Volume 124, Number 31
After 50 years on the job in the same building, she’s retired
BY RICHARD PETERSON
For the first time in more than 50 years, you won’t find Mary Syverson behind the teller’s counter at the bank in Esmond. After becoming something of an institution at the bank, she retired in July after 50 years and two months of employment there.
A 1955 graduate of Esmond High School, Mary attended Interstate Business College in Fargo for six months and then came home to a farm southeast of Esmond. Dorothy Lou Bengson was working at the bank and she got married and left, so there was a job opening and Mary took it in May of 1957. She worked there until July of 2007.
For 50 years she was on the job Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 to 3 p.m. Her retirement is another indication that change is the normal order of things. The bank is now open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (open during the noon hour).
Working at the Esmond bank now are Karin Hill and Pat Shaffer, both of Maddock. They also work part-time at the Ramsey Bank in Maddock.
In recent years the Esmond bank was a station of the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Sheyenne and later the Farmers State Bank of Maddock. When the Maddock bank was closed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 1987 it was bought by the Ramsey National Bank & Trust Co. of Devils Lake, which still operates both the Maddock and Esmond stations.
Stepping into the Ramsey Bank at Esmond is like stepping into a time warp. The antique tellers’ counters are dark brown. Heavy antique captains’ chairs are available for customers to sit in while waiting their turns at the teller windows. Most of the desks and furnishings are antique with the same dark brown color. An art deco clock with neon lights decorating it graces one wall. The local advertisements which used to periodically flip on cards in the clock have been removed. The only concessions to modern present-day activities are a lowered ceiling and a surveillance camera that seems especially out of place.
On the walls are oil paintings by locals Helen Tollerud, Arlene Hoffner and the late Ardys Jaeger. The walls are white today, but when Lyle Fering was president of the bank the walls were painted green because banker Fering liked the color green. "We called the color of those walls ‘Lyle Fering Green,’ " Mary chuckles.
It’s a comfortable little building that hasn’t changed much in all the years Mary has been there. It has character. So does she.
When she came to work at the bank Fering was president. He went on to a banking job at Crookston, Minn. and then moved to Devils Lake to become the first president of Western State Bank. When Fering left, Esmond native Baldwin Reierson became manager of the bank. He also did tax work and sold insurance. Minnewaukan native Marvin Malmedal was the manager until the FDIC closed the bank. After that, Mary became the manager.
She remembers the day the bank closed. An FDIC man came to the bank, showed her his credentials, took her key and locked the door. "Nobody told me anything about it. Later that day the Ramsey Bank hired me and I opened the bank the next morning."
The bank was entered by burglars on three occasions. In 1961 the bank was entered through a basement entrance and a hole was carved in the vault large enough to admit an adult. When Mary opened the doors at 9 a.m. she found the 58 safety deposit boxes ransacked. Deeds, insurance policies, bonds and other important papers littered the floor.
In the second break-in the burglars got into the vault, but not into the boxes. In the third break-in the burglars got into the building, but not into the vault. As far as Mary knows none of the burglars were ever caught. There isn’t a great deal of commercial activity left in Esmond. There’s the bank, a cafe, a bar, the locker plant, the elevator, a fertilizer plant, funeral home, Farmers Union station and the post office. That’s about it.
Esmond isn’t the bustling town it used to be when the nearby countryside was populated by farmers with large families. Mary remembers well what Saturday nights were like in Esmond. "Allen Brown (Esmond’s policeman) used to stand on the corner and watch the young people drive around the block again and again," she said. The people who lived in town often drove their cars uptown on Saturday afternoon so they’d have a place to sit and watch the people walking and visiting up and down the street. Parking was at a premium. The cafes and bars were full of customers.
Speaking of bars, Mary had a view of Esmond’s Corner Bar from the bank’s main floor. One day she looked out the window and saw a local man stagger out of the bar and fall into a drunken stupor on the sidewalk. Other people doing their business uptown just walked around him. Eventually Lambert Leier, the owner of the bar, came out, picked up the man and took him home. "A short time later, he was back uptown," Mary laughed.
"Esmond isn’t like it used to be," she says wistfully. In the banking business there’s direct deposit and people don’t even have to come to the bank to transact their business. Some even do their banking on the computer. "I don’t like computers," she volunteered. That’s an attitude that fit well in this comfortable little bank building the past 50 years.
Ramsey Bank threw a retirement party for Mary on July 31 at the Esmond Eagles Alumni Center. "The place was packed," Mary said. Farmers were harvesting and one came to the party in his dirty clothes after just getting off the swather. "I wasn’t going to miss this," he said to Mary. "That’s just great!" she replied. Mary knows how it is with farmers during harvest because she grew up on a farm southeast of Esmond. She now lives in Esmond, but she goes to the farm nearly every day. Her parents, Orris and Ann Syverson, lived there many years and both have passed away. "I just go out there," she says. "I don’t do anything there. I just go out there."
There hasn’t been any retirement traveling for Mary. "I’m not much for traveling," she explains. Well, Mary, what do you do to pass the time? "I guess I spend a lot of time mowing," she says. "Retirement isn’t very exciting, but nobody promised me it would be," she laughed.
Another question: Why are there two Mary Syversons in the phone book?
"Because I have a phone at the farm and a phone in town," she replies.
You can try ringing both numbers, but you probably won’t get a reply. She’ll be out mowing.
Portions of this article were reprinted from a story which appeared in this newspaper on Dec. 1, 2004.
Mary Syverson of Esmond, foreground, is on the customer side of the counter for a change at the Ramsey Bank in Esmond. Waiting on her is Karin Hill, who lives near Hesper. Mary retired July 31 after 50 plus years behind the teller’s window at the bank.
Team places second
The Maddock volleyball team is pictured with the second place trophy it won at the Lakota pre-season invitational tournament Saturday, Aug. 25. Standing, left to right, are Coach JoLynn Fautsch, Jillian Maddock, Erin Yri, Erin Leier and assistant coach Bridget Lunde. Middle row, Alex Buckmier, Kaidi Kenner, Sharisa Yri and Kara Kallenbach. Bottom row, Kimberly Randle, Shannon Schloss, Alisha Knutson, Jesse Schwanke and Michelle Olson. (Photo courtesy of Diane Randle.)
Thielman now has ownership
Maddock native C. Gregg Thielman of Fargo has become one of the owners of Houston Engineering, a large engineering firm with offices in Fargo, Bismarck and Minot, North Dakota; Minneapolis, Barnesville and Thief River Falls, Minnesota; and Billings, Montana.
Thielman was one of five engineers with Houston Engineering who were appointed stockholders and principals.
A 1985 graduate of Maddock High School, he earned a civil engineering degree from NDSU and has been with Houston Engineering for more than 10 years.
He is the son of Charles and Jean Theilman of Lisbon, formerly of Maddock.
Waiting for the railroad, again!
Another huge pile of hard red spring wheat at Maddock is located adjacent to the railroad tracks on the southwest side of the elevator. The two piles contain approximately 140,000 bushels.
Maddock isn’t the only elevator waiting for railroad grain cars. This huge pile of barley at the BTR Farmers Co-op at Niles contains about 100,000 bushels. BTR, however, has been getting rail cars. In August the facility loaded 350 rail cars, shipping out 1,260,000 bushels of small grains. The small grains harvest is pretty much wrapped up in this area with corn, beans, peas, sunflowers and other crops still remaining in the fields.