CIBC centennial sparks ‘trip down memory lane’

When Eva Costello of Fort Frances went to the bank Friday, what she saw brought tears to her eyes.
Costello, who retired in 1987 after 40 years as an employee of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, had been invited to the local branch that day to share in the celebrations marking its 100th anniversary here.
The step back in time–through old staff pictures and other memorabilia on display–revived feelings of “the good old days” and of the things she missed most about working there.
“A lot of memories crept back. The bank was like a second home to me,” reflected Costello, who began her career there delivering bank drafts around town.
She later advanced to teller, savings supervisor, and then into management as a credit officer.
“I spent almost as many days there as I did at home,” she chuckled. “My biggest joy were the customers that came in.”
Touted as the oldest continuous business in Fort Frances, the CIBC took full advantage of the centennial celebration, with some of its staff dressed in period costumes.
Sandwiches and refreshments were served, a display of bank collectibles from the Fort Frances Museum was set up, and a vintage 1930 automobile (courtesy of Elmer Norlund of Emo) was parked out front on Scott Street.
And what would a celebration be without a cake-cutting ceremony.
“It was a wonderful time,” branch manager Darryl Bishop enthused. “There were many former staff that came in visited and reminisced with people they hadn’t seen in a long time.
“And there were a number of people who’ve had business relationships with us in excess of 50 years who recalled [memories] over the years,” he added.
Among those on hand for the centennial festivities was Al Tibbetts, who manages H&R Block here. He has a long family history with the CIBC.
His father Al (or Hal as he was known by most) was branch manager from 1956 to 1982, and Tibbetts and three of his siblings worked there at various times during their late teens.
“It was really interesting to see all the [memorabilia],” said Tibbetts, who noted the “electronic age” was the biggest change financial institutions have seen over the years.
“Everything is computerized now [and] makes the job easier to balance,” he reasoned.
“We [figured] everything by hand,” said Costello of her earlier years at the bank. “And when calculators came in, I still did it by hand because I trusted myself more than the machines.”
“I think [machines] took the challenge out of working,” argued Shirley Cates, who retired from the CIBC here six years ago after a 25-year stint.
“Doing it by hand kept you alert and taught you a lot about accuracy,” she added.
Accuracy rang a bell with Costello, who admitted one of the downsides to doing everything manually was finding a mistake at the end of the day.
“[Machines] have eliminated a lot of hard work. If we were two cents out, we had to stay at night and prove, prove, prove until we found that two cents,” she chuckled.
Shanda DeGagné, 24, an employee of the CIBC for just over a year, found the 100th birthday party to be as much of a learning experience as it was a fun one.
She holds the position of small business representative and was among the staff who dressed in period costume.
“It was a great way to learn a lot of history about the bank and to see customers in a relaxed atmosphere and listen to their stories,” she remarked yesterday.
“I have a great appreciation for the way [women] dressed back then but wouldn’t want to do it every day,” she chuckled.