In his debut memoir, Harris offers an insider’s look at the long-gone era of small-town banking while chronicling the shift to a less personal, more complex way of doing business.
After launching his career with an entry-level position in a Colorado bank in the early 1960s, Harris soon moved on to become a National Bank Examiner. By his mid-20s, he was running his own bank in Greybull, Wyo. But the good times didn’t last. Harris sold the bank in the early 1980s and bounced from job to job, including owning a furniture store and serving as chief operating officer of a bank in Duluth, Minn., before finally landing in the small-business lending division of Bank of America. Harris is enthusiastic about his work, but it’s clear he’s disenchanted by the changes in the banking world. Anyone with an interest in banking will appreciate his observations on the minutiae of lending and borrowing, and many of his stories earn a chuckle, such as a practical joke involving two friends and a fake marriage. In fact, he manages to recall the names and key characteristics of seemingly everyone he’s done business with over the years; either he has a remarkable memory or he kept voluminous diaries. Yet there’s not a lot of personality on display. Harris is a diligent worker and a dedicated family man, but he rarely shares his feelings. After his first wife dies of cancer, he describes an annoying phone call from the IRS the next day but doesn’t share how her death affected him on a personal level. He’s fired from two jobs, but other than some comments about feeling “betrayed” and “devastated,” the deeper effects those events had on him are left to the imagination. Still, Harris is a keen observer of human nature, and as a chronicle of small-town life and business, the book can be charming. In an era when many people bank with a huge corporation rather than a local institution, he reminds us that the new ways aren’t always better than the old.
A thoughtful look at a vanishing corner of the banking industry.