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VI.  Family Decision

 

Steve picked up the phone.  Sherry had said Lewis, the City Manager, was on line 1.  Steve responded, “Hey Lewis what’s up?”

 

“By the way,” started Steve, “before you tell me, let me express my appreciation for the outpouring of love and concern from the city toward our family this last week.  Y’all have been behind us all the way and we are well aware of your concern.  Thank you.”

 

Steve getting back to the issue at hand, “So, what’s going on that I can do for you?  You called me.”

 

Lewis began, “Steve, you know every time the city has a project on the drawing board, Walter was the first to get involved.  We need your input.”

 

Lewis continued, “We are in the process of developing a Senior Citizen Wellness Center on that lot down by the old post office.  It is going to be a center that periodically does health check-ups free of charge for seniors.”

 

He began to lay out the details, “Doctors from the hospital and our general practitioners have already signed on to provide services one day a week. It will be a great service for our seniors.”

 

“Other times,” he continued, “it can be used by our senior citizens for games, parties, and special events.  I was hoping two things – one that we could count on the bank for a donation as we have in the past on all special projects like this.  And further that we could call it the Walter and Odessa Johnson Senior Wellness Center?”

 

Steve was both stunned and moved that they wanted to name the center after his Mom and Dad.  He responded, “Lewis, our family is so grateful that the city would consider naming the center after Mom and Dad.”

 

Lewis said, “Steve, with all that Walter and Dessie did for the community, it is the least that we can do.  But we need your approval to put their name on it.”

 

Steve inquired, “Look, Lewis, is everything covered.  You know we will do our standard donation toward the development.  What else do you need?”

 

Lewis replied, “We have everything except for the furnishings.  We have been getting donations for the center but the furniture is not covered yet.”

 

Steve responded, “You have that now.  It is a done deal.”

 

Lewis was overjoyed.  “Steve we will put up a plaque inside the lobby indicating the furnishings are a donation from the Bank.  Thank you for your generosity.  It is much appreciated.”

 

Lewis stated, “We will have a press release immediately.  At a later date we will have a press conference and would love to have you there.  Assuming great weather through the summer; the building should be completed by the fall.  The seniors are going to love this.”

 

Steve was glad to comply, “Lewis, don’t go lightly on the furnishings.  Get the best.  Let me know when you need the money.  Coordinate your needs with Sam.  He can help you.  I will let him know.”

 

He concluded, “Thank you for remembering Mom and Dad this way.  The family will be pleased.”

 

Expressing his appreciation, Steve hung up the phone and left the bank to go tell Sandra what just transpired.  He did not want to call her as the news was too great to share by phone.

 

Sam and Junior were busy with their work.  He could share it with them at the briefing in the morning before the press release comes out.

 

Sam finished adjusting his pictures on his walls and sat down.  Looking out his new windows, he could see the drive-thru lanes.  He began to notice, “The drive-thru lanes are just that drive-thru lanes.”

 

He had never noticed before, “No landscaping, nothing to admire.  Just asphalt and speed bumps.”

 

“What if …,” he continued in his line of thought, “the lanes had flowers on either side; a colorful wall mural on that back cinder block wall – and we removed the speed bumps since nobody likes them anyway?”

 

“Who goes flying through a bank drive-thru in the first place?” he asked himself, “All it does is cause the clients to have negative thoughts as they approach the tellers.”

 

His thoughts began to gain speed, “I bet those speed bumps – in some cases – causes a change their whole behavior.  They probably cause them to be less than nice to the tellers.”

 

Sam began to formulate a plan in his mind about beautifying the drive-thru.  He would keep the same number of lanes and the ATM lane but reduce the width of the lanes to accompany curbing for flowers.  The curbing would protect the garden arrangements.

 

They could change the flowers with the seasons through the landscapists in town.  The flowers could be in bloom year round.

 

He knew a construction company in town that could do the work for him.  “I am going to call them the first thing after lunch, and get an estimate on what this might cost,” he thought.

 

“Steve always wanted to do things that would better the bank’s appearance in the neighborhood and I know he will go for this.  Surely, it won’t cost too much,” he contemplated.

 

“Why wait,” Sam picked up the phone and arranged an appointment.  He called his friend at the Extreme Construction Company to come in that afternoon.

 

The Extreme Construction Company owner and foreman came in at 1 PM to discuss the changes Sam wanted to make with the drive-thru.  Sam was excited, “This is going to be great.”

 

Joaquin Reynolds, the owner, said, “Tell me exactly what you have in mind.  Then we can go out and look at it and that will be enough for me to get started with a bid.”

 

Sam explained, “Come on – I will show you.”  They walked out of the bank to the drive-thru area.

 

Sam started issuing instructions like a machine gun firing, “I want the drive-thru to reflect a drive through a flower garden as you approach the windows.”

 

Going on at a rapid pace, “I want that back cinder block wall to have a mural or striped in warm colors.  And I want the speed bumps removed.”

 

He explained, “While you are at it, I want to resurface the entire parking lot with asphalt.  Repaint the direction arrows in bold white stripes giving directions for each lane on the asphalt.”

 

He continued, “The ATM lane needs ‘ATM’ painted on the lane coming into the bank; the business lane – ‘Business’; and ‘Public’ on the other lanes.  Anyone coming in should have no problems getting in the right lane.”

 

Lastly, “And looking over the front of the bank, if we can sync it in with the drive-thru, I would like to do that as well with a wall of flowers on the outside of the bank building.

 

He finished, “Now you don’t have to worry about the flowers, I will take care of that – I just want you to prepare a bed that we can grow flowers in for the front, back and the sides including the drive-thru lanes.”

 

Joaquin said, “Great, we can handle that.”  Joaquin and Sam came back around to the front by way of the east side.  They walked around the entire bank talking as they went.

