National Bank Holiday

Nationwide Bank Holiday

March 7, 1966

Written by Charles Collett

Submitted by: Robert Kingrey

Bet you don’t remember this date 33 years ago this morning. Our newspaper office sold out of newspapers before 7 a.m. and the pressman was called back to print more. The headline read “FDR Orders National Bank Holiday“. All banks in the country were ordered closed until Congress could act to protect the gold reserve and slow down mortgage foreclosures on farms caused by the greatest money panic of all time.

The executive order by the president was issued after the banks had closed for business on March 6. The news was first heard in Ironton on radio after 6 p.m. The phone at the news office rang like an alarm clock that refused to run down. Citizens wanted more information, and so did we. Ironton bank presidents refused to answer their telephones at home so did the cashiers. We met our friend the late John D. Hayes, teller at the First National at the Elks Home. “I can’t tell you anything,” said John, but “I’m out of a job”. Our best bet to get local news was to ask Gorden Lemon, manager of the Western Union. “I can’t tell you, but we delivered telegrams” was his reply.

President Roosevelt had been office two days. He was inaugurated March 4. The Wall Street sock market crash occurred October 31, 1929, but its most serious blow hit Ironton October 21, 1931 when the Iron City Savings and Loan failed to open for business.

Today’s readers under 30 know little about the depression which the old-timers often talk bout. A story about that great depression isn’t a happy thought. All of a sudden you realize you were depositing 5 or 10 dollars a week in the building and loan thinking that someday you would own a home and then be old that you couldn’t withdraw any part of that money without a 30 day notice and the reason for withdrawal had to be a good and urgent enough for approval by the board, sounds like what could happen if the Communists take over.

In 1929 before the bad news reached Ironton about the Wall Street crash hundreds of citizens were saving money to own a home some day in one or more of ten associations. Only three of the ten names remain today, but the difference is that the federal government now guarantees it can’t happen again. The ten associations were the

  1. Crescent

  2. Etna

  3. Excelsior

  4. Farmer’s

  5. Mechanics Home

  6. Iron City

  7. Lawrence

  8. Liberty

  9. South Side

  10. Star

In addition to the ten building and loans and banks, the wealth of the city in 1933 could be estimated by four exclusive jewelry stores selling diamonds, Bixby; established 1854; Hugger in 1881; Henry in 1880 and Barnett in 1890. Automobile dealers numbered 14 but not one at that time had advertised no down payment and 36 months to pay. Nobody had heard of the City Loan or the Ironton Credit Bureau. At that time the city had just adopted a new form of city government.

L.G. Howell was city manager that met the army of unemployed men who gathered at Beechwood Park and marched on City Hall to ask for welfare help. The men marching behind the American Flag with Jack Steed as spokesman was the first such demonstration in city history. That was the depression in our town 33 years ago.