Baker State Bank, Baker, Oregon

By Phyllis Badgley

The stone building at N.W. corner of Main and Broadway in Baker, Oregon housed Baker Loan and Trust in early 1900s.

Baker State Bank, an independent bank, chose to locate there in the 1930s. Under leadership of Hugh McCall, Baker State was renowned for friendly staff and personal service. As customers entered they were greeted by 3 teller employees.

Officer desks located to the right, past a hip-high counter. Large windows on the North wall, allowed reflection on 3 heavy, shiny, secure vaults resting against the west partition. One of these vaults held safety lock boxes, which required double key custody to gain entry. Trust was so deeply ingrained that several customers allowed storage of their personal key on bank premises.

A check writing counter lined the south wall of the lobby, where a supply of ink blotters was furnished. Business ads were frequently shown on these accessories.

Bank directors were Carl Leonnig, Sr., Lee Duncan, and John Schmitz.

Hugh McCall, Cashier, was of congenial nature, yet in conducting bank business, had no-nonsense approach. He was knowledgeable, capable, and methodical. McCall desired employees of stability that would serve long tenure. As a job applicant, the writer was interviewed verbally and asked background questions. I felt no invasion of privacy, when Mr. McCall asked, "You are not about to get married, are you?" "No, I replied, I don't have any prospects presently." I was hired in 1945, at beginning wage of $85 per month. That figure seemed like instant wealth, compared to the monthly $30.per month I received while serving earlier in the Cadet Nursing Corps. Incidentally, I worked the bank job 5 years before marriage, and later worked part time there. The number of bank employees increased considerably as McCall hired returning WWII veterans, Ron Culbertson, George Cook, Carl Davis and Vernon Stewart. Cora Taylor of Haines could be found posting the general ledger, at a desk behind the teller row. Her beautiful handwriting made clear, easy to read entries.

Bookkeeping machines hummed in a separate room, operated by Jean Smith Bunch, Jessie N. Adams, Marjorie Peck, and Alice Morris. Summer interns were Bethanne Coles, Mildred Patton and Joann Cavallo.

During wartime, banks handled ledgers for rationed items. One day when the writer was posting figures for sugar ration accounts, I became so involved trying to balance the totals, that I disregarded going to lunch. When the balance was finally accomplished, I declared "This it the happiest day of my life!" Co-workers were amused at my declaration.

Hugh McCall passed away in 1950. Rives Waller assumed leadership after McCall's death.

One day, a booming voice echoed the lobby, as a fraternity brother greeted Rives Waller. A handshake, and slap on the back accompanied the loud salutation of "Rives, you ole horse: it's been a long time!" Customers and bank staff smiled at the enthusiastic reunion scene.

In the 1940-50 era, banking hours included Saturday open from 10:00 to 12:00. At one time, Baker State staff donated to legislative fund designed to end Saturday banking entirely. Many banks presently abide by that.

Janet Shephardson joined the Baker State staff in 1953. Her long tenure story follows later in this article.

Used with the permission of Phyllis Badgley

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