ONLY FOUR PEOPLE responded to the December “picture from the past” although I know many others recognized this famous bank.
It was Olympic State Bank on the corner of First and Laurel streets in Port Angeles. The photo was taken about 1956.
Roger Oakes wrote that he remembered Olympic State Bank’s first building on Lincoln Street in the Elks building and then it moved to its new location at 104 W. First St., with the new drive-up window and the circular driveway that now contains the Conrad Dyer fountain.
Oakes also wrote that he had located a full page ad in the Port Angeles Evening News of July 13, 1951, announcing the open house for Olympic State Bank’s new banking quarters.
The open house was to be held July 14, 1951.
Olympic State Bank was founded in 1941.
Merrill Oakes, Roger’s dad, joined the bank in 1943 as a cashier, becoming president and chairman of the board in 1949.
He held that position until he retired in 1971.
In March 1972, the bank was sold to Peoples National Bank and later on it was sold to U.S. Bank.
Roger Oakes said that his dad’s banking career began right after he graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1923.
He went to work for Ben Phillips at First National Bank and in 1930, he became a cashier at the State Bank of Sequim.
It failed during the Depression, as did many banks.
Merrill Oakes returned to First National until 1940, when he became manager of the First American National Bank of Port Townsend (also owned by Phillips).
Hence, Roger Oakes was born in Port Townsend. Merrill Oakes joined Olympic State Bank in 1943 when Roger was only 21 months old.
A family business
Banking in Rogers Oakes’ day was really a personal family business with loans often consummated on a handshake.
There were two banks and two savings and loans in Port Angeles.
There seemed to be plenty of business for all of them and it was really quite a friendly competition.
Merrill Oakes had a long-standing secretary, Lesley Casner.
She made his work much easier and he trusted her fully, Roger Oakes said.
He also remembered that the Olympic State Bank, in a concession to the convenience of the automobile, opened a drive-in branch at Front and Albert streets (now Fryer Insurance) in 1960.
Bruce Knight wrote he remembered the Olympic State Bank being several other banks and also Maurices for quite awhile until they moved their business east of town.
He also remembered the teller window turn circle as the site of the Laurel Street fountain.
As a child in 1968, he played on the roofs of those buildings starting at the building east of the old post office at First and Oak streets and all the way to the bank pictured in the photo.
Knight also commented that in the 1990s, Maurices had a problem with a leaky roof, but he hadn’t been climbing on the roofs for more than 25 years, so it couldn’t be his fault.
Olympic State Bank sold to Peoples National Bank in the spring of 1972.
They owned it until sometime between 1987 and 1990 when U.S. Bank bought it.
Peoples National Bank built a new bank building at Seventh and Lincoln streets (134 E. Seventh St.) sometime after 1972 and 1973.
Peoples operated both sites until 1990, when they sold to U. S. Bank of Washington.
U.S. Bank kept both sites open, but in 1995 the downtown site was used more for business banking.
By 1999, the 104 W. First St. site housed Maurices, a clothing store.
They were there for several years until they first moved to the K-Mart plaza and when Walmart went into that site, Maurices moved next to the east Safeway.
Al Brannin wrote that he remembered the Olympic State Bank where the fountain is now.
By looking at the cars, he guessed the photo was taken sometime in the 1960s. He also remembered the bank being on Lincoln Street north of the Elks Building.
Was a clothing store
He knew a clothing store had moved into the old building when the bank closed, but he didn’t pay much attention to clothing stores at the time.
Norman Gallacci remembered the bank also.
Bernice Byrne said her dad, Jim Byrne, had started working as a clerk for Olympic State Bank sometime around 1946.
He moved up to become a loan officer and retired in 1978.
She said he enjoyed his working years at the bank.
The old bank building is presently owned by OOT Properties LLC, Jake Oppelt.
Oppelt said he has plans to make it into a boutique hotel. We look forward to seeing this building once again active and vibrant in our community.
Alice Alexander is a Clallam County historian, author, and a descendent of an Elwha Valley pioneer family. She is a recipient of a 2014 Clallam County Heritage Award. She can be reached at [email protected].
Alice’s Clallam history column appears the first Sunday of every month, alternating with Linnea Patrick’s Jefferson County history column on the third Sunday of the month.