Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fun Facts About Frances

1. Frances was the valedictorian at Batesville (MS) High School in 1935. This became a family tradition as both her daughter, Virginia, and son, Michael, were valedictorians at Tarpon Springs High School (FL) and her granddaughter, Jessica, was the valedictorian of her junior high, Thomas Junior High School (IL).

2. In 1933, Frances canned the most green beans in the State of Mississippi 4-H Contest and won a trip to the Chicago World's Fair, where she met and had breakfast with Amelia Earhart. Miss Earhart also presented Frances with an inscribed Elgin Platinum Watch.

3. Frances won a full 4-year scholarship to Bellhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. Unfortunately, she was unable to attend college, but this did not dimish her lifelong love of learning.

4. In her late-60s, Frances took up piano lessons.

5. In her late-70s or early 80s, despite having never learned to swim (even though she'd lived steps from the Gulf of Mexico for 40 years), Frances participated in a water aerobics class at the local health club. It was during this class that she finally learned to float.

6. After her husband Jesse died in 1961, Frances was left to raise her two children, Virginia and Michael alone. A mere 8 years later, after saving all of her money, Frances built her own home, a beautiful one-story cottage with 3 bedrooms - all custom built to her exact specifications.

7. A lifelong Christian, Frances was a founding member of Crystal Beach Community Church. She also served as Secretary, Treasurer, and taught Sunday School. When her husband Jesse died suddenly in 1961, her devotion to CBCC and God led her to donate all the money received by the family to start a Pew Fund so that the members of CBCC no longer had to sit on wooden folding Army chairs. Within 6 months of Frances' donation, enough money had been raised to buy pews for the entire church and two choir lofts.

8. A beautiful and talented seamstress, Frances designed and made all of her own clothes plus the clothes for her daughter Virginia until Virginia went off to college. Frances also made clothes for Jessica and all of Jessica's dolls.

9. Just before her 80th birthday and retirement from NationsBank in 1996, Frances enrolled in a water exercise class, despite not even knowing how to tread water or float, much less swim. The class was held in the shallow end of a pool and during the course of the class, she decided she wanted to learn to float and tread water. I'll never forget her beaming with pride at showing me on her 80th birthday that she'd learn to float and tread water. Whenever I catch myself thinking I can't do something because "I'm too old" (I'm in my late 30s), I remember Nana overcoming this obstacle at 80 years old.

1980 Woman of the Year

American Business Women's Association
Tarpon Springs Charter Chapter
Names Its Woman of the Year for 1980
Frances S. Paulk

Mr. A.L. Ellis hired me twenty-four years ago to open and manage an Exchange Teller position. I have full responsibility of all corresponding bank drafts, including the sale and report of all Cashier's Checks, sale and report of all Government EE & HH Bonds, all travelers cheques sold and also refund and make report of lost travelers cheques. I issue all foreign drafts in the county's exchange rate currency, order all foreign currency for customers. Handle all incoming and outgoing collections. Remit and make reports for all Federal Deposity receipts. Send funds to foreign countries when customers need immediate cash. Handle and report all insufficient items and all stop payments.

I am Assistant Vice Presiden in the bank, receiving this recognition after serving as Assistant Cashier for fifteen years. My position does not warrant direct supervision of other employees only in a general way, to help when the time arises.

In my heart, my greatest responsibility, (and also a joy), was watching the accomplishments my children made, having reaared them from an early age, as their father died suddenly, and seeing them receive their degrees from college with honors, and I am sure they make a contribution to life in their own way.