 

“You get the general idea of what I want?” asked Sam.  “I want flowers and I want ‘pretty’.”

 

“Yeah, that is no problem.  I can get back with you on Monday or sooner if you want me to,” replied Joaquin. 

 

“Monday is fine.  I want to surprise Steve with this so keep it between you and me for the time being.  I will hit him with it at our briefing,” responded Sam.

 

Joaquin left for his car and Sam went back inside the bank.  He looked over several items that the girls were working on with their computers and then chose to leave for the day

 

On the way to his car he called Benny McDade, a friend from school who had the Whataburger franchise, and invited him out to get a beer.  They agreed to meet at the country club.  Sam got into his car and headed for the club.

 

The next morning Steve arrived at the bank as Junior was driving up.  They exchanged greetings as they went into the bank.

 

Steve reminded Junior, “Don’t forget, I will need you and Sam for our briefing this morning.  I’ve got some exciting news that I will share with both of you at the same time.”

 

Steve smiled to himself as he left Junior wondering what it could be.  “This is going to be great.”

 

Sherry came into Steve’s office as he arrived with the file from the Department of Transportation.  They were planning new construction changes for the main street through Lebanon.  It would affect the bank for a few weeks, but they had assured Steve’s Dad that there would always be access to the bank.

 

Main Street was going to become a 4 lane thoroughfare – two lanes each way and a center median separating the two.  Due to the activity of the bank and the necessity of customers getting into and out of the bank safely, they had determined that a signal light would be placed to accommodate the process.

 

A signal light is something Steve had wanted for years and now it was going to happen.  He had seen too many near-accidents in front of the bank.

 

People wanting to do business with the bank or enter to General Manager Store across the street made for hazardous conditions.  It would certainly add to the safety and make the bank more accessible to people. 

 

Opening the file and the attached graphics, he began to inspect them to see the location of the signal light.  The regular entrance to the bank would be the most acceptable location as people could drive to the back for the drive-thru lanes.

 

Adding signal lights and new drive ways help only if they are properly located.  They can be as much a hazard as not having them.  Certainly highway officials were not the most qualified people to plan entries and exits for banks.

 

Steve did notice that the exit planned was too close to the exterior property line with the cinder block wall.  Anyone coming in with a pick-up truck pulling a trailer who tried to make the turn the opposite direction of Main Street could possibly pull their trailer right into the wall.

 

He made a note on the layout and told Sherry to get the transportation people on the line so he could discuss the change.  He further instructed her to send them a letter informing them of the change.

 

Steve knew way too much about in working with people in government agencies.  If you don’t put it in writing, sometimes even though you have covered your bases, the change still could not get proper attention.

 

Sam came in and got a cup of coffee.  He walked into Junior’s office.  Junior exclaimed, “Hey, glad you are here early today.  Uncle Steve has something he wants to share with us at the morning briefing.  He looked like he was about to burst all over the place.”

 

Sam asked, “Wonder what it could be?  Oh well, we will find out when we find out.”

 

Sam exclaimed, “Steve never was one to keep a secret.  I’m free right now – how about you?  You want to just go over and find out.  It does not look like he has too much going on right now.  We could start early since we are all here,” asked Sam.

 

“Yeah, let’s get it on.  Maybe it will take that smile off his face,” Junior got up from his desk smiling jokingly.  “We don’t want him to bust.”

 

Sam entered Steve’s office first and asked, “What’s this – Junior said you got something to tell us?  Don’t keep us in suspense.”

 

Steve smiled and invited them to sit down, “The city is building a Senior Citizen Wellness Center down by the old post office.  Hospital doctors and our local doctors are going to man it on a rotating schedule once a week for senior citizens to have a check up if they want – totally free of charge.”

 

Sam jumped in, “I guess they want us to make a donation.  I will set up the standard donation as we have in the past for other city projects.”

 

“Hold it Sam, not so quick this time,” stated Steve, “that’s what I thought.  As a matter of fact Lewis, the city manager, even wondered if we could kick in our standard donation to help the project.  But that was only one of the reasons, he called.”

 

Junior looked perplexed and said, “What else would they want beside money?  We are a bank – our commodity is money – money is what we do.”

 

Sam was equally wondering, “Spill it out Steve, what else did they want?  What was the other reason?”

 

Steve took a breath and exclaimed, “They want to name it the Walter and Odessa Johnson Senior Citizen Wellness Center!  They did not ask for any more money than our standard donation.  I thought when he told me about the name, they would want more, but they didn’t.”

 

Sam feeling a little bit queasy about the offer asked, “What is the building going to look like?  Is it going to be something we would want Mom and Dad’s name on?”

 

Steve said, “I had the same thoughts and we discussed the building.  They are proposing a beautiful structure.”

 

He continued, “Lewis brought a copy of the architectural drawings over to the house last night and it is a very nice building and a nice setting.  I feel Mom and Dad would be proud to have their name on it.”

 

As a matter of full transparency, Steve said, “But to give you all of it, I committed the bank to not only the standard donation.  I committed the cost of furnishing it as well.”

 

“Lewis said that they could get some items donated,” related Steve.  “I told him not to pinch on anything.  They said they would put up a plaque designating the furniture given by band in addition to putting Mom and Dad’s name on the building.”

 

Continuing, “Personally, I think that it will be a great statement to the community from the bank.  We care for our senior citizens now and in the future.”

 

Sam agreed, “Sounds good to me.  Never hurts to spread a little community good will especially for the bank.”

 

Junior said, “Well, with both of you in agreement, you don’t need my decision, but just so you know, I too think it is a great idea.  I’m glad you decided to kick in the furnishings too.”

 

Junior continued, “That way we can be involved maybe with the selection.  We want to make sure they get the best.”

