• Sybil Stewart & I Tour Old State National Bank

    She’ll always be Sybil Stewart to me even though she’s gone by the name of Switzer for quite a while now.  Of course, I know her mostly for her long ago after hours work at Ned’s Grocery, with hubby, Bill, along with Wayne and Nell Stewart. By day, however, Sybil, was a fixture at the State National Bank in Comanche for 40 plus years, and my grandfather believed that she knew everything there was to know about the banking business, never allowing anyone but “Ms. Stewart” to wait on him.

    Believe it or not, when a customer walked into the bank, this was pretty much it.  All bank business from deposits to posting, etc. happened behind this counter!

    Believe it or not, when a customer walked into the bank, this was pretty much it. All bank business from deposits to posting, etc. happened behind this counter!

    This past week, Sybil and I went on a little field trip, all the way to the old State National Bank building on the south side of the square. Of course, most of you probably know it as the city hall building. Believe it or not, before the bank moved into its big building across the street (the site of the Prosperity Bank building today), this teeny tiny building was a bank, and my goal on the day of our visit was to record what Sybil remembers about the building and her work there.

    Of course, the first thing she did was go to her first teller window.  “These bars weren’t there back then, of course,” she told me.

    SYBIL STEWART AT HER STATE NATIONAL BANK WINDOW
    “When I first went to work in the bank in the 1940s, E.E. Anthony was the president, and his son, Boyd, was still in the service. It wasn’t too long before Boyd was back, however, and he took over as president. E.E. continued to come to work every day though.”

    When I asked her what E.E. did after turning over the presidency to Boyd, Sybil remarked in that dry, no-nonsense way of hers, “He did whatever he wanted to, and he bossed us!”

    After I laughed at her dry wit, she continued, “Of course, he seemed old to me then. Today, I would feel differently, I’m sure. However, he really did come to work every day, and he did exactly what he wanted to do.

    “During the war, Harold Denny was the head cashier. At that time there were Harold, E.E., Boyd, Ellen Anthony Norris (Boyd’s sister), and Bobby Lane’s mom, Martha Shephard Lane. We had one janitor, usually a high school boy. The first one that I remember was Carl Williams.

    “I started out as a posting machine operator.”

    The posting machines (which can be viewed at the Comanche Museum) were located along the back wall, where Misty and Merlinda work today.

    The posting machines (which can be viewed at the Comanche Museum) were located along the back wall, where Misty and Merlinda work today.

    “Then I got a window and got to wait on customers, but I STILL posted.   Of course, we had never heard of a drive in window and there was no where to drive up anyway.

    “When the war was over, Martha left the bank and so did Ellen.  Having a brother and sister working together really did not work out very well,” she smiled, obviously remembering more than she shared with me.

    “Eventually Jan Murphree worked there a long time. And Elmer Kerby came there sometime after the war.”

    And then I asked Sybil to describe the day to day of the whole thing.

    “We came in of a morning, and the first thing we did was to work the mail. Then, we opened the windows at 9:00 and waited on customers and did all of the things you had to do there. At 3:00, we locked the doors and tried to balance. Sometimes we had good luck, and sometimes we didn’t.

    “After everything was balanced we had to file the checks that we would post the next morning on the machines…that was all of the day’s checks…” she trailed off, remembering those days long gone.

    “The same people did everything; the men did not have to run the machines or file the checks so it was constant work for us.  After we posted the work from the day before on the sheets, every depositor had a sheet, it all had to balance. Then, we had to cancel the checks, and then we had to file them in cabinets, where each person had a pocket.

    The files were kept in the vault where the city still stores "things."

    The files were kept in the vault where the city still stores “things.”

    “Harold was always working the windows, and someone would keep posting. We never stopped working.  Because we locked at 3:00 by no means meant we finished at 3:00. It could be as late as 7:00 if nothing balanced.

    “When I first started working there and a little time passed, they extended the back to make some storage and work room and made an office, extending the front counter to make an L shape.”

    This is the L part of the counter that was added. You can see Sybil's new window there as well; however, the room continued to be open with none of the flimsy walls that you see here. According to Sybil, it was Boyd who finally closed in the area so he could have an office that was not in full view of the bank.

    This is the L part of the counter that was added. You can see Sybil’s new window there as well; however, the room continued to be open with none of the flimsy walls that you see here. According to Sybil, it was Boyd who finally closed in the area so he could have an office that was not in full view of the bank.

    “It just wasn’t very big, was it?” I asked.

    As an answer, we walked into the loan officer’s “office,” which was simply a desk against the wall in an area of maybe 8′ x 8′.

    Merlinda is standing right next to the spot where once sat the loan officer's desk.

    Merlinda is standing right next to the spot where once sat the loan officer’s desk.

    “We didn’t have central air of course. I don’t know what we used for cool. The heaters were just those they had back then. We were more of less just a hole in the wall with a vault.”

    ********

    And I don’t know that the EDC will ever decide to do it, but Revitalize Comanche would like to see the EDC take down some storage buildings, etc. in the back parking area, put up some great signage as they do in other back door and alley entryways.

    Then, when city hall moves out of this building, it could become a very, very cool walkway to the south side of the square. Without that, it is always going to be difficult for the south side to be a vital part of Comanche.  If the building became a pathway to the sidewalk, visitors could find themselves on a path with glassed in exhibits on either side, whether it be the old bank exhibits or other tidbits of our Comanche County heritage.

    Of course, it would be just one more way to promote Comanche as a Heritage Tourism Destination, a concept that more and more free thinking people are beginning to understand.

    ********

    As for Sybil, she is very happy in her present day life and says that she would never want to return to her banking days, not even to visit.  :)

    About Fredda Jones

    Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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