Grandparents Day this Sunday should cause many of you to
travel to local restaurants in our hometown to celebrate with them, and the
weather is expected to be milder after another hot week at the end of haying
Before continuing our talk and visit from last week with
a retired banker who hailed from Rag Mountain Road, let me mention where my
travels may take us wandering in upcoming weeks. You have noticed H&H
Motors off Highway 321 before you get to the French Broad River. Having past
this place for many years I made a point to stop and met Kevin Huff, who
pointed me to his Dad, Jerry Huff. We talked awhile and he quickly made a
couple of interesting connections and posed a puzzling question. The family is
connected to the Lancasters; and you recall a past visit to William Lancaster's
machine shop in that vicinity. Jerry also told of a stabbing after which a
relative from decades ago sought help from Dr. Lemmons of Bybee. I have learned
much more about this man and will share Ella (Denton) Alley's memories and
Jerry's too. And then there was Jerry's puzzling questin: "Do you know
where the old courthouse was?" I gathered from his hints that I was within
feet of this burned historic site. We will finish our story on Von Smith and
than return to the Huffs.
Walter Allen Freeman spent last week, his first full
week, in retirement at age 68. We began talking with him the first weekend in
September to celebrate his 46 years with National Bank of Tennessee.
At the time, Bill Agee was the cashier and later he
became bank president. Other employees from the later 1960s included Jo Mooty,
Wayne Nease, Mary Esther Williams, June Finchum, Elizabeth Fine, and Patsy
Gardner. By the way, on Sunday, Sept. 9, Providence Baptist Church honored
their trustee for life, Bill Agee. Pastor Scott Gorrell told me that Agee
helped start the church. Scott's mother, June Robinson, and Bill sold tickets
together at the old downtown Winston Theater.
When Allen left on August 31, Patsy Gardner remains as
the sole employee from that era of almost 50 years ago.
One of Allen's first responsibilities in 1966 was
drive-in teller at the main office. Then, the drive-thru was at the rear of the
bank and accessed from Mims Avenue. He trained in most departments including
collections, book keeping and settled into the loan department. June and Mary
were the loan dept. NBN also had a branch bank at the East Broadway shopping
center where Wade Butcher worked.
Allen explained that Bill was like the lobby manager and
Allen's supervisor, while Creel Helms was over-all manager and a tougher
business minded man, but fair and knowledgeable. As those who have known Mr.
Agee over the decades, he is the consummate gentleman. "Everyone who knew
him, loved him," said Allen.
Of the executive echelon of the bank, the directors and
board chairman, Allen was friendly with Charles Rhyne Jr., Dr. Fred M.
Valentine Jr., and had met Dr. Valentine Sr., "who was an awesome
guy." Allen did not know Col. Charles Rhyne, Sr.
"We all learned from each other," said Allen,
who took advantage of two years at the new community college that opened in
1970, Walters State. He attended banking schools at LSU and Vanderbilt, and it
was during this training accompanying Mr. Helms that he got to know and
appreciate him much better.
Banking on a handshake
This was the time of manual typewriters, 10-key
calculators with white tape spools, plenty of printed forms and a daily
challenge of "balancing the cash drawer. . . . You stayed until it
During his five decades and looking back at the greatest
change, it was in his mind, the Truth in Lending Act or Regulation Z. "At
the time we thought it was the worst thing that happened." They couldn't
image how banking would move forward under the new federal burden.