 

Steve concluded, “Well, I wanted you to know before the press release comes out later this afternoon.  This will be a great thing for Mom and Dad and the Bank.”

 

And to appease Sam, Steve added, “Sam just so you know I was not going without your input.  I have asked Lewis to coordinate with you on the furnishings.”

 

He finished, “They were going to do all of this with just our standard donation which we always give.  Mom and Dad would have gotten their names on the building anyway.”

 

“That’s all I have this morning,” stated Steve.  “Anybody else have anything?”

 

Sam commented as he turned to go out of the room, “No, and certainly, you got my approval even if you did not need it.  That will be a great monument to the legacy of Mom and Dad.”

 

Steve responded, “Thanks, I appreciate that.”  Sam left to return to his offices.

 

Steve turned to Junior as he was starting to get up to leave and said, “I have a few proposals we need to discussed.  Are you are free right now?”

 

Junior, said, “Sure, my time is your time.”  Junior sat back down.

 

Steve began, “The inventory loan for the lumber mill is first on my agenda.  Do they really need that much inventory now that we are approaching the summer months?  Getting trees out of the woods should be a breeze for them for the next few months.”

 

Junior replied, “I don’t know Uncle Steve.  They are a great customer and have always met their obligations to the bank.   Not being a mill-man myself, it would be difficult for me to evaluate that.”

 

He continued, “Selling on the futures does increase their finished inventory tremendously.  Shipping lumber by rail across the US without having a place for it to go can be very expensive until you get a destination.”

 

Steve commented, “That, Junior is why you need to get out there and try to understand what they are doing.  You don’t have to be a mill-man to size up a person on what the company needs.” 

 

“Talk to Cotton Schumer, the general manager – get a feel for what you think about him.  We judge a lot of our loans - not on paper but on the person.”

 

“You have a knack for doing this,” Steve added “that is why you are the Executive Vice President for Loans.  “Just go out there and spend some time with him and make sure they have their feet on the ground.”

 

Steve reiterated, “It is not a matter of not granting the loan.  We can do that, but it might be that he does not need as much as they are asking for.  Could be they expect us to approve less than his request in the first place and they upped their request to compensate for that.”

 

“OK, I will get out there and see what I can find out,” responded Junior.  “What else – you said two items?”

 

“About this loan for the Carroll boy who wants to buy a new car – a new Jaguar - really?  His first car and he wants a Jaguar?”

 

Going on, “Why did he bring this loan request to us and not the dealer?  Could it be the dealer had already rejected the loan request?” Steve questioned.

 

Junior felt as if he was being questioned personally more than about a loan for a Jaguar.  He responded, “Again, I made the judgment because of who his father is and he was going to co-sign for him.”

 

Junior explained, “He is in the top 10% of our Bank clients, you know.  We don’t say no to them.”

 

“Yes, he is in the top 10% of our clients, but as you stated, his father was going to co-sign for him.  The operative word is ‘was’.  His signature is not on the loan request yet.”

 

Junior feeling a little sheepish at that point as he had submitted the request without the co-signer on the note.  “He told me that if we would approve the loan he could get his dad to co-sign.  I guess I was just moving too quick to get it completed.”

 

Steve again said, “Well, we can give the boy a loan as his dad certainly has the assets to collateralize the loan.  And we do not want to get between a boy and his dad.”

 

Instructing Junior, Steve said, “If his dad says it is OK with him and he will co-sign then we will make the loan.  Just make sure his dad is aware of this request first.”

 

“You got to watch these little ‘p’s’ and ‘q’s’.  Keep the ‘i’s’ dotted and the ‘t’s’ crossed.  Now get out of here and go make us some money,” declared Steve.

 

Junior went back to his office and began reviewing the loan applications that had come in during the last week.  He had scheduled a meeting with the junior loan officers that afternoon.  He needed to get his feet on the ground.

 

“Still,” he thought, “This is not me.  Granted when Granddaddy was here, it seemed to have purpose and an end game.  But with him gone and Uncle Steve in that office, things have changed.”

 

Junior was troubled, “I cannot see myself doing this every day in and day out for the rest of my life.  There has to be more to it.”

 

“Could it be,” Junior thought, “the conversation I had with Dad at the country club started this change of direction in my mind?  I had not thought of anything like that until then.”

 

The thoughts were new to him, “I have never considered this before that I might not be happy at the Bank, but now – there it is – staring me in the face.”

 

He wondered, “What would I do.  There is only one bank in Lebanon and no credit unions.  Car dealerships do most of their financing through their financial institutions.”

 

He thought, “Outside of banking, the mill has a comptroller who takes care of their financial needs.  I’m qualified for that kind of work, but that would be boring.  Working for only one company – doing the same-o same-o everyday.”

 

“Wow, Dad is right.  I am just going to have to sit back – do my job and wait for an opportunity to blossom up out of nowhere.”  He concluded, “Surely there is something in Lebanon somewhere.”

 

He smiled uncomfortably to himself, “Well I can improve my golf game playing with the ‘movers and shakers’ in Lebanon.  That would not be a total lost cause.”

 

He considered, “There was always the factoring of invoices, equipment loans, start-up franchises, and plant expansions.  Even a little town like Lebanon had enough diversity to keep the mind busy.  So that will have to be my end game for now.”

 

Junior, returned to thinking about what had just happened, “Yep, this is what it is all about now.  I am going to get everything I do questioned by Uncle Steve.”

 

“I bet if Granddaddy had been here he would have just patted me on the back and sent me on my way..He would have approved the loans – no questions asked.”

 

He asserted, however, “Granted what Uncle Steve said is good banking.  I should never have let that happen.  But really does every loan have to meet muster all the time?  Can’t we take people at their word?  Banks take risks all the time and grow.”

 

Junior’s thoughts were running amiss, “Look at what happened to the housing market.  Homes were being battered back and forth between banks and banks were growing by leaps and bounds.”

