Sunday, November 12, 2017

LSB reunion

The best thing about any reunion is seeing the people that you interacted with all those X number of years ago.

Ahh, there's Martha. My goodness, how her hair has changed. And there's George. He's put on a few pounds over the years. And remember Paul? He was always so quiet, but he sure tore the place up last night. Didn't know he could dance like that.

That's how most reunions go, it seems.

But last night was a little different when nearly 100 former employees of Lexington State Bank gathered upstairs in the main dining hall of Yarborough's Restaurant for no other reason than to get together again.

Some reminders of what once was.*
 The primary focus was to celebrate and remember the LSB years (1949 to 2007), when the local business was truly a local institution, helping to drive and grow a predominantly blue collar community. So mostly former LSB employees, like my wife, who worked there 31 years, filled the hall. A few NewBridge Bankers like me — I worked there six years as a part-timer — managed to sneak in for some beef tenderloin and fried mushrooms, as well as the memories. (LSB became NewBridge Bank after a merger with Greensboro-based FNB Southeast in 2007).

So for an hour or so, people mingled and reminisced, laughed and cried, hugged and embraced. It was pretty cool.

Bob Lowe, the longtime chairman and CEO (for whom my wife was the administrative assistant), then gave a few opening remarks. He pointed out that very few people could have foreseen how much banking has changed in the last five years compared to the previous 50 years, and it was a point well taken.

Then former bank president Frank Sherron followed with a few remarks, highlighting what it was that made LSB so special to the local furniture-making community.

"Some people say LSB is gone," said Sherron, whose father, Haynes, was the well-respected chairman and CEO prior to Lowe. "But I take exception to that."

Sherron then went on not only to recall some of the highlights of the good ol' days, but to suggest that LSB's legacy still lingers. He reached deep into the past, pointing out the bank, founded by Dr. J. A. Smith, was first located on the square next to Conrad & Hinkle. Dr. Smith, it turned out, gave away Life Savers to children as a way to promote "saving" money.

The LSB reunion brought a large turnout of former employees.*
 Then there were the stair steps at the teller line for children to climb so they could conduct their banking. The memories started to cascade: all those joyful Christmas parades; creating Christmas club savings accounts "which allowed many people to have Christmas," said Sherron; or equity lines, "which helped people start businesses, or buy homes or cars or put their children through school." Sherron also noted that LSB was the pacesetter in several United Way campaigns and that the bank also contributed to the J. Smith Young YMCA as well as other organizations for the benefit of the community.

He hit the nail on the head. Yes, LSB is long gone. What exists now is a corporate entity that has virtually consumed itself in identity-stealing mergers and loss of connection.

What remains — as evident last night — is a sense of self. A sense of family.

*Photos by Angela Sams.

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