Banking on History

Today’s announcement that Wachovia has spured Citi and is having a shotgun wedding with Wells Fargo instead has started me musing on some banking memories. Let’s start with the first ones in the news.

Wachovia, of course, was unknown in California until they purchased World Savings and Loan. I remember World Savings well from the nice two-story building they had with the globe in front of it at Wilshire and San Vicente, where I had a savings account in my high school year. They later tore that building down and put up an ugly high-rise. Now, as for the suitor, Wells Fargo Bank, there are more memories. The first is of Crocker National Bank. Crocker was where I had my first checking account — at their Wilshire and Stoner branch, near my parent’s accounting office. Remnants of that account still exist, for my Wells Fargo Credit card can be traced to that account. I also remember that Crocker had multiple branches in Westwood, and that I usually used the one at Kinross and Gayley near UCLA. Crocker was merged into Wells Fargo in 1986. Also in Westwood was an office of United California Bank, which if I remember was later renamed into First Interstate Bank (there was a second UCB (formed from the merger of Sanwa and Tokai Banks) that was later merged into Bank of the West). In 1996, Wells Fargo took over First Interstate Bank.

The previously bank acquisition in the news was Chase’s purchase of Washington Mutual. WaMu, as we all know, had previously swallowed two major Los Angeles banks: Great Western Bank (remember the John Wayne statue in front of their office on Wilshire Blvd near Beverly Hills), and HF Ahmanson’s Home Savings and Loan, which had these beautiful marble buildings with detailed mosaics of California life on the front of them. One of those buildings was donated, and is now a satellite student store at CSUN. I’ll note that Home Savings swallowed Coast Savings.

Before that we had Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch. Most folks think of BofA as a North Carolina Bank, but that’s only because NationsBank took over San Francisco-based BofA a number of years before, and took over the name. BofA was originally Bank of Italy in San Francisco (and used American Building Maintenance for their first janitorial contract–I know this because my dad was heavily involved with ABMI in the 1960s and 1970s). BofA had also swallowed a major Los Angeles Bank: Security Pacific National Bank. Who remembers SPNB?

Those following the election should know that John McCain was involved with the Keating 5. The Keating 5 refers to Charles Keating, who was the head of Lincoln Savings and Loan. Now, I never had an account at Lincoln, but I do remember that their building across from the Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks used to have a gigantic display on Abraham Lincoln that LAUSD used to take students to see. That building is now a Downey Savings. I guess it must be cursed.

Where did I have my first savings account? Centinela Valley Savings and Loan, which I don’t think exists anymore. It was the office on Manchester Blvd, just west of Falmouth in Playa Del Rey.

OK, so what are your banking memories?