 

“Sure, some of them failed,” his thoughts were troubling at best, “I know that is what brought the housing market down, but look at the ones that were too big to fail.  They got bailouts.  That’s what I’m talking about.”

 

As he left the office for lunch, he thought, “Well one thing is for certain, with Uncle Steve at the helm, this bank is going to be the same as it was 50 years ago and it will be the same 50 years from now.”

 

“Yeah, Dad, I got to look and listen – look and listen quickly.  I am not sure I can make it 6 months,” Junior calculated.

 

The next morning, Steve met with Sam and Junior.  He shared, “Warner called yesterday afternoon and it looks like the probate issues are running smoothly.”

 

“The division of property and liquid assets should go quickly as well.  He told me probably by the end of the month, it should all be handled and everyone will get their check or their property,” concluded Steve.

 

He continued, “Warner also said that he would not have a fee for helping us with the probate.  He said that Dad had been such a loyal client of his over the years.  He considered it an honor to help us finalize his estate.  I expressed our appreciation.”

 

“I do think we should do something for him, however,” countered Steve, “Maybe a cruise for him and his wife Maribel.  They have never been out of the county.  I know she would love it.”

 

On occasion, Warner has had to go to court in Nashville or nearby towns, but never the two of them taking tine away just for themselves.  Steve figured, “If I can clear it with Maribel on a date and destination, I can get the tickets.”

 

Steve laughed, “We will tell him that he has to go since they are non-refundable.  As a lawyer, he will understand that and go just to see that the money is not lost.”

 

Sam agreed, “Something needs to be done for all he has done for us over the years.  That’s a great idea – do it.”

 

Junior was equally excited, “The settlement of the probate will be a great turning point for all of us.  I agree, we should do something for Warner.”

 

They agreed the bank should stand the expense of the cruise.  Junior and Sam walked out of Steve’s office and headed toward their offices.

 

Junior, on the way to his office, wanted to kick himself.  “What did I mean saying ‘a great turning point’?

 

“Surely, Uncle Steve caught that.  He will be wondering what I meant.  No need to worry about Dad, he catches little unless he is in the middle of it,” thought Junior.

 

“But Uncle Steve that is a different story.  Yeah, it is going to be ‘a great turning point’ for us,” he determined, “but it was going to be ‘a great turning point’ down the road anyway sometime.  The question is when?””

 

His mind was going over several alternatives to cover for the comment, “I have got to come up with a story Uncle Steve will accept should he ask me what I meant.  Something that is understandable.”

 

Junior did not want Steve to know he was thinking about anything yet.  “I do not want him to think that there might come a time when I will leave the bank.”

 

He decided, “I can tell him that I was referring to the settlement of the liquid assets and the property division.  John and Sarah were going to get the home place and I am going to get the property out by the city park.”

 

Junior calculated, “That property is a prime location and I look forward to developing it.  That’s the ‘turning point’.  It will be worth far more than an additional 2% of the bank stock.”

 

He concluded, “I probably will need a bank loan to handle the development.  And if I get to that point; Uncle Steve will go along with that as it will be business for the bank.”

 

He set up a strategy for the future to just try to stay away from the conversation unless asked.  “Best not to mention it unless I am forced too.”

 

Steve got a cup of coffee and returned to his desk.  As he sat down, Junior’s words seem to bounce off the wall.  “The settlement of the probate will be ‘a great turning point’ for all of us.  Hmm …?”

 

He kept going back and forth with the words in his mind, “What was Junior alluding to when he said ‘a great turning point’ for all of us?  What did he mean?”

 

“Junior obviously meant that he would have the property on the north side of town.  That would give him a new purpose in life as he moved forward,” considered Steve.

 

Sam and Steve were to get a great sum of money.  They, however, had pretty much everything they needed from their earnings and their investments over the years.  The influx of more money might go for further investments, but nothing major to be ‘a great turning point.’

 

As much as Steve might see something implied with what Junior had said, he did not want to think that it was anything.  “Surely Junior meant getting his property and working it for his financial gain,” determined Steve.

 

There were just too many possibilities that could be drawn from the statement.  He was willing for the moment to let it slide.

 

Steve thought, “I guess it is the money power is what comes between families.  We have never been a family where some of us try to out-think or out-do the other.

 

His thoughts continued, “Neither of us wanted anything but happiness for our individual families.  That is the Johnson legacy.”

 

He added, “The success of the bank and what we could accomplish in the neighborhood for the good of Lebanon was just icing on the cake.  It is great to help Lebanon become a thriving community.”

 

Steve’s thoughts continued to cloud his mind, however, “Previously to be thinking and rethinking comments made either on purpose or by chance was the furthest thing from anybody’s mind.  At least I think so.”

 

Steve mulled over the Junior’s words, “Now a simple statement like ‘a great turning point’ is causing me to question his meaning.  I’m sure there will come a day when I understand that comment.””

 

Steve decided that instead of worrying over Junior, he would dwell on what the city was going to do.  He would not be distracted by possible mis-stated words whether appropriate or inappropriate.

 

There were just too many possibilities that could be drawn from his statement.  And then again – maybe nothing was meant.  Steve was willing for the moment to let it slide.

 

Friday morning, Joaquin called from the Extreme Construction Company.  He had his figures ready early if Sam wanted to see them.  He said he could give them to him over lunch.

 

Excited, Sam agreed to meet Him at the Silver Corral Restaurant.  Sam arrived first and got a table leaving word that Joaquin would be coming in.

 

He ordered a scotch and water.  Ordinarily, Sam did not drink at a business meeting but Joaquin was a good friend.  He knew their discussion would be more about the family than the work.

 

Joaquin came bustling in and sat down.  “I’ll have what he is having,” he said to the waiter.  “You been here long?”

