Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

October 21, 2013

Old stories at the center of bank event

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — Stories, either truth or just good legend, are all part of the history of an Elmore City bank preparing to join the community in a big celebration.

Many of those stories will likely be a part of the upcoming event by First State Bank in EC.

The bank is inviting the public to be a part of it’s 110th anniversary with a special community gathering throughout much of Tuesday, Oct. 22.

At the same event the bank is unveiling a look into the past with tours of its old bank building located directly across the downtown street.

The old bank is being restored into a museum as effort continue to get it recognized as an official historic place.

Among those leading that effort are a couple of hometown folks — Nancy Warren, an executive vice president at the bank, and J.R. McCaskill, a retired history teacher.

“This is my hometown,” Warren said.

“These buildings are something to be proud of. They’re part of my history. Now we’re trying to get it back as a historical site,” she said about the old bank.

“I grew up here. Our customers are our friends, our neighbors. They know we’ll take care of them. There’s a trust there.”

Warren and McCaskill are right in the middle of an ongoing effort to not only get the old bank listed on the National Register of Historic Places but find the documents that tell us more about the many bank stories told over the years.

There have been many events of historical significance for the old bank. Maybe the biggest was an attempted robbery in 1917.

It involved some suspicious men driving a car in town one day. They were reported to authorities.

Apparently bank employees took notice as they moved the money away from the bank, some say hidden in a water well.

That night the thieves got into the bank as an explosion severely damaged the front side of the building.

In the end it’s believed the thieves got away with a grand total of $1.25.

It was the sixth attempted robbery in six years at the old bank with another one coming in 1908 at the original bank site.

Even more history of the bank site area comes from a longtime Elmore City resident, Bill Ward.

After the 78-year-old Ward strolled over for a recent chat in front of the old bank building he offered a few bits and pieces of what the downtown area used to be like back in the day.

Ward is quick to stress the town used to be filled with the hustle and bustle of a lot of activity back in the oil boom days a few decades ago.

He also pointed out a blacksmith shop once stood where the current First State Bank building serves its community today.

Then there was once a few yards away a drug store with a doctor’s office in the bank. There was also even a “beer joint” not far from there.

Both Warren and McCaskill say the hope is the old bank set up as a museum would be an amazing connection for students and adults alike to Elmore City’s early history.

The first step has already been taken toward getting the old bank recognized as an official historic place.

“We’re already identified it as a historical resource,” McCaskill said. “Then we needed to stabilize the building.”

In the mid-’90s an old general store located right next door to the old bank building was deemed so dilapidated it had to be taken down.

More recently some work and a new paint job to the old bank’s exterior were completed setting things up for a few more needed things on the inside that included a make-over to the back area used for storage.