End of an era | Local News
SHARON – When McDowell Bank got its first ATM – ATM – Tom Demas correctly predicted that it would come to dominate banking.
It was 1970, and McDowell’s first device was only the 64th to drop from the manufacturer’s lineup. Demas, then the bank’s marketing manager, even saw that the devices would allow people to access many banking services around the clock, which would allow banks to reduce labor costs.
âI told people at the time that ATMs were going to take over,â he said.
McDowell’s machines have garnered a lot of attention.
âWe probably had 50 banks come to visit us to see how it worked,â Demas said.
With the advent of the Internet, the next step in the evolution of customer service, online banking, has become inevitable. In Sharon, this led to the demise of physical financial branches. Friday, when PNC Bank closed its branch in Sharon. McDowell was acquired by Integra Bank in 1988, followed by National City in 1995 and PNC in 2008.
The closure of Sharon’s office at PNC is the last bank branch closure this year. Huntington Bank closed its Sharon branch in January and First National Bank of Pennsylvania closed its Farrell office in March. There are no more bank branches in Farrell, and the First National Bank and the Mercer County Community Federal Credit Union are the only financial institutions with offices in Sharon.
PNC’s Sharon clients were directed to PNC’s Hermitage office on East State Street. In addition to the Hermitage branches, PNC said it has seven ATM locations in the Shenango Valley.
“There are more ways to bank with PNC than ever before and we have continued to see our clients benefit from the investments we have made in the non-branch channels by changing the way they bank with us.” , said Marcey Zwiebel, PNC Corporate Public Relations Director. “Changes in the way customers do their banking are important things that inform our branch consolidation decisions.”
The change is driven by technological changes, some of which can be traced through the story of McDowell Bank, which was founded on May 1, 1868 – just three years after the Civil War – in Sharon. The bank moved into the now closed PNC Bank building in 1935.
Until the 1970s, it was common for people, especially factory workers and railroad workers, to cash their paychecks in banks. With few industrial workers owning vehicles before WWII, banks had to be almost within walking distance of homes and workplaces. After the Social Security system was put in place during the New Deal of the 1930s, banks needed squads of employees to handle massive crowds inside their offices.
When ATMs first arrived at McDowell, Demas said blue collar workers were the first to accept the technology.
âIndustrial workers used to get food into their mill from vending machines,â Demas said. “If you think about it, ATMs are a lot like vending machines.”
Brookfield resident Jack Allen remembers well the later stages of a time when banking was almost exclusively a face-to-face business. Allen served on the board of directors of McDowell Bank for four years.
Allen, who turns 100 later this year, is probably the oldest member of McDowell Bank’s board of directors.
âThis Sharon bank will be missed,â he said.
Serving on the board of directors of McDowell Bank allowed him to gain business contacts. At the time, he owned a Brookfield insurance agency.
âIf you go up to the plateau, you get to know the animators and the shakers in the valley,â he said.
As the bank expanded into other local towns, it built strong relationships between its employees and customers.
âIt was more of a family back then,â Allen said. âPeople felt close to the bank. Everyone knew everyone. ”
Sometimes there were large age groups represented on the board of directors of McDowell Bank. When he was hired to serve on the board, Sharon resident Jim Feeney – then future senior vice president of Wheatland Tube – was in his thirties, sitting alongside men much more advanced in their careers than him.
Feeney said McDowell National was “the” local bank at the time, which made his first two monthly bank board meetings a daunting experience.
âI was as nervous as I can get,â he said. âI was sitting next to leaders of large local businesses. I didn’t say a word until my third meeting. “
John and Elizabeth Fair, retired husband and wife, worked separately at the McDowell Bank office in Sharon. Elizabeth was ultimately elected Prothonotary of Mercer County. But John stayed at the bank to run his business loans department.
Lending money to businesses was much easier when Fair began his banking career in the mid-1960s.
âBack then, a handshake was enough,â Fair said. “It was so simple then. Now the technology has taken over.”
The bank’s approval for large business loans was made to Sharon, he added. With few more local banks present, corporate offices in large cities are calling on large loans.
Elizabeth explained how banks promote their offices.
âWe are used to giving things like drinking glasses,â she said. âPeople tried to collect all of the glass.
More than 30 years after the demise of McDowell Bank, its legacy has made waves, however small, among collectors. At a 2019 auction hosted by Heritage Auctions, based in Dallas, Texas, the successful bidder paid $ 108 for a $ 20 bill issued by McDowell in 1929.
The note was a holdover from the period 1863-1935, when banks could issue their own banknotes after depositing bonds in the US Treasury. Banks could issue their own legal, government-guaranteed paper money with a total value of up to 90% of the value of the bonds.
Although the auction price was five times the face value of the ticket, it was not a bargain. After adjusting for inflation, the bill’s annual rate of return was well below 1%.
Still, tickets can provide great memories.
Feeney’s eyes sparkled when he saw a photo of the McDowell banknote being auctioned, Feeney’s eyes sparkled.
âWhere is it from? It’s awesome,â he said.