Member of Crystal Beach Community Church having served as Financial Secretary and a Sunday School teacher for fifteen years. Member of the Community Club. Each year I respond to the calls collecting for Heart Association, Arthritis Foundation, Lukemia Society and others that arise. Member of the Tarpon Springs Hospital Auxiliary. Member of the National ASsociation of Bank Women, Inc., having served as TReasurer of the Gulf Coast Group N.A.B.W. Nominated for listing in Who's Who of American Women. Was the first recipient of the Courtesy Award given by the Greater Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Friday, February 15, 2008

After Long Time on Job, Banker Ready to Retire

The following article originally ran on July 17, 1996, the day before my Nana retired on her 80th birthday. She had a wonderful 40 career in banking. Thanks to my mom, Virginia, for making sure this article was written.


After long time on job, banker ready to retire
by Julia Campbell, St. Petersburg Times, July 17, 1996

Frances S. Paulk said she still remembers the day her father threw a pebble in a lake and the two of them watched the concentric circles slowly disappear.

"Do something in life that will leave ripples for a while," Paulk said her father told her.

It was a life lesson she said she has never forgotten. And as she retires Friday as a bank officer at NationsBank in Tarpon Springs at the age of 80, Paulk says she hopes she is leaving some ripples behind.

"I worked real hard," said Paulk, whose 80th birthday is Thursday. "It's been a real challenge and very interesting."

Paulk came to work at Ellis First National Bank in Tarpon Springs, as it was called then, in 1957. She said she got the job by walking into the office of the then-bank president, A. L. Ellis, and asking for work.

"He hired me that day," Paulk said. She started the next morning and Ellis, who was one of the richest men in America at the time of his death last fall, handed her a key to the bank.

Over the next four decades, Paulk learned all facets of the banking business under Ellis' tutelage, rising from an assistant cashier handling foreign exchanges to a vice president.

Paulk learned her trade on the job. Paulk said she took some business courses as a young woman, but she had no formal education or training in banking.

In an interview, Paulk was quick to point out her Southern accent, a drawl cultivated as a girl on her family's 300-acre farm in Batesville, Miss.

Paulk was born to cotton farmers Robert and Lillie Scruggs. The upbringing of Paulk and her three sisters was steeped in Sunday church services, Bible verses and storytelling around the fireplace in the family's modest home.

Her parents, like most people at the time, struggled to make ends meet during the Depression. But Paulk said she had a good life, and "my momma and daddy taught me, `Don't be afraid of a challenge.' "

During high school she earned a reputation as a quick and skillful canner. Paulk's canned green beans won her a trip with the state 4-H Club to the 1932 World's Fair, where the pilot Amelia Earhart presented her with a platinum watch that still runs today.

The valedictorian of her Batesville High School class in 1934, Paulk won a four-year scholarship to Belhaven College in Jackson, Miss. But she had to leave college after one semester when her mother became ill.

During World War II, Paulk was a supervisor on the War Price and Ration Board and worked at a German prisoner of war camp in nearby Sardis, Miss.

In 1956, married and with two children in tow, Paulk moved to Crystal Beach. After she went to work at the bank, she quickly won the attention of Ellis, a shrewd businessman who was already developing his banking empire. In 1992, Forbes magazine included Ellis on its list of the 400 richest people in America.

"You would never know he was a rich man," Paulk said. "He acted just like an ordinary person. He was just another human being, no better than I was."

Paulk said Ellis was meticulous about how he spent his money. She said it was not uncommon for him to pick up a paper clip or rubber band from the floor so as not to waste it. "He knew how to make it and he knew how to keep it," she said.

Paulk said she stayed at the bank beyond the typical retirement age because she enjoys her customers and the challenges of the job. For instance, she recently learned a new computer system even though she knew she wouldn't be using it much longer.

She looks for challenges outside of work, too. Not long ago she took up a childhood dream of playing the piano. She recently had her first recital with other students - all children.

As her retirement approaches, Paulk said she is sad, but also excited about the possibilities. She is looking forward to traveling, especially to catch up with the lives of her children, Virginia Gardner, 47, of Chicago and Michael E. Paulk, 44, of Schenectady, N.Y. and four grandchildren.

"I have enjoyed my days," Paulk said. "This has been my cup of tea."