MCB celebrates 50 years

Holly Richrath
Residents surround Morton Community Bank during the first Christmas Sing, a tradition that continues today.

“Community” is a fitting middle name for a hometown bank celebrating 50 years of service in 2010.

In July 1960, a permit was issued to organize a new bank in Morton. That bank, dubbed Morton Community Bank, opened its doors to customers Aug 26, 1961. It was located at 671 W. Jackson St.

Throughout its decades of service to the community, one thing at MCB has stayed the same: Clifford Hasselbacher.

“I remember driving by in 1960 and (a sign) said, ‘Future home of Morton Community Bank,’” he said.

Hasselbacher, who had been in the banking business in Brimfield for about 10 years, said he was intrigued. He knew that Morton was a growing community.

“It was just an opportunity too good to pass up,” he said.

Hasselbacher interviewed for a position with the bank and became the third employee hired of the banks original five employees. MCB now has more than 450 employees.

When he started in the banking business, Hasselbacher was 25; he joined MCB’s original five-person staff at 37. Fifty years later, Hasselbacher, 87, is senior vice president, chairman emeritus and a personal banker with MCB.

Although Hasselbacher and the faces of a few of the bank’s original customers are familiar today, banking itself has changed.

When asked what the biggest change has been to the banking business since he first began 61 years ago, Hasselbacher responded, “One word, computers.”

“I used to have to hand post the ledger,” he said. “I used to come in on Sunday afternoon, to try and catch up.”

Even the means of advertising the bank were different in the 1960s.

“We sent a postcard to every house in Morton, hand written,” Hasselbacher said.

Morton’s population, he guessed, was about 5,500.

Since then, the population has grown, as has Morton Community Bank.

On Aug. 15, 1975, Jean Ann Honegger started at MCB, not long after her husband, Gordon Honegger, was welcomed in 1973. The two are now the bank’s co-chief executive officers.

Honegger said a banking transaction today is very different than when she began at the bank.

“Paper work would be different back then. Now everything’s encoded,” Honegger said. “The teller would add it up on a calculator, and now it just does it for you on the computer.”

“We had adding machines,” Hasselbacher said.

Because computers were all the rage, the bank began offering Internet banking services in December 2000, just over a year after MCB Main moved to its new corporate headquarters at 721 W. Jackson St.

But what is it that helps a small hometown bank withstand the test of time?

“We obviously have ‘Community’ in our name and we do a lot in the community,” said Laua Elam, MCB’s senior vice president of corporate marketing and administration. “The trust is there. We’re their neighbors and their friends. They trust us, they know us.”

That trust has allowed MCB to expand.

The “Community” middle name now seems to be popping up all over the place. Each new branch begins with the community’s name.

“We went from one bank in Morton, to 32 in 11 counties,” Elam said.

“It’s kind of our claim to fame,” Honegger said. “ In each community, that’s the name of the bank. We keep those same employees. I think that’s what customers like.”