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 Texas : Feature : Columns : Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories :

Webb and Yankee Had Different Solutions to the Bank's Move

by Bill Cherry
It may be common place today, but 40 years ago when Galvestonís Moody National Bank wanted to move into a modern facility, it was considered almost an act of heresy to leave the building where a bank had been founded for new quarters.

I recall the reason they gave had something to do with the old bank building not looking stable to the customers.

So trying to find executives and labor and law enforcement who had ever moved a bank wasn't an easy task, even if the move was to be no more than a block away.

This one was to take place on a Friday night after the bank closed, president Carey Mayfield reasoning that the bank in its new facilities could certainly be up and running by the following Monday morning.

"Good lord, we're only moving around the corner," he kept reminding the skeptics. "And all of the office furniture is new and it's already over there, so we won't have to move any of that from the old bank," he would then add, almost like he was giving himself some needed logic and assurance to hold on to.

It turned out Mayfield was right about everything except the moving of the enormous banks of safe deposit boxes that were recessed into the wall of the vault. And that was forgivable, for after all the accrual of all of the weight in those things was immeasurable by staring at them. And you certainly couldn't expect the customers to line up and let you see inside of their boxes so the weight could be estimated. So it was difficult to know how to prepare.

Mayfield liked to steer bank business to customers. When the move planning was going on, Don Webb was in to make a deposit one day. He owned a wrecker service, locksmith shop, and vehicle repair business out on what we called "S" Road in those days.
Don Webb of Galveston
Don Webb
Photo courtesy Vivian Webb Latimer
Mayfield came out of his office and said, "Don, got any idea how we might move those safe deposit box vaults to the new building?"

"No problem," Webb said right away, "I'll take care of it and send you the bill. You know I'll treat you right. Leave it 100% up to me." So Webb was hired on the spot.

But as the day of the move approached, Mayfield started to get concerned that Webb might not be able to deliver on his promise. So the Friday morning before the move, Mayfield called a safe company in Houston, explained the problem and the dilemma, and they said they'd take care of it.

Now how to tell Webb that he was un-hired. Mayfield came up with an ingenious plan. He made Webb a temporary "vice president" of the bank, and immediately promoted him to being the bank officer in charge of the move, and he not only called and told Webb of his good fortune, but also reminded him that bank officers were required to wear suits. He needed to come in his coat and tie, Mayfield said.

So all day Friday, Don Webb was walking around the bank surveying the situation, giving advise here, and instructions there. And then about 5:30 P.M. the safe movers from Houston showed up. Webb told the fellows he was in charge, and asked them how they planned to get the huge banks of safe deposit boxes out of the vault wall, across the lobby, down the stairs, into the huge moving truck, over to the new bank building and into the wall of the new vault.

The superintendent gave him some cockamamie story. Webb responded, "Have you ever done this in your entire life?" He assured Webb that he had. Webb defaulted to his own intuition and he began hovering over them like a vulture in his Sunday church suit.

They removed the trim pieces of the safe deposit vaults, then started to try to pry them out with long pry bars. They wouldn't budge. Webb said, "OK, here's what we're going to do. I'm going to back my wrecker up to the front door. We'll add some lengths to the wrecker's cable, and we'll bring it across the bank lobby's floor, and thread it around the back of the safe deposit vault. Then I'll go turn on the wrecker's winch, and we'll ease them out. Then we'll manhandle them onto dollies and then we'll be all set."

What a plan, they thought. Webb went into Mayfield's office and asked for permission to take off his coat and tie for this procedure. He explained to Mayfield, "Wreckers are like Harleys. You just don't get any where around them in a coat and tie." Mayfield gave in.

Webb backed his wrecker up to the steps, unhitched the long cable, and attached another couple of lengths. About then the superintendent from the safe company came up to Webb and said that he was taking over. "We need my experience here," he told Webb, in a condescending manner.

Webb went to the restroom, put back on his tie and coat and combed his hair and came back to supervise. When he came into the lobby, the big cable was about five feet off of the floor and taut. It was wrapped around one of the big banks of safe deposit boxes in the wall, and the superintendent was standing beside Webb's wrecker getting ready to engage the winch.

"Are you sure you want to do that, Yankee?" Webb shouted. Webb always called people from the north side of the causeway, Yankee.

"Stand back," Yankee ordered Webb, and then he revved up the wrecker's engine and pushed the winch handle forward.

Out of the recessed wall flew the bank of safe deposit boxes. For a moment they actually looked like they were flying, and then they realized that they were nothing more than massive dead weight, so they crashed on the lobby's floor with a noise that would rival any reasonably size explosion. Everyone in the building fell to the floor, too.

Webb yelled, "Good job, Yankee. Hope you've got insurance, " and then he and Mayfield went across the street to the Turf Grill for coffee and chit chat.

Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories
October 5, 2008 column
Copyright William S. Cherry
All rights reserved
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Bill Cherry, a Dallas Realtor and free lance writer was a longtime columnist for "The Galveston County Daily News." His book, Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories, has sold thousands, and is still available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com and other bookstores.
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