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By Charles R. Nichols
The lead photo for this column is a throwback to another, gentler, time. A Christmas card put out by a business, of all things, instead of a sales flyer. Since this is being written near Christmas, I thought it appropriate.
The Philmont Bank as it is called by the citizens of Philmont (the proper name is Philmont Branch, Key Bank) is probably one of the best observable signs of stability and soundness in Philmont. Any photo you find over the last 100 years of the bank, will look the same as any other. The second photo is from a post card, probably 1910 or so.
The actual name of the Bank has changed several times over the years. First chartered in 1903, charter number 7233, as the "First National Bank of Philmont", the bank opened for business in 1904 with capital of $50,000.
The third photo is of a 1902 series 10 dollar "First National Bank of Philmont" note. Chartered banks used their name and charter number on their own currency.
Throughout the first third of the 20th. Century, the bank prospered along with the industry in Philmont, and the accompanying commercial activity and housing requirements. Assets 30 June 1930 were $987,899.69.
There are two things bankers hate to talk about -- bank failure and bank robbery. Unfortunately, both of these things happened in the next few years to the Philmont Bank.
The great depression was a terrible hardship on just about everyone. On 4 March 1933 at 9am, the First National Bank of Philmont closed its doors. On 9 March 1933, President Roosevelt signed the Bank Conservation Act.
On 21 October 1933, Committee Chairman Lorenzo W. Nichols produced the Depositors Committee Report. It set forth what percentage of the individuals deposits in the bank would be paid immediately, and indicated how the rest might be paid over time.
In 1934 the bank in Philmont was reorganized as the "Philmont National Bank", charter number 13945. Stock certificates were issued in January, and one is shown in photo number 4.
On the 24th Of January 1934, Certificates of Participation in certain assets of the First National Bank of Philmont that were turned over to the trustees for that bank were issued, showing the amount due depositors, and amounts as funds were paid. One such certificate is shown as photo number 5.
The 20 dollar bill with "Philmont National Bank" with the charter number on it shown as photo number 6 was an example of the series of 1929 bills used by the reorganized bank.
As if to add insult to injury, on 16 February 1938 the Bank was robbed!
Two men, entered the bank at about 11 am, armed with hand guns, locked all four employees in the vault, and left with about $10,000. When the bandits locked the people in the bank vault, they didn’t realize that the ramp had to be raised to shut the large vault door, so couldn’t get it closed, just the iron barred gate. Good thing, too, because the vault at that time didn’t have an ‘air lock’ to allow outside air to enter. The possibility of suffocation would have been very real if the time lock was engaged. For the curious, the vault and gate are still in use (with a modern air lock) and can be seen in the bank. The newspaper photo is here shown as photo number 7. The young man on the left standing in the vault door is Philip H. Young, later cashier of the bank.
The two men were captured, of course, and spent time in a State Prison.
Somewhat conflicting stories about how the license number of the get-away car was obtained are found. The most common was that Freddie Jones, Constable, was doing crossing guard duty in front of the High School when he saw the two men leaving the bank acting in a suspicious manner so he jotted the plate number down on his shirt cuff. There are other accounts, but I like this one the best.
Before the robbery, the bank was an ‘open’ bank, much as today. After the robbery, the employees were protected from intrusion by locked doors, glass in front of the tellers up to about eight feet with an iron guard above, and alarms installed. There were ‘pass throughs’ to send material to the tellers, and get something back. Much as some gas station cashier islands have today. Also there were small round holes in the glass at intervals, with a metal cover operated from the inside. These were to accommodate bank staff firing pistols at robbers! One of the entertainments for some of the school children was the testing of the bullet proof glass, behind the bank, by shooting at it. The glass was about 2" thick, at least it seemed so. The style of banks gradually changed back to the ‘open’ style, and Philmont’s bank changed with it.
The Banks statement at 30 June 1943 showed assets at $631,905.33.
In 1955, the Farmer’s National Bank of Hudson acquired the Philmont National Bank, and the bank at Philmont changed to branch status.
In 1959, the ownership of the bank changed again, to National Commercial Bank and Trust. This morphed into the Key Bank we have today.
On 29 June 1967, there was a little remembered robbery scare. Two men, stolen car, suspicious behavior, ‘casing the bank’, and eventual recovery of the car abandoned, left little doubt that there was some substance to the scare.
On the 12th Of November 2004, the Philmont Bank (as branch of Key Bank) celebrated its 100th anniversary.
The Philmont Bank for all of its 100 years has always served the residents of the Village, as well as visitors. In all of its re-incarnations, it has, in the main, used Philmont area people as employees, and retained the friendly small-town flavor so many of us appreciate.