By Helena Rodriguez: PNT Staff Writer
When James (Jim) Polk Stone came to Portales in 1885, before New Mexico was a state, all he had was a fifth-grade education, the shirt on his back and the horse between his legs, according to family.
Nevertheless, he went on to establish the Bank of Portales in 1902, the first such institution in Roosevelt County. He later changed the name to Citizens National Bank and merged into The First National Bank of Portales. He also founded the Portales Bank and Trust, which was located at the present-day Tower Theater site, and established the First National Bank of Elida on Aug. 30, 1906, the bank that later became Portales National Bank.
The century-old bank, whose colorful history includes only one armed robbery in 1928, and a bomb scare in the 1980s, will celebrate its 100th birthday from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday with a full day of activities that will include live musical entertainment, a car show, jumps and slides for the kids, free hot dogs and sodas, and cash giveaways at the bank’s main branch at 109 E. Second St.
Portales National Bank — a financial institution whose billboards welcome people into Portales, a town of 12,000 friendly people and two or three old grouches — started with $250,000 in assets in 1906. Today boasts more than $125 million and has branches in Clovis and Roswell, with plans to go into even more towns, according to bank officials.
“We have more employees per every million dollars in deposits than any other bank in New Mexico,” said Portales National Bank President David Stone. “That has been our secret to success. We are into the people service business.”
According to Stone, Portales National Bank is the oldest family-owned bank in New Mexico, having spanned across four generations. It is also one of the 10 oldest family-owned banks in the Southwest and is one of the 50 oldest family-owned banks in the entire United States.
With three branches in Portales, two in Roswell (Roswell National Bank) and one in Clovis (Clovis National Bank), and others planned in Hagerman and Hobbs, Portales National Bank will officially change its name on Saturday to one that is more inclusive of its growing number of branches. While these branches will all keep their names, they will fall under the new umbrella name, the James Polk Stone National Bank, named after its founder.
Soon-to-be James Polk Stone National, the bank has 5,000 account holders and 90 employees, according to Stone.
“When I think about what this bank means, I think a good bank is one that serves its community, it helps them to save money and has money available to them when they need it,” Stone said. “We invest in our customers’ dreams. When that happens, the town also grows.”
Dannah Brown, the PNB assistant vice-president, is the employee with the longest tenure at the bank. She began at Portales National four decades ago, in 1966, at the age of 17.
Over the past four decades, Brown has seen the small family-owned bank grow in its number of branches and change with the times.
“We have gone from manually posting things on accounts in an old ledger machine, poking in numbers all night and hand-sorting checks, now to posting everything on computers,” Brown said. “It is easier.”
Brown said the bank is a family-owned bank in all aspects, even in the sense of the community being a large part of the bank’s family. She gave an example. “Linda Davis is now the vice-president. When I was a drive-up teller, I used to give her bubblegum at the window.”
In 1935, Doug Stone, a bank shareholder who owned 48 percent of the bank stock with his sister, stopped at the First National Bank of Elida. He visited then bank president, J.S. Click, to see how the bank was doing. At the time, Doug was working at a bank in California. Click offered him a job and he soon moved to Elida with his new bride. Doug soon discovered, though, that the village of Elida had passed its boom and that the growth potential was in the neighboring town of Portales. So the bank moved to Portales and thus became Portales National Bank.
Over the years, the bank has had five presidents: James P. Stone, from 1906-1913; A.A. Beeman, from 1913-1929; J.S. Click, from 1929-1959; Douglas B. Stone, from 1959-1981 and David L. Stone, from 1981 to the present.
According to a historical report of the bank, in 1928, some armed bandits robbed the bank, which was still in Elida at the time. The bandits ran out of gas near Arch and hitchhiked to Amarillo where they were caught at a hotel, thanks to a maid who turned them in.
Stone also recalled an incident in the early 1980s when former employee Frankye King thwarted a man bent on robbery, who came into the bank’s southside branch on 18th Street and said he had a bomb.
“Frankye King looked at him, told him to get his stuff and leave, and he did,” Stone said.