Published On: Fri, Mar 14th, 2014

Taking responsibility

Dear Editor:

Correction: Recently I mis-identified the “Sudetenland” as being in Austria, actually it was in Czechoslovakia that was first invaded by German armies supposedly for ethnic protection.

Next, you may recall my statement about “that reminds me of the story” when if someone can tell the same story, over and over, word for word, why can’t they remember they have already told it to you countless times? Well, for what follows, I can only take refuge in that if stage performer, DeWolf Hopper, could make a career reciting “Casey At The Bat,” I’m going to change a few words and call it “old wine in new bottles.”

Prompted by last week’s anniversary of FDR’s 1933 closing of the banks, in the early ‘30s, my grandmother Fannie Carter Hager received a phone call from O.D. Massie, president of the Alderson National Bank, that she should without saying why, to anyone, come and close out her accounts.

In 1931, Mr. Massie committed suicide in the Greenbrier River next to the Greenbrier Boys Camp. The Bank closed and was found to be insolvent, mainly due to local loans that could not be repaid. As Mr. Massie was dead, responsibility for the bank’s books and bad loans in excess of available funds fell upon the cashier of the bank, who was tried, convicted and sentenced to prison.

One morning my father, Leonard H. Ballard, Jr., was hanging out in the “Mick or Mack” grocery operated by his uncle, Henry Karnes, and he noticed a woman getting a supply of merchandise and leaving the store without paying, which he called to his uncle’s attention. His uncle called him into the back office and told him of the bank failure, the conviction of the teller and that the Alderson business community felt that under the circumstances, a sense of knowing responsibility.

During the trial, they made certain the Judge was aware that the person before him had only acted at the direction of the bank president, who was beyond the reach of testimony and the Judge, compelled by the law, sentenced him to prison, to the shortest term possible, making certain that the Warden knew of all of the details of the case. As Uncle Henry concluded, “When the young man is released from prison, we will make certain he has a job and in the meantime, the merchants of Alderson are going to take care of that lady, his mother.”

Jack D. Ballard

Lewisburg