Savannah Morning News
June 12, 2016
The day had to come. We all knew that. It’s not the end of the world. No one died. It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of competent, polite, friendly people to answer questions, ask us to initial something if it needs initials, gently point out the errors of our addition or subtraction (yet again) or hand back money. There are. They’re cheerful too. That says something. Turnover is slim. That says something too. The handful of folks standing on the other side of the counter – no stainless steel trays for them, or bulletproof glass barriers – is consistent. Even with a change in name – and ownership – the same people show up every day. At some point, if you’ve been going year after year (some people even bring their bike inside as you would your own home) they become family. Our family.
That’s what makes it so sad.
The next time I go into the downtown branch of South State Bank (which I still refer to as Savannah Bank, a name reinforced by the squishy green garden kneeler the bank gave away one year and the blue pens), Barbara Hudson won’t be at her post asking what you need and what can she do to fix it. Someone else will be sitting behind her desk. Someone else – maybe Priscilla – will be offering hard candy. That’s what the bank buys now. But not chocolate. It disappears too quickly. That’s what Barbara and her longtime compatriot Charlene Crawford would hand out. They’d reach into their lower drawer and offer a Snickers or a Three Musketeers or a dog biscuit for people who brought their pups into the bank. The two worked together for 10 years. Charlene passed away in 2013 two years after she left the bank.
“She was a sweet lady,” Barbara said, drawing out her words as she is wont to do. “We knew what the other one was doing all the time.”
They had fun with their job, those two. At Halloween they would dress up as witches. When they won best costume award the bank gave them a day off.
Then there were the large piggy banks they would go out and buy – on their own dime. They would give these to any of their pregnant patrons. A Susan B. Anthony dollar coin would sit in each bank. Andrea Rhangos, who walked into the bank last week with her husband Jonathon to bring Barbara some going away flowers, remembered getting a bank when she gave birth to their daughter, Stafford, now 18.
“When Andrea first moved to town from Michigan she couldn’t quite believe how we do things here,” Jonathon said. “She said, ‘What do you mean you just call the bank?’”
Barbara, 71, spent 21 years at the bank, but she logged 43 total in banking, including stints at the old Savannah Bank and Trust, First Union, the Bank of Beaufort and the United Bank of Virginia. On a base in Okinawa she worked in a military bank.
“Funny how time flies,” she said. “But you remember the people. There’s a story behind every one. I love each one of them.”
She came in as a customer services representative and went out as a financial services representative. Both translate to the same thing: helping people with their problems. When she left she took her handy Rolodex with her, which, she says, she will shred. She knows her way around the computer. That’s not the problem. But sometimes flipping through the well-worn cards of a Rolodex was just easier.
“Honestly, sometimes it’s quicker to find an account number that way,” she said. “With a Rolodex you don’t have to scroll through all the Smiths to find the one you want.”
To show its gratitude, the bank gave Barbara a going away party earlier in the month. The tears and the stories were flowing. Jonathan Rhangos’ mother. Audrey Platt, who dropped in with a card, said if she were out of the country and something was amiss with her account all she had to do was call Barbara. “She would take care of it.”
That’s how things used to be.