 

Sam reaching for the menu, smiling said, “No, I just got here.  First drink of the day.”

 

Joaquin grabbed the menu and asked, “What is great here.  Not just good; I want great.  I’m in the mood for a great steak.”

 

He stated, “I don’t want a sandwich to tie me over till dinner.  My wife is out of town and it is eat now or go hungry.”

 

Joaquin admitted, “I can’t cook so it will be cold cuts for dinner.  When you can’t cook it’s either ‘mic it’ or unwrap it.”

 

Sam had just had their sirloin the week before and felt it would fill the bill.  If Joaquin wanted a big meal, “Go the sirloin.  It comes in different sizes so you can choose whatever does you in.”

 

The waiter returned with Joaquin’s drink.  He asked if they were ready to order.  Joaquin took a big swallow of water before placing his order.

 

He loudly declared his decision to have the sirloin, “Give me the 12 ounce size and make it rare.  I’ll have the baked potato fully loaded and blue cheese on my salad.  What about you Sam?”

 

“I want the grilled pork chop, but only one, not the two.  Two is too much for me to eat.  With that I will have a baked sweet potato and I will have blue cheese on my salad as well,” answered Sam.

 

“Hey Sam, I’m paying, so get 2 pork chops or 3 if you want, you can carry them home if you can’t eat them here,” chided Joaquin.

 

He turned to the waiter, “Give the man 3 pork chops and a take home container.  He will probably need it.”

 

Joaquin turned back to Sam, “You are too skinny man; we got to put some weight on you.”  The waiter took their order and left the table.

 

Sam lifted his drink and presented it as a traditional first drink toast.  They clicked the glasses as he took his first sip.

 

He leaned back and thought, “It is good to get out of the bank for lunch.  Good company always makes it better.  Joaquin was good company and he could work with him no matter what.”

 

Joaquin took his drink after toasting and took a big mouthful.  He let the mixture roll around his mouth for a moment and then swallowed it down.  “Nothing is like good scotch to get your wits flowing.”

 

“Say I have your figures here in my pocket,” Joaquin pulled his quote from his coat pocket and handed it to Sam.  “You might find these numbers a little steep, but your dad always wanted the best and you boys seem hell-bent to be like your dad.”

 

Joaquin explained, “We can give you a complete job in two weeks.  We will work around your lanes to keep the traffic moving.  The flow will not be affected.  You will be pleased as rain.”

 

Sam opened the envelope and looked at the bottom line.  “It seemed reasonable to him with all that he wanted done.  And yes, Dad always wanted the best,” he thought.

 

“You guarantee that you will do as we talked and walked around the bank the other day.  You know what I want?” queered Sam.

 

“Guarantee it to the last little pebble that I will add to the landscaping and the curbs,” Joaquin continued, “I know you will be pleased and you will see an immediate difference in the appearance of the bank when we finish.”

 

Sam said, “OK, I will run this by Steve first thing Monday morning and I should be able to get back to you by mid-morning after our meeting.”

 

Joaquin exclaimed, “Great, now let’s get to some serious eating.  I am starved.  Where is our waiter and our food?”

 

While they waited, Joaquin offered his condolences for the loss of Walter and Dessie, “By the way how is the family?  I know y’all have been through a lot.”

 

“Jeannie and I feel for you in the loss of your dad and mom.  For both to be gone in one accident like that has got to be horrific.  I don’t know if I could stand it under the same circumstances.”

 

Sam – filling with emotion but pushing it aside – said, “Joaquin, you lost your son in that terrible hunting accident.  You probably are one of the few people in this town who knows what it means to lose someone close to you un-expectantly.”

 

Joaquin immediately calmed down as he quickly reflected to the moments of his finding out about his son being gone.  It touched his heart, “Yeah, I know.  And it does not get any easier.  You just learn to accept it and go on living knowing you will never see him or in your case your parents again in this world.”

 

Joaquin changed the conversation to allow for a change of levity, “Look I did not want to bring us to this point.  We have a great meal coming and life is still good with a strong family legacy.”

 

Sam appreciated the relief from the moment and embraced the chatter without emotion as well.  He said, “Well the family is doing just great and we are moving on – thank you.”

 

Changing the subject, Sam asked, “How is your golf game coming?  We are going to have to get a foursome at the country club soon.”

 

Joaquin responded, “Just name the date and I will clear my calendar.  For you ole’ buddy – I’ll do anything to take your money on the course.”

 

Finishing lunch and one more drink each, they both went back to work.  But before leaving, they made plans to get a beer after work at the Sports Grill across from the mall.

 

Monday was another day in banking.  Steve, driving to the bank, always liked the spring season.  Flowers were beginning to bloom: the grass was green; trees were putting on their leaves; and the cherry trees were turning a bright pink color as they were budding for the year.

 

He noticed as he turned into the bank that the street construction crews on the street were already approaching the clean up phase of their work.  Even some of the barricades been removed.

 

If they can get the traffic signal working, everything should be back to normal within the month.  Strange when they first started tearing up pavement and moving dirt, things seem to go by fast, but when you get down to the finish work, the crews disappear and it takes forever to complete. 

 

“Well,” he thought, “I am not going to let this ruin my morning.  Getting the exit lane moved was a great accomplishment and I am glad I caught that.  I could just see all the scrape marks on the cinder block wall from trailers rubbing up against it trying to exit.”

 

Steve went inside after parking.  His usual cup of coffee from Sherry was waiting.  One Sweet & Low and a little Hazelnut creamer and he was set to go.

 

Sam was skipping across the floor coming over for their morning briefing and joined him as he got to his office.  The glint in his eye was showing half way across the bank lobby.

