An Interview with Mr. Welton Sanders
Prior to coming to work for First State Bank, 22-year-old Welton Sanders had worked at Carthage Basket Factory, Carthage Drug (Rexall), and served a two-year stint in the U.S. Army. Uncle Sam released Welton in June 1955 and he returned to his hometown of Carthage. One day, walking down the alley behind Carthage Drug, he came upon a man who would direct him to the place where he would spend the next 60 plus years of his life.
"I came about this job through Mr. D. M. Stovall." Mr. Stovall gave Welton directions to the First State Bank then located on the square proper. Welton recalls the directions were easy to follow because they "were all left turns." He followed directions and sure enough there was "the man" he was told to see about a job, Mr. Daniel Shaw. Not knowing exactly what to say and being a man of few words, Welton simply stated, "Mr. Stovall told me to see you about a job." After exchanging a few words, "Mr. Shaw sent me to Mr. Milton Payne. Then he sent me back to Mr. Shaw again, and he asked me when I could come to work. So the Monday after the fourth Sunday (that's the way I tell it), I came to work between 3:00 and 3:05. Banks closed at 3:00 at that time."
Soon after arriving, he picked up the broom. "I've been sweeping ever since. From then on, it was just a little bit of everything. Mr. Shaw taught me how to run the stock room and everything. We went on like that for a while. Mr. Shaw decided everything in the store room should have a reserve. He told me, ‘Welton, when you get down to five of something, pretend you don't have any more, and we'll never run out. Say you don't have any, but you do have a little bit of it.'" During the early years, Welton managed the incoming and outgoing mail and did a little in the bookkeeping department.
Banking was much different then, he recollects. In 1955, there was a total of 12 employees including three tellers and two loan officers. Business was conducted using adding machines, typewriters, pens and paper.
The Bank's first drive-in was across the street from the current one. Welton recalls that he and Mr. Shaw walked and carried large bags of cash and coins from the main bank to the drive-in every morning. Every afternoon they carried the money back to the main bank.
"I used to go down to the post office. They'd have a tall sack of currency. I'd pick it up go right on down the street." When asked what he was carrying, he said, "I don't know. They just told me to get it, so that is what I'm doing. Then, I'd be praying, Lord just let me get to the bank with it, let me get to the bank with it. I'd feel so blessed when I'd walk through the bank door.
"I worked by myself for a long time. When they moved into this building in 1972, then they started having a maid come in to clean the kitchen, make coffee, and one thing and another." Welton recalls working with six such women, including Ms. Diane, the current housekeeper. He admits these ladies helped lighten his load.
"I've seen two bank remodeling jobs. When we came over here, they updated everything, including new equipment and furniture. They have continued to upgrade ever since." Over the last six decades, Welton recalls he's seen many employees coming and going. Smiling somewhat, he said in his typical tone, "We won't go into detail about that."
"I worked five long years at the Bank without a vacation and worked hard. One day I came into the Bank to Mr. Payne and walked up to him and said, 'I want a vacation. Everybody gets one and I don't.'" After a bit of discussion, Welton had vacation time every year after that. Part of the deal was that Welton's dad, who worked at Panola College, would help around the Bank when Welton was on vacation. Welton occasionally helped his dad at the College in return. It was a good bargain for everybody.
"I would strip and wax the floor at the Bank. I had to move all the furniture, clean and wax and put the furniture back every Friday evening and Saturday. In addition, I kept the grounds around the buildings picked up, kept hedges trimmed, and watered."
Clean shiny floors were always a priority at the bank. A hard worker who aimed to please, Welton decided to mix his own concoction to put on the floors. "The floor shined so much, it looked like grease on the floor when we opened the curtains that Monday morning and let the sunshine in," he boasted. However, the fantastic shiny floor was short-lived as Mr. Payne was very concerned that someone would slip and fall. "But it was pretty," Welton sighed. With a slight tilt of the head he added, "Would you believe I had to then rough that floor with a steel wool pad? But it sure was pretty when I pulled the curtains that first morning. I just tried to give them what they wanted. They wanted shiny floors, and I gave it to them. Whatever they asked, I always gave it all my best."
Shortly afterward, Welton recalls that his daddy had to get the Student Union floor at Panola College ready for a special event. He asked his daddy, "You really want this floor to shine? I mixed up some of my floor stuff for him."
He recalls every store that was around the square and just off the square in the 1950's and 60's. As he named them one by one, it was as if he were taking you on a walking tour. His memory of the donut store stirred him most of all. "That lady could cook some donuts. Ummmm Ummm!" His eyes glistened as he vicariously revisited those sweet creations.
Welton's parents were Jesse and Elsie Sanders. "I didn't come to Carthage much as a kid. Daddy always kept something in my hands to keep me busy at home." A homebody at heart, when Welton leaves the bank each day he goes home. On Fridays, he goes home and stays home until Monday with the exception of church Sunday morning or running an occasional errand. "If she can get me, I may run errands for Zelphia but I try not to do that," he utters with another twinkle and grin.
He and his wife Zelphia have been married 58 years and they have three sons, Bobby, Welton, and Tony, who have blessed them with nine grandchildren who call him PawPaw or Daddy Welton.
"One of my sons said, 'Daddy, I never heard you come into the house raising Cain.'" Truly his sons are inspired by their dad for his life example and his wisdom. Welton's advice to his own sons, "Go to church and set a good example. Your children will be watching you. You teach by example." That's how Welton did it.
During his tenure at the Bank, Welton always finds time to joke around, assign people nicknames, and ask about their well-being. His walk with the Lord is admired, and he takes time to show compassion and kindness to others going through a difficult time due to illness or the loss of a family member.
At First State Bank and Trust Company, six decades of Welton Sanders stories and memories abound, humorous ones, sweet ones, honorable ones. With no advance warning, Welton plans to one day drop his keys on Mr. Jim Payne's desk at the end of the day, walk out the Bank door, and drive home for the last time.