When Rita Teeters talks about her upcoming retirement from Vinton County National Bank, she doesn’t seem as eager to leave work as she does to simply have free time to do as she wishes. Rita will retire Thursday after accumulating 35 years over two stints with the bank.
She started her career with VCNB in 1964. Back then, the bank was still small with just one location in McArthur and a modest staff that included only a handful of women. “One person answered the phone. That’s how small we were,” Rita said. “And there were just a few of us girls in the Accounting Department.”
These were prosperous years and, as the bank grew, so did the presence of other women. Rita’s job was to operate the proof machine, a large piece of equipment used to process transactions and ultimately make sure the bank was balanced at the end of each day.
She worked in the Accounting Department until leaving in 1979 while expecting her first child. “When Carla came along, I never expected to keep working. That’s just what you did back then. You stayed home and raised kids,” she explained. “But when I left, Bob Will told me I would always be welcome if I ever wanted to come back.”
Nineteen years later when Carla was in college and son Kevin in high school, Rita found herself looking for work to help her family through a rough patch. “I answered an ad in the county paper because someone was looking for a proof operator. That’s what I did for the bank so I applied for it. Well, never did I guess it would bring me back here,” she said.
That was 1998 and she says a lot had changed during her nineteen year absence. “They had changed to a ten key proof machine. It was so small! And different! I had to learn it all over again!”
The bank had also embraced technology during her absence and she had to learn computers for the first time. “Kids today just grow up knowing these things but I had to learn. They were patient with me and I was grateful,” she laughed.
She has seen even more changes in banking since that day. Now she works in the bank’s Operations Department as a Senior Operations Processor. “We do a lot of the same things but the way we do them has changed. Computers have taken a lot of the labor out of what we do,” she said while citing some specific examples including how customer account statements are created. Today, statements are automatically generated by computers. Then, they were created manually by people. Returned checks were filed daily, checked off the customer’s statement and then mailed with the statement to the customer.
Rita also reminisced about the people and other aspects of the bank. As a young woman, she worked for Belle Jenkins, the bank’s first female employee who was known for her no-nonsense approach to work and impeccable style. “A lot of people were intimidated by her but I really liked Belle. She was a good role model for us all,” Rita said as she talked about the day the bank ladies learned they could wear pant suits to work. “I never saw Belle wear anything but a dress or skirt but she wore a pant suit to work one day. She came down to the basement and announced that we would be permitted to wear pantsuits but that the bottom of the jacket had to come to our wrist when we stood,” she explained.
She reminisced about other aspects of the changing dress code including the official bank blazer that every employee was expected to wear every Friday. Many bank customers might remember them in different colors over the years including burgundy, navy blue and gold. “We had to wear them every Friday. That was dress up day,” she said.
Rita talked about others who have come and gone from the bank since she started. “So many of them have passed,” she said while talking about popular bank personalities like Jerry Griffith who was a favorite banker of so many customers that his line would stretch through the lobby while other tellers stood with no customers to wait on. She smiled at the memory of Bob Will, Jr. who carved out time each day to speak to every employee. “He always made you feel like you were important,” she said.
During her time with the bank, Rita has worked for five of the bank’s nine presidents. She has witnessed the bank’s growth from one small community branch with only a handful of employees to a large operation with seventeen branches and close to 250 employees.
“I have enjoyed working here. They’ve been real good to me but it’s time to go. It’s been 35 years and I’m ready to have some freedom, to not have a routine. I told the girls the other day, it’ll be nice to not have to go out into the cold in the mornings,” she laughed.
Rita plans to spend some time on sewing and quilting projects and looks forward to spending more time outdoors next summer. She says she’s “the gopher” for the family farm and is most enthusiastic about spending more time with family. She has been married to her husband Kayle Teeters for forty years and she hopes to spend more time with him, their children and three young grandsons.
Rita, we wish you all the best in your retirement and hope you enjoy your newfound freedom!