(The fob Granddaddy Hewell carried on his keychain)
On May 5, 1933, while my granddaddy was changing from his banking clothes to his farming clothes, came a knock at the door. Granddaddy opened the door to find four bandits who’d come to rob the bank. Even back then, the vault was on a time lock, so with nothing to do till the next day, the bandits did what I suppose makes sense to any bandit’s mentality: they held my family hostage overnight then kidnapped Granddaddy the next day. My daddy was 5 years old and the uncle I am named after was a babe-in-arms.
Times were hard in May of 1933. At 1:00 a.m. on Monday, March 6, 1933, only thirty-six hours after his inauguration (and two months before the bandits came to call on my family), President Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2039 ordering the suspension of all banking transactions for three days, effective immediately. Before the three days were over, the Banking Holiday, as it came to be called, was extended for another four days. It’s estimated that as many as 4,000 banks failed during the year of 1933 alone. Maybe because they felt they had nothing to lose, bank robbers – like Bonnie and Clyde, for example – became daring and glamorous. As they later told officials the five bandits (Four came to the door while one stayed out of sight because he was a local boy whose entire family was known to Grandmother and Granddaddy.) had aspirations of becoming famous.
I’m writing these 100 stories as a gearing up for spending next year writing the book I’ve spent my whole life working on . . . a book about this particular event in my family’s history. So imagine my surprise when I opened the mail yesterday – yesterday, I tell you – to find a letter informing me that the bank that holds my business account and safe deposit box has been declared a “failed institution” and closed by the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance.
Dear Sweet Spirit of Surprise,
If you closed the bank and sent the letter to get my attention or to give me the supportive thumbs up or to nudge me forward by giving me a deeper empathy with folks who probably didn’t receive a letter in 1933, well, you shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble.
Your Admirer and Faithful Servant,