Reminiscences, Tales, and Incidents
Golden Jubilee Reminiscences by Frank Whitehouse
Acocks Green Branch
On 1st September 1919, Mr Kesterton and I arrived by taxi with all stationery, ledgers, signature book, etc, and cash, to open the branch. He had forgotten the keys and after trying a window one was found open and I climbed through into the room of the old Police Station to be used by the Bank. I could not undo the entrance door but after a tour of the cells etc, I found screwdrivers left in a cupboard and screwed off the lock. The Bank was opened to time and closed after time. I left through the window and then called at the local Police Station to report my activities. The Sergeant was the father of one of my school chums.
Acocks Green Branch
Soon after the branch was opened, a gentleman dressed as a Navvy came in. I wished him 'Good Evening' and his reply was: 'What's this bloody Bank'. I explained and he opened an account for £120, the biggest deposit to date.
Acocks Green Branch
Also soon after the Branch was opened, a lady I did not know walked into the Bank and said: 'OK, you're here. Good night'
At the opening of the permanent branch, I was purposely seated behind Mr Neville Chamberlain and given instructions by Mr Hilton that if Mr Chamberlain wanted anything, to get it. I took a note from Mr Chamberlain to Councillor Gelling as he then was, and returned with a written answer. I shall always remember that when the guests were leaving Mr Chamberlain turned to me and just said: 'Thank you'.
Soon after the permanent branch was opened, an old lady, very poorly dressed wearing an apron and a shawl around her head came into the Bank and asked if 'The Bank took Silver'. On being assured that the Bank did, she turned to a young giant of a man saying: 'Alfie, bring it'. Alfie was carrying a large paint can in each arm, each full of silver amounting in all to over £700. An account was opened and a £200 plus withdrawal arranged as the then limit was £500.
I was the assistant at the temporary premises while the permanent branch was being built and a well known character named Sprayson came into the Bank. He threw his book on the counter and said to the Manager: 'Give us £5 Harry, I'm going to buy a Revolver to shoot them all up our court'.
Aston Cross Branch
One of our lady depositors had died and in the days when estates over £100 went through Probate, I had the pleasure of steering her widower husband in taking out Letters of Administration. All this went well until the day came some long time after when the gentleman came in, saw I was missing (on holiday) and he shouted out: 'Where's the red-headed one?' Everyone on the staff was delighted with this, but he would not do his business with anyone else, and it had to wait until I returned.
One of the lady depositors, very irate, called and complained of many matters and no-one on the staff could satisfy her, so she was asked to wait and to 'take a seat' on a bench. She did, but she missed the bench (Water Dept.) and sat in a filled Fire Bucket at the end of the bench. All the staff were amused but we had to take away one (Shipton) who could not stop laughing.
In the early days of the Bank, the Branches were issued with Revolvers and ammunition (5 rounds). At this branch, the assistant had been troubled by a cat, who was found dead. The ammunition was also found one round short.
One holiday time, it was necessary for additional cash to be obtained quickly from the Midland Bank, New Street. I accompanied a Senior Officer to fetch £15,000 in £1 Notes. We proceeded there along Waterloo Street and Bennetts Hill. On the way, back we got parted by the holiday crowd and I found myself walking alone up Bennetts Hill with a packet of £5,000 under each arm. I arrived safely at the Bank and in a few minutes the other officer arrived with his share of the money.
After my first period there as Clerk-in-Charge, I was replaced by an older man who was afraid of not locking up properly. He used to punch the door with his shoulder to make sure it was shut correctly. His staff used to say he charged the door. In due course the lock weakened, and when he did his charge the door flew inwards and the manager followed, and he found himself in a heap in the vestibule, much to the amusement of his staff.
The gas fire for heating the office was also very useful for warming cold backs. One of our managers always stood in front of this fire for this purpose. When he went home in the afternoon and stood outside the Bank, the calves of his trousers fell out and he proceeded home with a big hole in each of his trouser legs.
When the Head Office was in the Water Dept., there was a flight of steps to Mr Hilton's office and Secretarial. It was the ambition of most of the juniors to get up the steps in two jumps. Contestants were Raftery, Smallwood, Lewis, Wright, Robottom, and myself. Smallwood and I had a go together one day and I nearly did it. I got one foot on the top step, slipped off and got my head in Mr Ellison's stomach. We did not play again except at carefully selected times.
An elderly lady, very poorly dressed, had paid an amount into an account and Miss Neale, the cashier, handed the passbook back to the lady. The lady took one look at the passbook and then pushed it back over the counter to Miss Neale saying: 'Names wrong'. Miss Neale asked what was wrong with the name and the lady said: 'It's not Miss, it's Mrs, he's made an honest woman of her'. Apparently, when all was understood, the passbook belonged to the lady's daughter who had recently married.
(NOTE: these recollections have been extracted from 1969 correspondence by Frank Whitehouse with the then Bank's General Manager (Mr S A Guy) in relation to a possible publication to celebrate the Bank's Golden Jubilee. Frank Whitehouse ended his career of almost 46 years with the Bank in a senior Head Office position, retiring on August 11th 1966. He was originally employed in the City Treasurer's Department, and was engaged as a Junior Assistant during the evening openings at Acocks Green branch, as he describes above - he transferred to the Bank's permanent staff in April 1920. He had the distinction of being the first member of the BMB's staff to complete the examinations of the Institute of Bankers in 1926.)