Monday, August 11, 2008

Ode to Banks

The buildings, anyway.

I think that I shall never see
A grocery-store ATM as lovely as mason-ry.

In todays Times, Mark Kendall writes of Los Angeles' "rock-solid banks. . . The ones sheathed in enough granite to survive a missile strike." He talks of the Farmers and Merchants Bank downtown (pictured) and old Home Savings (now WaMus), as opposed to the new style of storefront lender "largely indistiguishable from the smoothie shops."

Kendall offers an anecdote about Millard Sheets, the artist who designed those glittering mosaics that ornamented many Home Savings Banks. The artwork combined with the solidity of the big building drew people in and reassured them, according to Sheets, so much so that the new business generated quickly paid for the expensive building.

I wonder. While I love the old buildings, I have to admit that my choice of bank is driven largely by its ease of access, smoothie-selling neighbor notwithstanding. I'm very glad that many solid old banks have been spared the wrecking ball by housing new banks or other businesses, but customers need to park. We like smoothies, too.

My Dad used to open new accounts whenever banks offered him a gift. He had a whole drawerful of collapsible umbrellas. In this day of FDIC assurances, does the solid appearance of a bank move us at all?

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