 

Steve could not remember, “Sam skipping?  It had been ages since he had seen his brother engaged in any activity concerning the bank and now skipping across the floor?  Well not really skipping, but there was a certain lift in his gate as he came into the office.”

 

Junior coming across from his office for the briefing noticed as well.  He asked, “What’s up with you, Dad?” 

 

“Good morning all.  Let’s get this party started,” declared Sam.  He looked to Steve for what might be on the agenda for the morning.

 

“First, so y’all are aware, I did get the location of the exit lane changed in the back parking lot.  They had it too close to the wall and anyone that tried to turn out that way especially trucks with trailers were subject to rubbing or tearing down the wall.  It is handled and they have assured me that it will happen.”

 

Steve continued, “Sam, you are going to have to deal with Jennifer.  She is being a little too curt with customers at the teller’s window.  I overheard her the other day and as professional as she was being, it came across a little too bossy for me.”

 

He continued, “We don’t have to explain bank procedures to customers.  Just do what they ask and question only when they are pushing us beyond what is common practice.”

 

Sam interrupted, “Yeah, I have noticed that.  I trained her to follow our guidelines, but she does not have to get clients to follow those employee guidelines.  They are for her benefit and not our folks.  I will bring her in and go over it again.”

 

He said, “She is a real smart little girl and I want to keep her.  She has a great talent for numbers and handling money.  Have you seen her count out dollars when she is cashing a check for somebody?  She can fly through it.”

 

“Other than that,” Steve concluded, “that is all that I have this morning.  Everything seems to be normal and running smoothly.”

 

Junior got up to leave when, Sam said, “Wait a minute, I have something I want your input on.  I was observing the drive-thru area now that I can see it from the window in my new office.”

 

He addressed the lack luster of the drive-thru, “We need some color and freshness that will leave those coming through the drive-thru with a feel good perception as they approach our outside tellers.”

 

He explained, “I would like for us to consider revamping the drive-thru lanes by adding curbs for guidance; the entire outside of the bank with landscaping; flowers that we change out with seasons; remove the speed bumps that offend everyone; new asphalt to go with the new traffic lanes out front; paint direction lanes for traffic; and make that back cinder wall warmer with pastel stripes.”  Sam was out of breath when he finished.

 

Yet excited, he continued, “The whole outside of the bank would look like a garden of flowers.  Women from far and wide will come to see what we have done to our bank.”  Sam hesitated to let them take in what he had just presented.

 

Junior responded first, “Wow, what a list.  That has got to cost a fortune.  Do you have any ideas on how much?”

 

“Yes,” answered Sam, “but I need to know what you think about the idea first.  No need to talk money if we do not want to carry it any further.”

 

Steve was silent as he thought, “What is this with Sam?  That really is a good idea to make the bank seem friendlier and more inclusive in the neighborhood.”

 

He surmised, “It could actually bring in new clients.  Maybe not enough to cover the cost of doing it, but over the long haul; it would pay for itself in ecstatic beauty not only for the bank but the city.”

 

Steve thought, “Sam is really on to something here.  I need to encourage this idea and make sure he gets the credit for it.”

 

Steve began, “Sam, number one, I like the idea.  You know I am a nut when it comes to flowers and their beauty.  To have them encompass the outside of the bank and separating the drive-thru lanes will certainly give people something to look at while they wait their turn in line.”

 

Steve continued, “Yes, I say we pursue this.  You say you have an idea on the expense?”

 

Sam was flabbergasted.  He thought, “Steve likes my idea.  I had forgotten how much Steve liked flowers and now that it was evident, it was a given that he was in for the project.”

 

Sam brought out the quote from the Extreme Construction Co.  “I had Joaquin Reynolds over last week and explained what I had in mind and he gave me these figures last Friday.”

 

He shared, “Pricy, I will not deny, but for a change of scenery; a setting for a new brand for a new friendlier-user bank; a new regime; and we are ready to address the new world.”

 

Sam handed a copy to Steve and Junior.  Junior gasped when he saw the bottom line.

 

Steve understanding what could be accomplished with the change said, “Sounds good to me.  If this is what you want to do, Sam, go for it.  Charge it off to promotion and expansion of services.”

 

Sam replied with excitement, “Will do.  I will call Joaquin this morning and get him started.  He said he could complete it by the time they complete the construction out front.”

 

Continuing, “We might even want to do a bank grand opening ceremony with the mayor and town council.”

 

Steve added, “Let Sherry work with Melissa, your secretary, with the flowers and colors.  She is great at those kinds of things and she can certainly help you in planning a grand opening ceremony.”

 

“You may have to come up with a better name than grand opening since we have been open for years, but we have time for that,” stated Steve.

 

Steve joined Sam in his excitement, “Get with the girls and they will handle those details for you.  Good idea, I am looking forward to watching it develop.  And I certainly like the new introduction idea to the community idea with the new changes.”

 

Sam left the office elated.  He had put through his first idea with Steve in charge and it was coming off better than he had thought.

 

“I got to get back to the office and get this started,” Sam smiled to himself striding gleefully as he went straight way to his office.  He called for Melissa to come in with her note book.

 

Junior left Uncle Steve’s office and went back to his office.  He was stunned to say the least.  In the back of his mind, he had been formulating the possibility for another bank in Lebanon.

 

It was just the beginning of a possible plan.  But he certainly did not need his Dad giving Uncle Steve new ideas for a more friendlier-user bank as competition.

 

Junior had often thought, “What Lebanon needs is a bank that is more up to date with technology.  Computers are the rage and they are here to stay.  You have to embrace the internet and computers.”

 

His concept of banking was more of a professional approach.  He wanted a building that was modern in design.  A single story building with planned growth for more if needed.  He loved huge tinted glass windows.

 

He wanted several conference rooms for corporate clients who did not have conference rooms in their facilities.  A parlor room for business men to come and sit with other business people and solve all the problems of the world.

