IT” Was An ATM!

In August of 1974, I was free-lancing at 300 Broadway, second floor. I was assigned the chal­lenge of creating a new image for Redwood Bank. I began with the colors so popular in those years, magenta and red. Here you see, just portions of pages of devel­op­ment — the last section shows the devel­oped logo used with the basic logo of each of the bank branches.

So busy was I, with the logo devel­op­ment, I wasn’t yet informed what this new “IT” was offering. As approved copy arrived for type­set­ting and I received my instruc­tions for a line drawing of the “Instant Teller” — I saw that this was very different! There were many promo­tional pieces required: news­paper ads, folders, bank displays, outdoor boards, taxi backs and more. (In the third item below which was produced to mail the IT card to the Redwood Bank account holder, you can see that this is just my mock-up of what would be the actual plastic card.)

I have to laugh at myself because at that time, I thought that this form of banking — using a piece of equip­ment instead of the personal inter­ac­tion with a human bank teller — would never catch on. Then, when it was said that a person would do their banking out on the street — then I was sure this was risky and a “bad Idea”! Recently, I looked up the first install­ments of this kind of service. In the US, a patent record issued to Luther George Simjian shows his 132nd patent (US3079603), was first filed on June 30,1960. There are reports of many banking machines with many names devel­oped in many coun­tries, but the “Instant Teller” was new to this area. I must have been too absorbed in my work to even read or hear any news reports about the new convenience.

Promo­tional pins, T‑shirts, and plastic tote bags —were added to the Redwood Bank’s campaign. When the equip­ment and the card that acti­vated the Instant Teller were ready, this news­paper story (below) appeared in San Rafael’s Inde­pen­dent Journal on August 21, 1975 describing a period of time when the equip­ment would be prac­ticed — inside the bank — to be followed by the instal­la­tion OUTSIDE and avail­able “24 hours a day, 365 days a year”! One of the last of my assign­ments was this round handout, a reminder to try “IT”.

There were many years when Redwood Bank offered this new method of banking at each of their branches. I never thought to take a photo when the bank had the large brightly colored images of the “IT’ logo at his loca­tion at 1447 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA.— I thought it would, always, be there.

The first photo, the loca­tion, 1447 Fourth Street, as it was in 1964. The second photo is how it looks now. It was orig­i­nally a Pacific Gas and Elec­tric building. Today, it has two-tenants, a dental prac­tice and herb store / clinic. The bank has become Redwood Credit Union at the Montecito Shop­ping Center on Third Street in San Rafael. It has a green color scheme and ATMs outside.

I found it odd that there is no Internet refer­ence about the Redwood Bank and its branches, nor any refer­ence to the 1975 intro­duc­tion to “IT”! But recently, I found out that a personal friend, Ann Cameron, whose title at that time was Senior Oper­a­tions Officer, Redwood National Bank, was at the bank at that time! She was able to bring a huge scrap­book of photos, news­paper clip­pings and bank publi­ca­tions. I asked Ann for her personal expe­ri­ences with the intro­duc­tion of “IT”!

She wrote:

Getting the first ATM (we called the Instant Teller) in Marin Co. sounds cool. And Redwood Bank was a bastion of cool, at least in the corner offices! But for those of us who had to make it work it was night­mare. For starters during the roll out we had to wear T‑shirts that had the slogan, YOU’LL LOVE IT AT REDWOOD right across our chests. UGG we all hated it! In the first iter­a­tion the money had to be loaded in to little envelopes, a five-dollar bill and a twenty. Then the envelopes were loaded into trays that fitted into the back of the machine. Of course it broke down all the time and many nights a client would call me at home to come down and give them money from the back of the IT. As it was free standing kiosk in the parking lot secu­rity was always an issue. Auditing would have been most displeased if they ever figured out we just opened the doors and doled out money. The next gener­a­tion of IT did not use the envelopes. The currency was fed into the trays, $20.00 in the top tray and $10.00 bill in the bottom. Of course if you reversed the trays then the machine dispensed $20s where the $10s should be. I had a huge dog in those days and always took him with me on my night excur­sions to the Bank, my secu­rity. Inter­est­ingly during this same period Redwood was also exper­i­menting with what is now on-line banking, we called it computer banking. We had a handful of clients who had access to their accounts via their home computer. Even­tu­ally the Bank decided they did not have the infra­struc­ture for all the compli­cated program­ming that needed to be in place to make computer banking viable.

Ann Cameron

From the scrap­book, I show these addi­tional images:

The first shows the outdoor instal­la­tion of the Instant Teller located in the bank’s parking lot with a group photo of the bank’s employees in 1976.
Second, is a clip­ping from the Vallejo Inde­pen­dent Press, August 12,1979.
Third, two pages from the Redwood Bancorp Annual Report 1975, which describes Redwood Bank’s inno­v­a­tive approaches to banking. (The illus­trator is not cred­ited and most likely would have been one of our Geezers, back in the day.)

Ann Thompson