What’s happening with banks? We’re all aware that they’re getting fewer as the years pass by and we understand — or think we do — that it’s because more of our exchanges are able to be handled electronically. Another way to express that is to say that if we can conduct our business without saying “Hello” to anyone behind the traditional banking grill then the world will be better — or at least quicker. Are you in the least surprised that this old codger might not take such a stand?
I have to admit that in a column many years ago I took a stand that condemned a locally operating bank — from a time, when I think it was still known as Seafirst — for creating an airport type maize of metal pipes to keep the public orderly as they waited in line to conduct their business. Who could predict that such a cattle pen contraption would disappear, along with its new name, Bank of America?
Now my own bank, Columbia Bank, will be closing its Centralia location on Harrison to combine with the Chehalis branch. I’m not surprised anymore. Very seldom in later years have I seen more than one or two customers at a “window” when I went in to deposit my check for writing this column. For around 40 years that building has been “my” bank, no matter what it was named. Many old timers will remember how the bank on that location was started by local people under the name of “First American State Bank.” I was with them as a stockholder from the beginning. There’s a fading newspaper photograph in my filing cabinet of yours truly — as Mayor — holding a large pair of scissors to cut the ribbon at its opening. Will another bank take its place? It would be a shame if those vaults and safe deposit boxes could no longer be of any use. And, returning to the first bank I mentioned — Seafirst — what will next inhabit the now, apparently empty building that we cheered when Seafirst opened it? Now known as Bank of America, it’s closed with an empty parking lot.
Kitty corner from it is another parking lot, now the property of Key Bank. I suspect that the cars that are there are mostly bank employees. Old timers can remember what once sat on that lot. It was called the Reda Hardware Building. An additional building that took up the rest of the block along Pearl Street was operated as Pioneer Feed and Seed by two brothers, Jimmy and Otmar Vogel, who dropped the feed side of their business and moved north on Tower to become “Pioneer West.”
I can’t remember the names of any other businesses in the building along Main Street but there was the entrance to a stairway leading up to “The Magoo Club” — a teenage after-school hangout that kept a lot of kids “off the streets” while it existed and served as a rehearsal hall for a lot of aspiring rock musicians. Another second floor tenant was The Evergreen Playhouse. Its’ flight of stairs on the Pearl street side of the building was certainly not handicap accessible, but the room already sported a small stage, shared with Centralia College.
My first touch of local acting was on that stage in a three-person play called “LUV.” directed by Phillip Wickstrom. Rehearsing was difficult because because in addition to my 44 hour work weeks at KELA was carrying a “full load” of classes at the college. So we had to rehearse on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings. This was before my future mentor, Gordon Aadland, wowed the audience in that theater as the main character in “Death of a Salesman.” Too bad we didn’t have smartphones in those days to record those performances.
How did I get switched from a subject of banking to theatrical performances? I guess it was to emphasize that demolition of an old memory to create a parking lot that now sits almost vacant. Is this just another sign of the depersonalization, if there is such a word, of our world, whether banking or in other facets of life in the community.
Bill Moeller is a former entertainer, mayor, bookstore owner, city council member, paratrooper and pilot living in Centralia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.