 

He had envisioned having professional tech-rooms for clients with individual private kiosks who could log on to their accounts and actually manage their accounts while in the bank.  Tech support bank attendants would be available to give them assistance as needed.

 

If it had bells and whistles on it and was part of the new tech world, he wanted it for his new age of banking.  “New Age of Banking – hmm … that would serve as the name for his bank,” he thought.

 

“But now I have to follow this friendly-user ‘warmy-smarmy’ approach to banking here.  It is totally different from what I had thought banking should be.”

 

“Just wait until I get Dad away from this bank and share some of these ideas and see how many flowers he will want to spread around then.  6 months may come sooner than I think,” acknowledged Junior.

 

Two new clients were ushered into Junior’s office by Carolyn, his secretary.  She said they were interested in opening an account and to discuss a business plan they were pursuing.

 

Junior had to put his new age banking ideas on the back burner as he engaged these clients with their ideas.  But in the near future, his dream could come true.

 

One month had passed since the passing of Walter and Dessie.  The street construction and the changes with the drive-thru lanes and the landscaping of the bank were completed.  It was a beautiful sight to behold.

 

All the colors blended nicely with décor of the building; the back wall; and the parking lot.  Steve was getting comments from city leaders, city folk, and tourist passing through who just wanted to stop and take pictures of the flowers.  The city of Lebanon liked what happened at the bank.

 

Grandmothers with a great love for flowers and flower gardens formed a club to coordinate with Sam and the bank on keeping the theme for the flowers current.  They volunteered their services to make it happen.

 

Local news outlets were running stories about the changes and wanted details for the Grand Re-Branding Event as they wanted to send filming crews out to cover the event.

 

Sam came up with the name Re-Branding.  It became the theme for the new grand opening.

 

Everyone was getting excited about the Re-Branding of the bank.  Boy scouts, and girl scouts had inquired about setting up booths for the event.

 

The Chamber of Commerce likewise wanted to be represented along with the City Council.  The ladies club wanted to be there with their flower arrangements.

 

Steve made sure that Sam was the front-man for the bank as it was his idea.  Every time a news person, paper, or TV came into the bank they were ushered into Sam’s office.

 

Steve laughed to himself and could not help but notice, “Sam is having the time of his life.  He is not only getting his 15 minutes of fame, they are giving him all he can stand.”

 

The Senior Citizens Club from the new Walter and Odessa Senior Health and Wellness Center volunteered to serve the food and drinks for the occasion.  Sam made sure they understood that he only finger-sandwiches, pastry, coffee, punch, soft drinks and water.

 

Sam was careful with his set-ups.  He did not want any BBQ sauce items that would wind up on the tables, floors and walls.  He worked toward cleanliness.

 

The day came for the Grand Re-Branding Event and spirits were high at the bank.  Sam was in charge and had requested all employees to arrive one hour early along with all the volunteers and those manning booths to make sure last minute details were covered.  He coordinated with Melissa and Sherry to make it happen.

 

“Sam could really pull off an event when he got into the middle of it,” thought Steve.  The table was set up under the portrait of his Mom and Dad along with the Book of Memories which was now complete.

 

The notes from the President and the state dignitaries that had been shared at the Memorial Service were all on display in frames surrounding the large portrait.  Sam had put up lane guides within the bank to form a line for those who wanted to view the Book of Memories.

 

“As groups of people gather there at the table – I want them to move on.  We have to do something to keep the line moving,” Sam told Sherry.

 

Sherry agreed, “That will probably be the conversation point of this event.  We do need to keep the lane moving for sure with the number of people we expect to attend.”

 

Sam moved over to check the refreshment tables and the food that had been prepared.  “The ladies from the health center had done a beautiful job.  Not only were they serving the food, but they brought everything necessary to accent the tables.”

 

Matching paper cups and plates were color coordinated.  They had specially printed napkins for the tables relating to the Re-Branding Event.  “The women had done themselves proud,” he thought.

 

Each table had a large flower arrangement with the colors and flower selections to match those that had been planted for the spring season outside.  “It is absolutely beautiful,” Sam told the head of the group of senior citizens that were gathering early to help with the serving.

 

The thought of the dollars Sam saved with the ladies was but a fleeting moment for him.  He made his way to the front of the bank to open the doors to let the gathering crowd enter that had arrived early.

 

“No need to keep them outside as we will have big crowds all day.  The quicker we can get them in and out the more room for others,” He shouted to the waiting crews inside.

 

He shouted, “I’m opening the doors!”  There was a loud applause from those inside and they readied themselves for the masses to enter.  Sam knew that parking would be a problem as the bank could only accommodate so many cars.

 

He arranged with the General Manager Store across the street to use their parking area.  They were glad to oblige. 

 

But he concluded, “I do not want the evening news to cover an accident involving people crossing the street to get to the bank.  I got to protect them making the crossing.”

 

Sam got Pace & Pace Funeral Service – since they did not have any scheduled activities for the day – to being their carts to transport people across the street.  They even furnished their funeral staff to drive the carts for the day.

 

He smiled to himself, “Of course they would have their logos on all the carts.  He gave them a table to place some of their brochures.  And they staffed their table during the event.”

 

To make sure the carts came across safely, he arranged for a local police officer to direct traffic much like a crossing guard for the school.  Little was left undone.  He even had EMTs from the Fire Department on hand should something unforeseen happens.

 

In addition to the EMTs, an Ambulance was also standing by.  The Fire Department brought out their new ladder truck and parked it alongside the Ambulance in the General Manager Store parking lot.  They wanted to show off their new equipment.

 

Sam laughed with Melissa, “The only thing I did not do was have a bounce house for the kids.  But that, he clearly stated, “Is because I did not want a bounce house.  Getting a kid hurt for whatever reason and you have the number one story on the evening news.”

