OHPC-Logo-2017.jpg

HISTORY IN THE MAKING

presents

oneonta through the years

2p1 copy.jpg

Blount County Bank (now Regions Bank) ca. 1937. -courtesy The Historic District

Across First Avenue from today's Mio Sogno lay Citizens Bank and several other enterprises on its second floor. Opened Aug. 10, 1931, Citizens replaced Blount County State Bank, which failed during the Great Depression. An article in The Southern Democrat from Sept. 3, 1981, reviewed the bank’s history as it marked its 50th year in operation. As part of that celebration, the bank prepared and set a sidewalk time capsule scheduled for opening in 2031.

The article holds the bank began operation with $2,000 in cash and ended that year with a shareholder pleasing $61.59 profit on net earnings of $436.29, after having made 593 loans. At the end of 1955, bank assets had grown to $1,514,761.17, and by the end of its 50th year the assets stood at over $36,000,000. When sold to First Alabama Bancshares, now Regions, in 1987, the bank had grown to “about the seventh largest independent bank in the state,” according to former officer Lee Hanson.

Hanson’s father Almus Lee, known commonly as A.L., purchased the largest block of stock from founding president Joseph J. Bain in 1946 and became president. A Heflin native, A.L. moved to Marshall County on land adjacent to that of his future bride, Lillie Mae Pool, whose family had relocated there from Lawrenceville, Ga.

The anniversary article held, “Hanson (A.L.) had begun his banking career with the Citizens Bank of Guntersville. After a year’s study at Berea College in Kentucky, he was with banks in Ensley, Albertville, and Grove Hill before coming to Oneonta.” The son reports his father had also worked with First National Bank of Woodlawn before its collapse during the Depression.

Hanson’s father Almus Lee, known commonly as A.L., purchased the largest block of stock from founding president Joseph J. Bain in 1946 and became president. A Heflin native, A.L. moved to Marshall County on land adjacent to that of his future bride, Lillie Mae Pool, whose family had relocated there from Lawrenceville, Ga.

The Southern Democrat, now The Blount Countian, article continued, “Hanson served as bank president until his death in 1960. His wife, Lillie Mae Pool Hanson, was elected to take her husband’s place as third president of the bank shortly after his death. Mrs. Hanson had worked for the bank as bookkeeper since 1951, prior to that she had taught school in Hanceville, Albertville, and Grove Hill.”

Lee Hanson recalls that his mother boarded in Hanceville when she had taught there. Sometimes she might remain there two weeks at a time. He describes her as an excellent teacher who schooled him for his first grade year to permit his entering school early.

The article updated, “Mrs. Hanson was joined at the bank by her son A. Lee Hanson in 1964 following his graduation from The University of Alabama and completion of one year of law school…[He] had worked with the bank as janitor, bookkeeper, and teller before entering college.

“In 1971 the building adjoining the bank was purchased and the bank expanded into larger quarters.” By the date of that article, three men had served as chairmen of the bank board: Bain (1931-46), E. N. Vandegrift (1946-1967) and Dr. Ira Patton from 1967 until that 1981 publication.

The Pearl Studio (photography); J. Porter Bynum New England Mutual and O. D. Bynum State Farm (insurance agencies); Jack Martin Bains (attorney); and Dr. John P. Brittain (dentist) comprise the six businesses located above the bank, according to the 1955 Oneonta telephone directory and advertisements in The Southern Democrat.

According to the Democrat’s March 24, 1955, edition the building suffered a limited fire. Under the headline, “Fire Damages Bank Building,” the newspaper reported, “An early morning fire did considerable damage to the Citizens Bank Building, Monday, March 21st.

“Originating in Dr. J.P. (John Pryor) Brittain’s office, most of the fire was confined to the upstairs of the two-story building . . . Damages ran pretty high to fixtures and equipment in the dental office. Attorney Jack Bains, who also occupied offices in the upstairs, had severe damages to his newly redecorated office furnishings and library.”

From the Blount Countian, February 14, 2018

by Jim Kilgore