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FEATURE

FEATURE

A downtown landmark, Citizens Building and Loan Association celebrates their 100 year anniversary this month, and remembers how it all began... w ritten by SHERIL BE NNE T T TURNER

a

Century of Service

T

he year is 1907. Theodore Roosevelt is the 26th

was elected

President. In New York City, the U.S. Women’s

President in

Political Movement begins as women rally for

1950 and is still

the right to vote. Oklahoma becomes the 46th state in the

remembered

Union. Two future stars of the American cinema, John

by James Ford,

Wayne and Katherine Hepburn, are born. Closer to home

a Citizens cus-

in the town of Greer’s, South Carolina, 1907 is also a busy

tomer for more

year. The railroad had arrived in the late 1800s, enabling

than 50 years.

this once small farming community to become a center

“I was a young

for agricultural trade. Cotton mills are becoming a vital

mill worker

part of the economy and will put Greer’s on the map as a

then with a wife

textile manufacturing mecca. Greer’s Station, the railroad

and kids. I came

depot, becomes the center of a building boom as busi-

in to get a home

nesses spring up around it. And with this growth comes

loan for around

more people. Mill workers, farm laborers, merchants and

$100. Now, that

other business people are flowing into the community to

isn’t much today

call the Town of Greer’s home.

but back then

It was in this year, 1907, that three local business-

Robert Lynn

the pay was

men, H.B. Carlisle, A.H. Miller and R.M. Hughes, apply

only around

for and receive a state charter to open a bank. Conceived

$15 a week. Mr. Bennett knew my father and my grandfa-

with one goal in mind — to serve the growing commu-

ther. Everybody knew everybody in Greer, much like it is

nity as a savings and loan facility — Citizens Building and

today. Mr. Bennett sat down with me and asked me how

Loan Association, now in their 100th year, continues to

much I could pay back a month. Then he took out a little

serve what today is the City of Greer as well as the sur-

notebook from his desk drawer and recorded the loan.

rounding community. Citizens Building and Loan officially opened their

“When my final payment was due I went to the bank and found out that I had overpaid,” he continues. “Mr.

doors for business in early 1912, occupying space in

Bennett told me about the Shares program and asked if I

the B.A. Bennett and Co. building between Trade and

wanted to invest the overpayment in that. I told him that

Poinsett streets. With E.C. Bailey as President and a

my family had gone without for too long and I wanted to

strong group of board members from the business com-

spend the extra money on them. But I did start a Shares

munity, the bank encouraged the close-knit community

account later, which is why I have what I do today.”

of farmers, mill workers, and merchants to not only buy

The popular Shares program lasted for many years

their own homes but save money for the future. In 1914, a

and because it paid out every six months, in April and

second railroad line was laid with a new depot, the P&N

October, many parents found it a convenient way to pay

(Piedmont & Northern), and CB&L became a vital part of

for their children’s college education.

the quickly developing downtown area.

14 14GreerNow GreerNowMARCH MARCH2007 2007

photo g raphed by BRI A N E R K E N S

W.A. Medlock was elected President in 1964 followed

In 1945, B.C. Berry replaced Bailey as President

by Maurice “Bus” Belue in 1972. Now Director Emeritus,

followed by H.L. Cunningham in 1948. Mr. B.A. Bennett

he continues to be an inspiration to the staff. “Bus Belue GreerNow MARCH 2007

15


FEATURE

FEATURE

Becky Johnson and Selena Ridings

showed all of us through his work, ethics, and example

who has

counts. By concentrating on their customer’s needs and

for its people. “We try to give back to the community what

that every customer is different but special and that

been on the

with conservative financial management, their assets

the community has given to us,” Terry says. The Citizens

each customer should be treated with respect,” explains

Board of Di-

have grown from the $271,973 recorded in 1937 after the

Building and

Robert Lynn, current President and member of the Board

rectors since

Depression to more than $92 million today.