 

Steve and Junior stood by to greet the folks as they came in.  They came in periodic waves almost as if they had gathered somewhere and selected lotto numbers for coming.  But that made it easy for Steve and Junior to cover everyone coming in.

 

“I just love the new layout,” exclaimed Tom Jacobs, the Mayor as he walked in.  “I have talked to the City Council about beautifying the city a little more and asking other businesses to follow your lead.  We could make Lebanon the Flower City of the State.”

 

At first Steve had a tinge of jealousy about the city wanting to copy their ideas.  But he thought about it, he was ecstatic the Mayor wanted to do it for the city.  He considered, “It would bring a comparison from city hall to the bank.”

 

 He thought, “Maybe the city council and Mayor could get the city to go along, but getting businesses to do it might be a big haul.  This is no small undertaking to do and it is expensive.”

 

“We wanted to say thank you to the citizens of our town for all they did at Mom and Dad’s Memorial Service.  And the bank did need a makeover,” concluded Steve.

 

Steve gave the accolades to Sam, “Sam did an excellent job with the planning and setting up the event as well.  He is quite the planner when it comes to getting things done right.”

 

“If you do want to pursue either the city or businesses, have them contact Sam for his input,” continued Steve, “It will be well worth their time and effort.”

 

Tom replied, “I will do that Steve.  Oh there is Mrs. Sutton.  Her husband helped me with my last campaign and I must speak with her.  Please excuse me.”

 

“Do what you gotta do Mayor,” Steve laughed out loud.  He knew that politicians will be politicians.

 

Junior in the meantime was taking all this in.  “The bank is getting a lot of publicity today,” he thought, “and that will translate into business.  I knew I needed to get Dad to tone this down a bit.  Look at him.  He is like a spring chicken out there shaking hands, and talking to the media.”

 

Junior had mixed emotions.  He was proud for his Dad but this would hurt a new banking venture.  “All this will go against a new bank – even the New Age Banking of Lebanon that I have applied for through the state.”

 

Junior had filed his paper work with the state.  The state had said that a new bank approval would take several months – the 6 months Junior knew he had.  The die was cast.

 

“Not to mention where he would get the money to put it into service.  Well the paper work was just the first step, the land was the second, and the money – well that would have to take a back seat until step one and two was decided,” he calculated.

 

Little did Junior know but his Dad was beginning to have second thoughts about his life in banking.  Junior knew they both had set a time limit of 6 months to consider their next move, but it looked to Junior like his Dad was moving to stay with Uncle Steve for the duration.

 

“That would mean that whatever I decide to do, I will have to do on my own,” pondered Junior.  “And as much as I want to have my own bank, it is going to be even that much more difficult if Dad stays here with Uncle Steve – almost impossible.”

 

He calculated, “You can’t have two family members – brothers – heading up one bank and a son trying to start another.  Just will not work.”

 

He figured, “I am going to have to spill the beans with Dad and tell him what I want to do.  If he tells me he is staying with Uncle Steve then I have got to look take a second look for another location in another town.”

 

“At least that way, it would be viewed as a possible branch of this bank instead of a stand-alone bank,” Junior contemplated.  “Might even be better to go elsewhere.”

 

 “People would know though it is not related, but always in the back of their mind, they would see it connected in the event I needed help.  Yep, this week, Dad will get the news and I will see where we go from here,” contemplated Junior.

 

Junior moved over to the table with the finger sandwiches and selected two after one of the ladies told him she had made them.  She said he just had to try them.  Junior thanked her, took a bite and declared, “Hey, this is great – the devil’s ham sets it off.”

 

“Devil’s ham?” she raised voice quizzically.  “I do not use deviled ham.”

 

Junior’s arm was grabbed by one of the girl scouts.  She told him he had to come over to their table.

 

He was relieved and moved away quickly but out of the corner of his eye he heard the lady telling one of her friends that I had said her sandwich tasted like devil’s ham.

 

He could overhear her saying again, “I do not make deviled ham sandwiches.  What did he mean?”

 

He decided in the future, he would just say about whatever he was offered that it was great period and not go into any detail.  “You don’t win friends and influence enemies like that,” Junior was relieved to be called away.

 

“Now what do you have on your mind,” asked Junior, “that you want me to see?”  He was glad he was pulled away by the girl scout.

 

In the back of his mind, he was going to set up a time with his Dad for the weekend that he could tell him everything and see what he thought about it.  At least he would know whether to pursue anything in Lebanon or somewhere else.

 

“Of course,” he remembered, “I have a perfect spot for a bank here that I will own in a few days.  Anywhere else, I would have to research, find, buy, and develop the land.  I will get Dad’s ideas this week end.”

 

The Grand Re-Branding Event for the bank went off without a hitch.  Several hundred people came in and visited the bank.  They went about outside taking pictures of the flowers.

 

Inside, they viewed the Book of Memories for Walter and Odessa Johnson.  Sam also had the event video recorded to be added to the history of the bank.

 

The news photographer took 1000s of pictures of those in attendance and the outside of the bank for publication.  He assured Sam that he would see that he would get copies and that they would be marked as to who was in the picture.

 

At the thought of all that was going on with the bank, Sam decided that he would have Melissa began to compile a history for the bank.  It could be added to the table under the portrait of his Mom and Dad.

 

She could go to the home place and get all the pictures she could find there.  Adding to them the pictures she could get from the newspaper that they had on file; would make a great historical piece on the bank.

 

She could even ask the general public if they had pictures they could share with us.  The bank could make copies and return them to the rightful owner. 

 

He made a note to himself on a recording device that he carried with him everywhere, “Have a meeting with Melissa the first thing in the morning to set a historical project for the bank.  This Grand Re-Branding Event has got to be recorded in the annals of the bank history.”

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