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Willard Snyder retires after 50-plus years with the New Tripoli Bank

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Willard Snyder sits at a desk that was original furniture with New Tripoli Bank. It still has the nameplate for William Betz. The desk is now in the museum.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Willard Snyder sits at a desk that was original furniture with New Tripoli Bank. It still has the nameplate for William Betz. The desk is now in the museum.
Published January 29. 2011 09:00AM

After 50-1/2 years of working at New Tripoli Bank Willard Snyder decided it is time to retire.

He intends to do some traveling - a few countries in Europe but mostly in this country, and put more time into working with the Lynn-Heidelberg Historical Society. There are six great-granddaughters who claim their share of his time.

He grew up on a farm near Normal Square and graduated from Lehighton High School. He was active in 4-H projects including baby beef, dairy and poultry. At a Penn State summer school the Carbon County poultry judging team placed first.

In 1953 he went on to Bloomsburg State Teachers' College, paying his way by painting houses including that of his future father-in-law. When he came home on weekends he would take milk, eggs and potatoes back to school and practically live on them.

He married his high school sweetheart, Lucille George of Palmerton, and began teaching business classes at Northwestern Lehigh High School.

He talked to Bill Betz while selling basketball tickets at the school. Betz asked him about his job and he said he was looking for work in accounting. He intended to get his CPA certification.

Betz said he wanted to talk to him about a job in the New Tripoli Bank. He joined the bank in June 1960. At the time there were six employees, six bank directors and $6 million in assets.

The original desk was given to Betz when he retired. His daughter returned it to the bank and it is now in the Lynn-Heidelberg Museum which is in the old bank.

In 1968 the bank moved diagonally across Madison Street. The ledgers, cash, safety deposit boxes and notes were carried to the new bank with volunteer citizens standing by with shotguns.

The bank went from one teller drawer and one coin dispenser to six teller drawers and a proof machine.

"Those first weeks were a mess," said Snyder

When Betz had a heart attack, Snyder ran the bank for the next eight weeks because no one was allowed to talk business with Betz.

Betz was the first man to have the title of president of the bank.

One of Snyderss favorite stories during his banking days is about a customer who drove to his house at 4:30 in the morning. Lucille answered the door and said it was a customer who wanted to talk to Snyder.

Willard talked to the man who was a dairy farmer on rented land. A farm was coming up for auction later in the day and he wanted to know if he could get the money to buy the farm.

Lucille said he came so early because he had to do the milking before the auction.

He said the top amount he planned to bid was $85,000, and Willard said the bank would finance it. There were no disclosures, no paperwork.

"Many customers would come to our house. Lucille accepted many payments. We took it to the bank the next day," said Snyder.

Another story involves a customer who came into the bank one day in the late '70s. He said he had a $7.2 million check that he'd like the bank to clear and keep what the bank could use in deposits. At this time the bank had a total of $7.8 million in capital.

Carl Faust wanted a loan for his contracting business. He had tried several banks and was turned down, but New Tripoli gave him the money and he remained a loyal customer.

"We get so many people who want to see what the old bank looked like," said Snyder.

Dorothy Boyer, a former employee, now 90 years old, came to a recent museum open house and said it was good to walk through the old building.

"Being a community banker was certainly something. I enjoyed it," said Snyder. "I tell young people you're part of the church, part of the fire company. Helping people buy cars or homes it's just a pleasure. I certainly have enjoyed the 50-1/2 years. There are so many good memories."

There were 17 banks in the Lehigh Valley in 1960. Now only two remain - New Tripoli and Neffs.

Snyder said he was reluctant to open the branch of New Tripoli in Claussville - a suggestion by David Hunsicker - but found it was a good move. Snyder said he worked with Hunsicker for 38 years and he continues to run the bank like Snyder thinks it should be done.

He said interest rates now are the same as they were in 1960.

"If anyone can do it, community banks can," Snyder said. "They give loans to people who are trustworthy and did not get into the things the big banks did. There were only a small number of community banks that failed.

"The fault started with the federal government saying everyone should have a home, but not everyone can. We should not have bailed out any banks or agencies. Let the chips fall where they may."

The last few years he served as chairman of the board and president and CEO of the holding company, positions now held by Hunsicker. Sally Snyder Smith and Deborah Krause Hunsicker are the only remaining descendants of founding board members on the board.

With work behind him, Snyders are planning a winter vacation.

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