietly send a few, long time, older, customers, up to Charlie’s branch for a loan. These were loans with a lower interest rate than they could offer at the Main Office. Charlie would then make the loan. It was an unspoken loan with a heart, and although they would complain, senior management left Charlie alone to violate policy. I really liked and respected Charlie.
The North Queen Street branch was eventually relocated to the first floor of the new Hilton Hotel built as part of Lancaster’s redevelopment. That branch was then sold to another bank in order to allow them to enter the market. This was part of an agreement reached in 1971 to increase market competition coincidental with the approval of the consolidation of three banks, including LCFNB, to form National Central Bank.
The Wheatland Branch was located west of Lancaster in the Wheatland Shopping Center. Wheatland is also the name given to the home of President James Buchanon. President Buchanon lived and died in Lancaster. He was the country’s only bachelor President, a fact that has led some presidential historians to suggest that he was also our only gay President. President Buchanon is also often mentioned as the “worst” U. S. President. He served just before President Lincoln, and played a role in events that eventually led to the Civil War. As a side note, I currently live about three short blocks from Wheatland.
Wayne Grove was the Wheatland Office manager. I don’t remember too much about him other than he was short of stature. The office was at the end of a row of retail businesses, and had a drive-up window along its sidewall. Across from the drive-up window was Lancaster’s first McDonald’s. I ate many lunches there. A hamburger cost $0.15, fries were $0.12, and a Coke was $0.10. Most of the items on today’s menu were not then even a twinkle in the eye of their management in 1969. The Wheatland McDonald’s was originally a “Golden Arches” style building with only walkup service. They later put in walls and chairs. The McDonald’s was eventually closed, de-arched, and a new, modern store opened just down the street. The original building was put to several alternative uses, and now houses a fine jewelry store. As a bit of irony, a group of my former students, under my direction, performed consulting work for that jewelry store.
It was at the Wheatland Office where I took my first mortgage application (see last week’s blog entry for this story). It is also where I had to do one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. I had to fire one of the tellers. There was a teller trainee who just could not do the job. Keeping track of the transactions was beyond him. His work was off at the end of every day. He knew it, and I knew it, and by the time that we had our final chat he was frustrated and almost wanted to go. He was a heck of a nice fellow, but he needed to find a more suitable line of work. Never-the-less, I hated this task.
I also spent a few weeks at the Manor Street branch, west of Lancaster on the road toward Millersville. C. Wayne Creasy was the manager at the Manor Street Branch. I don’t remember anything special about my time at this branch. However it does bring to mind a funny little quirk about bankers’ names and their public identity. In those days many bankers chose to follow the practice of identifying themselves by their first initial, followed by their middle name, such as C. Wayne Creasy. The manager of the Main Office, for example, was J. Clarence Bowers. While I could have done so, I chose, for rather obvious reasons, to not be known as P. Hugh…
There was only one other occasion when I stepped in to manage a branch office. It was our Bridgeport Office located east of Lancaster. It was a winter day, and Lancaster was enduring a massive snowstorm. I lived about a block from the Main Office, and I trudged up the alley through the snow to work. The bank’s offices were being told to close. David Blank, the manager of the Bridgeport Office, lived some distance from the branch, and could not get there. One teller was, however, able to get to the office. Bridgeport was only a few miles from the Main Office, and I was put in a bank car and sent to open the branch. This was all about one, rather important, customer. He owned a big cash generating business just up the road. It was a Monday, and he had substantial cash receipts from the weekend. The branch was to open to accept this single deposit, and then close for the day. The deposit arrived by snowmobile at our drive-up window.
Here are LCFNB branches where I did not serve as acting manager:
New Holland Avenue
Trust Department Office