Loan Charita-

of Directors. “I learned from one of the best,” says Vice

1988. “We

Although the bank’s financial principles have not

President Rhonda Turner, celebrating her 26th anniver-

spent $1.7

changed much in a century, the methods of recording

has contribut-

sary with CB&L. “Bus not only taught me the business

million on

have. In the beginning there were ledger books, pencils,

ed more than

from the ground up, he created an atmosphere where

this corner.

and erasers. Though computers took over the time-con-

$280,000 since

the people you work with are not just your co-workers,

We wanted

suming manual “figuring” done by the staff, paperwork

1999 to such

they’re your family.”

to make a

increased as federal regulations of banks increased. Ap-

organizations

statement to

plying for a loan, once a 10-minute process, began to take

as Greer Com-

117 Trade Street, this family unity was evident. “The

the commu-

longer and longer. “I started out as teller 22 years ago, and

munity Min-

employees volunteered to physically move everything into

nity that the

I think I was promoted to Loan Processor because they

istries, Greer

the new space themselves,” Robert Lynn recalls. Over the

downtown

next 23 years the Citizens building would undergo major

area is worth

renovations tying in with other city revitalization pro-

saving.” Built by his construction company, Cunningham

In 1976, when the bank moved down the block to

Jennifer Jones

ble Foundation

found out I could type

Relief, Visions

those forms really,

of Excellence,

really fast,” laughs

Greer Chris-

grams as Greer

Waters, and using Greer contractors and customers as

Becky Johnson. Today,

tian Learning

struggled to save

subcontractors, the elegant and spacious 7,092-square-

thanks to cutting-edge

Center, Greer

the historical

foot building is one of the nicest in the county. With their

technology and bank-

Soup Kitchen,

integrity of the

decision to remain in downtown Greer, Citizens Building

ing-specific software,

and Joshua’s

downtown area.

and Loan became instrumental in bringing other busi-

CB&L efficiently

Way.

nesses back to the area.

processes paperwork

In 1992 a study was

With a

while providing the

focus on the

conducted to de-

Loan not only prospered during the good times but sur-

personal service they

Greer commu-

termine the best

vived such hard financial times as the Great Depression of

are known for.

nity, the staff

location to build

the 1930s and the Savings and Loan failures of the 1980s.

a larger, more

“We’ve been able to weather the hard years,” Robert

the continued success of Citizens Building and Loan As-

finding and training good employees, but most impor-

updated facil-

explains. Buddy agrees: “We have always been conserva-

sociation has always been its people. From inception the

tantly, keeping good employees. “Many of us started right

ity for the bank.

tive. We’ve never followed trends like some of the other

Board of Directors has been small business owners and

out of school,” Becky remarks. “We’ve grown up, gotten

During that time

banks.” Staying true to their original intention as a home-

professionals from the Greer community who have a con-

married, had kids. Citizens has always given us a rea-

businesses were

town savings and loan, Citizens not only offers competi-

cern for the area’s continued growth and prosperity and

sonable schedule to spend time with our kids, and have

fleeing downtown

tive rates on financial services such as loans, first home

Greer for the rap-

buyers mortgages, passbook savings, CDs, and IRAs, but

idly developing

personalized service to all of their customers.

Highway 29 area,

Over the course of 100 years, Citizens Building and

Jackie Atkins

“We want to do fewer things and do them exception-

A pivotal part of

of Citizens is also chosen carefully with an emphasis on

treated our families as their own.” Selena Ridings, Receptionist for Cindy Fowler, Vickie Staggs, Amilee Kemp

13 years as well as back-up Teller and Loan Processor, agrees. “The fact that

and indeed the

ally well,” Buddy says. “For instance, we always service

most people have worked here for

study suggested

our own loans, we never sell them. We feel that people

years speaks volumes.” Teller Cindy

moving there,

want to have that personal contact every month when

Fowler says, “Although I have been in

but Citizens considered downtown Greer home. So in

they make their payment with someone who knows

banking in the Greer area for 25 years,

1994 the current building, designed and decorated by the

them.” Terry Dobson, newly elected Chairman of the

I have only been at Citizens for three

Spartanburg firm of O’Cain Gilmore Forrester Architects,

Board of Directors sums it up: “We may be smaller, but

and a half years. But not from lack of

opened on the corner of Trade and Randall.

we’re much more community oriented. Bigger is not

trying! It seems that the employees

always better.”

never leave unless they retire.”

