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Yoakum National Bank celebrates its 120th birthday Thursday

July 7, 2010 at 2:07 a.m.

Yoakum National Bank Chairman of the Board Dave Marlow displays a book kept from the beginning of the bank. "Loans used to be called discounts back then,"  Marlow said. The bank celebrates its anniversary on Thursday.

Yoakum National Bank: A Timeline

1890: First National Bank is organized on West May Street with $50,000 in capital

1894: Bank purchases building on West Grand Avenue and moves into the new location

1907: Name changes to Yoakum National Bank

1910: The bank installs its first burglar alarm

1940s: Renovation begins, combining the bank's second and third buildings

1960: Beverly Dietrich Flemming is elected assistant cashier, becoming the bank's first woman officer

1971: The bank moves to its current location, on the corner of West Grand Avenue and Irvine Street

1983: Yoakum's first drive-through TransAct facility opens

1985: Facility's second TransAct facility opens

1990: The bank recognizes its 100th anniversary with a yearlong celebration

2010: Yoakum National Bank reaches 120 years

Sources: Yoakum National Bank 100th anniversary calendarTruth or fiction? No one is quite sure

Like anything with a history, stories about the bank have developed over time. There's one in particular that managers have heard repeatedly.

The story dates back to the Great Depression, when many people pulled their funds from banks because they felt banks weren't safe. The Yoakum facility devised a plan to reverse the trend.

Legend has it a plane loaded with bags - some filled money and others with with newspaper - flew to Yoakum National Bank, said Darlene Renken, the bank's president and CEO. The plane landed and, after the bags were loaded onto a flatbed truck guarded by shotgun-wielding men, the money made its way to the bank.

People piled the bags behind the teller cages so the public could see just how much money the facility had, said Dave Marlow, who chairs the board, explaining the bank had the people's money but much of it was in the form of loans, investments and the like. If everyone had pulled their funds at once, it wouldn't have worked out.

So the bank had people who went in and pulled their funds but, before reaching the door, turned around and returned them, saying they felt safer keeping the money at the bank, Marlow said. Others saw that and followed suit.

If the story is true, it was a creative way to keep business up and running, Renken said. However, no one knows for sure.

What: Yoakum National Bank's 120th anniversary celebration

When: 5 to 7 p.m Thursday.

Where: Bank parking lot, 301 W. Grand Ave., Yoakum

For more information:Call 361-293-5225

More than technology has changed over time. Here are a few more changes the institution has seen:

Record-keeping habits: Years ago, meeting minutes were punctuated with lots of adjectives and the minutes took up about a half page in total. Now, minutes are more to the point but take up several pages.

Accountability: Industry-wide, banks and their employees are held to higher accountability than in the past. More detailed record-keeping also joins the mix here.

A man's world: It used to be a rarity to find a woman working in a financial institution. Now, however, the Yoakum bank has more female employees and managers than male.

Source: Dave Marlow, board chair, and Darlene Renken, president and CEO

YOAKUM - A storage room behind Yoakum National Bank houses a treasure trove of history: a tattered ledger, newspapers bound with twine, a worn wooden sign.

And, now, the bank celebrates that history. On Thursday, the institution marks its 120th anniversary with food, games and music.

Here's a look back at the bank's past and where it's headed.

In the beginning

The institution got its start as First National Bank in 1890, said Darlene Renken, president and CEO. The bank, which began with $50,000 in capital, first occupied a rented building on West May Street.

It took on the name Yoakum National Bank in 1907, according to the company website, and moved several times before finding its current home at 301 W. Grand St.

Today, it remains family-owned and operated.

Board Chair Dave Marlow is the family's fifth generation with the company. He joined the board about 24 years ago and was later elected by the shareholders.

It wasn't until recently that he came on as chair.

The family made it known early on that advancing in the company was based on merit, not lineage, Marlow said. When a former chair told his grandfather Marlow would make a fine director, Grandpa simply said, "We'll see."

It's nice to carry on the tradition, Marlow said.

"It feels good," he said, explaining that the role brings a sense of accomplishment and responsibility. "I hope when I end up where they are now, I don't get a stern talking-to."

Weathering the storms

The industry has seen ups and downs, but the bank remains strong, Marlow said. He attributed that survival to a few things.

The bank never made the sub-prime loans that got others into trouble during the downturn, he said, and some of the management team has been around for more than 40 years.

"There's a lot of experience in the bank," he said. "When you find a good employee, you don't want to let them go."

Being a community bank, the employees know the customers, he said. That helps the clients, especially when they go in for loans or the like, he said, but also protects the bank.

If a person's story just doesn't sound right, it can put up a red flag and urge the bank to check into it before making a commitment.

Outside benefits contribute, too.

Texas, as a whole, wasn't as affected as other states throughout the downturn, Renken said, explaining local property values didn't see extreme inflation.

The rising unemployment rate, although not as extreme as in other states, might bring some effects, just as the freeze on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico might, she said, but the bank will move forward.

"In the last two years, we've done very well," Renken said.

The downturn wasn't the first obstacle Yoakum National Bank faced.

During the Great Depression in 1930, for instance, its officers were all employed at the bank, Marlow said. When looking for ways to save money, the board met to cut their own pay as part of the solution.

Marlow is trying to locate that story in the books of meeting minutes.

"I haven't come across it yet," he said, "but I'm looking."

Changing with the times

As time advances, business and technology follow. And the bank has seen its share of changes.

Everything was manual when Jeannette Knezek began her bookkeeping job in 1968.

When posting checks, they lined them up alphabetically, separated them and wrote them onto posting sheets, said Knezek, who now works as vice president and chief lending officer.

The bank used dual control, where bookkeepers checked numbers with one another to make sure they balanced, said Elorine Sitka, vice president and loan officer who started at the bank in 1969. If they didn't come up even, they had to find the mistake.

"I do not want to go back to that," she said, explaining computers allow quicker access to more detailed information. "I love this."

The company began Internet banking about four years ago, Renken said.

It also recently began a reward checking account, which offers clients higher interest rates. Customers save the bank money when they opt for e-statements and other electronic features, she said, and the interest rate is a sort of "thank-you."

Further change is coming but nobody knows exactly what that will be, said Glenn Renken, vice president and loan officer, who has been with the bank 28 years.

As technology changes, it's difficult to predict the future. Twenty years ago, if someone had told him about voice-activated computers, for instance, he said he probably wouldn't have believed them.

"What's next? Who knows?" he said. "But we don't want to get so advanced that we never have people coming in here."



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