My first acquaintance with banks came in elementary school in 1947 when I became a depositor in the Second Grade National Bank at Bartow Elementary School.
This institution (I’m pretty sure that it was in second grade) was created by the teacher to teach us the concept of setting aside some of our meager revenue for our old age, say when we turned 11 or 12.
Deposits — mostly nickels and dimes — were duly recorded on the blackboard, and periodically transferred to the Florida National Bank at Bartow.
In today’s regulatory environment, I suspect the Second Grade National Bank would have violated several dozen federal laws and hundreds of banking regulations, but in the post-war 1940s, it seemed like a good idea. And it was.
In those days, deposits were recorded in a bank book, which was not a whole lot larger than today’s credit cards.
You took the book and your deposit into the bank, an imposing building with marble floors, tellers cages (so called because of the barred window openings which separated tellers from customers), and an armed guard.
All in all, a bank had the welcoming atmosphere that one might associate with the enforcement division of the IRS.
All bank employees (with the possible exception of the president’s secretary) were men.
Deposits were posted by hand to your bank book, and every three months, interest earnings were computed and posted, also by hand.
Today, males have all but disappeared from your typical bank, which often offers orange juice, coffee, cookies, lollipops or popcorn to its customers. The armed guard has gone the way of the teller’s cage.
For customers who don’t want to leave the air-conditioned comfort of their cars to walk 50 or 100 feet into the bank lobby, there are drive-through teller windows which allow you to conduct your banking without that degree of physical exertion. I only use them after the lobby is closed for the day.
There are also automated teller machines that allow you to do your banking after the drive-through facilities are closed. I do not know how to use them.
Bank books have been replaced by deposit receipts generated in an instant by computers which simultaneously record your upgraded account information.
Now (as in the days of the Second Grade National Bank) bank buildings typically are among the largest and most prominent structures in the business community.
But according to my most reliable banking authority, even that will change.
Banking offices, she predicts, are an endangered species. Banking of the future will be conducted almost entirely online, she says.
I did not ask her for details since I am sure that (1) I would not have understood her answer and (2) I figure anybody who can’t use an ATM will never figure out how to master computerized banking.
Fortunately, I have three adult children who already have.
Progress is finding a new way for today’s septuagenarians to become a burden to their children.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He can remember when Bartow got its second bank. One morning, there was a rumor that robbers would target one of them later that day. The two banks were less than two blocks apart on Main Street, and the chief of police conspicuously stationed himself, armed with an automatic firearm, on the sidewalk half-way between them. There was no robbery.)