Banking and sports are a unique combination, particularly for me. Buffalo is a sports-minded city, having the Bills, the Bisons and the Sabres, along with college teams.
Now with the possibility of the sale of the Bills, and with the football season upon us, I am reminded of my first job in a bank where sports made a big difference.
In 1954 I graduated from Boston University with a BA degree in history, but had no job prospects. I thought I might return to college to qualify for a teaching position. At that time a local bank advertised for a teller. I applied, took the test and passed.
I was hired as a night deposit teller for a bank in Quincy, Mass. This was my first paying job. My duties were to process the night deposit bags that businesses dropped into the vault at night.
Since I had never dealt with customers before, I was nervous. Fortunately, there was a trainer in the teller’s cage with me. The cage had wire on three sides, and we were locked in.
I worked slowly at first, trying to remember the sequence in giving out the empty bags, making sure to get the proper signature on the card and handing out the correct bag.
When a customer came to my window, I would say in a shaky voice, “Good morning,” and mention something about the weather. When the transaction was done, I would say “thank you.”
One afternoon after the bank closed, Mr. Wilkinson, the assistant head teller, spoke to me concerning the fact that some of my customers would like me to be more talkative, especially about sports. He told me that I was doing well, but I needed to talk more to the customers. He suggested I start reading up on sports.
As time went on, I began to realize that Mr. Wilkinson was right; some of the customers did want to talk about sports. Since the bank was 10 miles south of Boston, customers were interested in having a conversation about what happened yesterday with the Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox or the Milwaukee Braves, formerly the Boston Braves, or even local school sports.
My interest in sports was low. I played only JV football one season in high school, and no sports in college. Since I started working in the winter, the main sports were hockey and basketball.
When I went home after work, I began reading the sports section of the local newspapers, especially about the Bruins and the Celtics. The next morning when the customers came to pick up their night deposit bags, I was able to say something about what went on in the sports world the night before. What was interesting to me was the fact that women as well as men were interested in sports.
As I became comfortable in the job, and talking with the customers, we began to learn about each other. We not only talked sports but also about our own lives. One customer, Mr. Ryan, loved to talk sports. He knew the statistics of all the players. When a customer saw me outside the bank, we would stop and talk.
After about a year and a half, I became assistant head teller, which meant I was in the regular tellers cage. A year later I was appointed head teller.
What I learned in the bank as a teller helped me the rest of my life. In fact, even as an Episcopal priest I still need to know about sports, especially in Buffalo.