Over the years I have kept an eye on the old bank property on the corner of Dewey and 23rd Street. I have great memories of the bank because my father was the President of Mutual Federal Savings and Loan whose headquarters was located there for many years. As a little girl, I loved the huge vault and I was fascinated with the “plugs” at the switchboard operator’s desk. I was thrilled recently to see construction begin and am eagerly waiting for the new Hurts Donut Company to open. I recently chatted with my father, Robert Garrett about the history of the savings and loan.
According to a story in a St Louis paper, a man who called himself John Porter Williams got the idea of starting a savings association, and enlisted several prominent OKC businessmen to support it. He had arrived in Oklahoma City on a train in 1917. He had amnesia so he did not know his real name or his past. He began working on the admittance desk at a local hospital and was gifted in being able to talk to new patients and deciding what their problem likely was, and what doctor to refer them to. Some of the doctors in the hospital referred to him as an instinctive diagnostician. He also had the ability to make sound financial decisions and made friends with many of the doctors and the business leaders of Oklahoma City. He became a Mason and particular friend of D I Johnson, a wealthy oil operator. Supporters of his plan included John Wright, his attorney and later the lawyer for the savings association. Others included Frank Buttram, a millionaire oil man, G A Paul, a prominent attorney and John A Brown.
In 1922, Mutual began its operations with John Porter Williams as President and with total assets of a little over $3,000. On his death, the association had grown to just over $400,000. Williams, later in life, felt it was necessary that he learn who he was, and his attorney discovered his real name was Edward M Martin, a physician and banker from a prominent Philadelphia family.
From these beginnings Mutual Federal continued to grow in Oklahoma City, with its first office on Robinson, with a huge neon sign on the front as you drove toward Grand. Oklahoma City was laid out based on two different surveys, so there was a jog in the road there before it was eliminated and the street straightened out. Later in the sixties, the bank acquired the building on Dewey, when Citizens Bank moved to their newly built Gold Dome.
My father joined the bank in the early sixties while going to law school at Oklahoma City University. He served as the President of Mutual Federal for many years. He later became a bankruptcy trustee and was just recognized by the Bar for 50 years of service as an attorney.
I plan to take Dad to the donut shop soon after its opening but I bet we will both spend more time looking around then we will enjoying the donuts!