My Granddad Couch’s bank was an interesting place. Banking is not always boring you see.
The Clem Turner family owned a grocery store on the Valley View square and my other granddad, TR Couch, owned the little country bank across from it. Like Turner Grocery it had some interesting things about it too.
When you walked in the front door, you could see Turner grocery out of the windows of course, was TR’s glass paned open topped office. It was not fancy having an old wooden desk and little else except for a loaded .22 pistol in it in case he was robbed. He WAS robbed but he never used it.
Next to his office there was the teller area with the vault at its end. There were three teller “cages” and places for old adding machines where the tellers also posted transactions on each customer’s ledger and places to file their checks away too. There were three tellers when I was young: my aunt Mildred Seyler, Betty King (my mom’s friend who we sat by in church), and Claudine Harris who TR later married after his wife, “Muh” (Inez was her real name) died to my mom’s great distress (which is another story entirely).
At the end of the cages there was door to board room. In it was a long wooden conference table where the Directors met. While TR owned around 90% of the stock he still had Directors who were customers, friends, and sometimes a relative too.
The real interesting part of the place was in the back, just as was the case at Turner grocery. Back there was a bunch of junk but amongst the junk was an old-fashioned foot powered organ which actually still mostly worked. After seeing TR and everyone up front we would go back there and try to stamp out a tune or two. Since my sister and I took organ and piano lessons we actually knew some things to play. Since pushing the petals was not so easy we did not play too long, or well, either, and went back up front or left.
Going back to the front, the customer side of the cages had beautiful grey marble on their counter tops. I guess the usually “tight” TR splurged some on that, eh? I actually have a piece of it in my garage I one day want to turn into some cutting boards to give to my kids. I got the piece by accident one when I was in “VV” – Valley View’s shorter form the locals use – and saw someone doing some work in the long closed bank. A family was opening some type of antique store and was in there working away, I went in, introduced myself, told them I was TR’s grandson, and they let me look around. And more importantly they gave me that strip of marble since they were just going to throw it away. Funny how that works, something once valuable is later just a bunch of junk but not to me in this case.
When TR got to retirement age he sold the bank and moved down to Denton. But the old building remained a bank for a while until the new owners –Lowell Miller and others – built a modern building on I-35 north of town. The old building remained empty and quiet for years. The new bank remained open until the 1980s Texas banking, oil, and real estate crisis and was gobbled up by one of the banks in Gainesville and became just one of its faceless branches.
As an aside, the bank was robbed after TR sold it by some robbers who literally landed in a helicopter and went in pointing their guns one day. My aunt Mildred still worked there and we heard all of the details from her – the robbers were never caught and the copter was found abandoned northwest of town in someone’s cow pasture right by a dirt road. I wonder what TR would have done if he had seen that but by then he had passed on and was buried across the road from the new bank in VV’s little cemetery.
Today the old bank building is empty and unused, as is the new bank building too. Things change like businesses coming and going but some things remain too – like that piece of marble whose eternal hardness will outlast my memories of it and the bank of course too.