Rhonda Turner

“We made a conscious effort to buy this block and put this building here when few were spending money in downtown Greer,” remarks Benjamin “Buddy” Waters,

16 GreerNow MARCH 2007

Although state chartered, in 1977 CB&L joined the Federal Home Loan System (FDIC) to insure their ac-

A common sentiment shared by the staff of Citizens — once someone walks

GreerNow MARCH 2007

17


FEATURE

through our

generation

doors, they

of customers

don’t walk

has passed

out — seems

down the

to apply not

value of

only to the

banking with

employees,

a local, small-

but to the

town savings

customers as

and loan. We

well. Vickie

want to give

Staggs, Teller

people every

for CB&L for

possible

four years, explains why. “We show a

Board Members (seated): Ralph Johnson, Laurens James; (standing left to right): Maurice Belue, Hayne Griffin, Paul Rogers, Benjamin Waters, Terry Dobson, Robert Lynn

opportunity to save to own their

cern for our

own home.”

customers and I think they really appreciate that. They

Today, through word-of-mouth, Citizens has become not

feel comfortable when they come in.” Amilee Kemp, head

just a bank for native residents of Greer, but for newcom-

teller and 33-year employee, agrees: “Our customers are

ers to the area who want a strong financial institution and

Betty Hatcher, long-time customer says, “My hus-

JOY

www.joyrealestate.com 864-297-3111

Throughout a century of the most amazing economi-

band, the late attorney Billy Hatcher, and I started doing

cal, political, and technological changes, Citizens Build-

business with Citizens in the 1960s. Even though they’ve

ing and Loan Association remains in their 100th year

grown over the years and technology has advanced, they

unchanged from their original goal. With roots firmly

still serve their customers with people, one-on-one, and

planted in the Greer community, they remain what they

make each one of us feel special. I like to call all of the

were intended to be — a hometown bank for the people

people at Citizens my friends.”

— because they are the people. Their mission, “to main-

Generation after generation of Greer families have

Greer!

REAL ESTATE

one that offers a personal banking experience.

Tricia Alford 350-2785

A Place to Visit, A Place to Live, Make the Right Move to

money and

genuine con-

our family and friends.”

Chris Stroble 320-4062

tain long-term relationships with our customers and

walked through the doors and have remained loyal to

deliver personal service,” is as true today as it was in 1907.

Citizens. “Years ago we were surrounded by textile mill

Happy 100th Anniversary Citizens Building and Loan As-

villages,” explains Jackie Atkins, Senior Vice President

sociation, and here’s to your continued success! d

Think of it as a more-for-your-money market account.

4.5%

APY*

and 17-year veteran. “The mill employees came in every day with as little as $5 or as much as $50 to put in savings.

BIG CHANGES IN 100 YEARS

1907

2007

When the mill houses were sold, we financed many of

Gallon of milk

$0.31

$3.92

FOR BALANCES OF $5,000 OR MORE.

Loaf of bread

$0.05

$1.15

New car

$500

$27,800

With MetLife Bank, a member of the MetLife family of companies, you get more from a money market account. Not just safety. But outstanding interest rates, too.

Gallon of gas

$0.06

$2.70

New home

$4,500 $225,000

them. Citizens was created for the working people, and today many of their grandchildren are now banking with us because we treat the small saver and borrower the same as those with more money.” Jennifer Jones, Assistant Vice President, has been with CB&L for six and a half years. “I think that each

Dow Jones Industrial Average

$58

$12,000

Citizens Building and Loan Association cordially invites their customers to celebrate the 100th Year Anniversary during Customer Appreciation Days, April 12 and 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

18 GreerNow MARCH 2007

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19

07-03 A Century of Service  

GreerNow Magazine

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