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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Bankers are remembered
for bark, bite


Tales of the tightfisted abound

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
When old-timers gather to visit, the tall tales do fly. Each experience recalled triggers another memory.

The next tall tale often begins with, "And thereby hangs another tale." As the stories continue, eventually, the subject turns to bankers the men have known.

Ace Reed, the well-known cowboy cartoonist, made a living for years poking fun at Banker Tuffenall (Tougher-than-hell), who often left his cowboy customers reeling from his refusals to loan them money. Even the toughest, orneriest, meanest old rancher cleaned off his boots, shaved and removed his Stetson and turned meek when he entered his banker's office to ask for a loan.

Among the many stories about bankers I have heard, a few stand out.
Beaumont TX Bank Detail showing banker  and two men
TE photo

One banker was all smiles when times were good but was always suspicious of the length of prosperous times. Like a buzzard, he could smell a break in prices coming. When approached for a loan during his suspicious period, he would state, "I don't think so. I smell something dead up the creek."

Most good bankers had amazing memories. Like an elephant, they never forgot a word said or a deed done. One old banker stated emphatically time and again, "Do me right, and I'll stick with you. Do me wrong, and I won't pull you out of quicksand if I was the only man around."

This left little doubt about ethics or truthfulness in the minds of his customers.

Another old banker, who had undoubtedly stuck his foot in his mouth once too often, began limiting his conversation to the minimum. When a customer came in to his office, he would stand and shake hands and merely nod his head. If yes, he filled out the papers for the customer to sign. If no, he just shook his head and the meeting was over.

One old-timer observed that before the Crash of '29, every banker wore a smile. By the time the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era were over, no banker ever smiled again. When it comes to money matters, no one likes to joke around.

One classic story told again and again, and applied to bankers in numerous towns, went like this:

The banker had a stern, pockmarked poker face, permanently set in a frown topped off by steely-gray eyes. He talked gruffly to everyone who entered. Underneath and inside, he was a kind man with a wicked sense of humor. Early on, as he became bank president, he admitted having a glass eye. This was false, as he could see very well with both natural eyes.

He had no problem saying no if needed, but if he was going to say yes to a loan, he put the customer to a test, saying, "I have a glass eye. If you can tell which eye is glass, I'll give you the loan."

Whatever eye was chosen, the loan was closed and the banker got a chuckle.

Once, when he asked a customer why he chose the left eye as glass, the man answered, "I chose the left eye because I thought it showed a little sympathy for my problem. I knew the real eye would never do that."

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
March 9, 2010 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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