By Doug Whiteman, Associated Press
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — An Ohio woman who just turned 100 years old has taken customer loyalty to the extreme: She's still using a bank savings account that's been around almost as long as she has, since the year before World War I.
June Gregg recently mentioned to a friend that her account is the same one her father opened for her in January 1913, when she wasn't even a year-and-a-half old. The friend told the people at Gregg's small-town bank in southern Ohio.
"That perked my ears up, because I was like, '1913?!'" said Doug Shoemaker, general manager of what's now a Huntington National Bank branch this community, 45 miles south of Columbus. The bank's investigation found out that not only was it the same account, but also that the account number changed only once, when Columbus-based Huntington acquired the plainly named Savings Bank in the early 1980s, Shoemaker said.
Gregg still has the little blue passbook from when the account was opened with an initial deposit of $6.11. Her father, Gilbert, a farmer who grew corn, wheat and hay, was a Savings Bank customer and wanted his only daughter to learn thrift.
"That's what he always taught us: to stay out of debt and save our money and not buy anything until we had the money to pay for it," Gregg said.
With the help of the account, Gregg is comfortable in retirement even after so many years, Shoemaker said.
"I get along good because I don't have many wants," said Gregg, who never married and has no children.
The compact, white-haired woman who tends to speak with a chuckle in her voice retired in 1976 after working for the post office for more than a quarter century. Earlier, she operated a general store, using the savings account for the business. Gregg opened the store in 1932, three years after she graduated from high school and received as gifts a $2.50 gold piece and a $5 gold piece, which went into the account.
"I wish I hadn't put those in," she said, aware of gold's value. "It was during the Depression, and my dad told me to put them in the bank."
Gregg said she never considered taking her savings elsewhere because she liked the bank, across the street from the Ross County Courthouse. Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com, said it used to be far more common for customers and families to develop long-term attachments to banks, but that was before all of today's shopping around and bank name changes.
"It seems less prevalent today because we're seeing such consolidation and so many changes in banking, and incentives for consumers to move," he said.
Though she has a checking account to pay bills, Gregg said she uses the savings account for "personal dealings" and still goes to the bank regularly, though she lives in Bainbridge, 17 miles away.
"I had to give up driving two years ago, so now I just have to go when I get a chance. I try to go once a month if I can," she said. Gregg now relies on friends to get around and walks with a cane.
The bank toasted Gregg on her 100th birthday Thursday with a party complete with balloons and a cake with large candles of the numerals "1-0-0." Bank employees sang "Happy Birthday."
June Gregg, right, of Bainbridge, Ohio, blows out the candles to celebrate
her 100th birthday at the bank June 2, 2011. Paul Vernon/AP
"Certainly I think June takes the cake" for loyalty, Shoemaker said, while noting that there are other customers who've stayed with the bank for 30 or 40 years, sometimes more.
As a gift, the bank will bump up Gregg's interest rate for the next 100 days to around 5%, about 5 times the average going rate, Shoemaker said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press