A Wonderful Decade In Portsmouth’s Secret Garden

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A wonderful decade in Portsmouth’s secret garden

By Bill Loughlin

Read the original article from the Seacoast Online on October, 26 2014 http://www.seacoastonline.com/article/20141026/NEWS/141029406/101053/OPINION

To take a left off State Street into the parking lot of Piscataqua Savings Bank is to enter a secret garden. For the past 10 years, it has been my province. Actually, I’ve frequented that garden for more than 30 years if one figures my presence in it from the time I opened a business account at the bank in 1982. But it was in 2002 that I inquired of then president Jay Gibson about a part-time opening.

Nothing unusual about a depositor making an inquiry of the bank president at Piscataqua. The bank comports itself as a family, treats the businesses and depositors it serves as extended family, and even non-account holders as perhaps distant relatives to whom it opens its downtown parking lot after banking hours and from whom it exacts a minimal charge for the use of its ATM. Call the bank between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., and chances are a human being will answer. I know every member of the bank’s board of directors, and not one of them ever passes me without asking how I am. They don’t have to do that.

Courtesy is one thing that’s free in this life, and there’s plenty of it to go around in the parking lot of Piscataqua Savings Bank. Fundamentals of socialization are taught daily there. Holding the door invariably elicits a smile, and often a quickened step so as not to unduly delay the holder. I can’t count the cups of tea and cocoa customers have brought to my booth in the winter, or the cookies brought back by those who’ve asked if they can park for five minutes to run to the card store, the Post Office, or the coffee shop.

The Kids Bank, with that wonderful stuffed bear and steps up to the window to enable the youngest account holders to make their own deposits, is a logical extension of the bank’s genuine family theme. It affords young children exposure to the practice of saving, and a sense of appreciation for the deposits parents and grandparents make on their behalf.

I’ve never had time or need to read or text as I sit on the stool in the lot. Someone is always passing through — customers, the landscapers whose talents keep the perimeter lush and bursting with a profusion of colors, and people crossing the lot on their way to work, their place of business, or simply on a stroll. Most are disposed to talk. I’ve listened, sympathetically, to news of deaths and divorces; gladly to news of births, marriages and graduations. And I’ve bent an ear on occasion myself. The daily mail run, too, is seldom without a conversation or two with people encountered en route or the always-pleasant folks at the Post Office.

Pleasantness, in fact, pretty much sums up my years at Piscataqua Savings Bank. Maybe it’s schmaltzy, but now I think of it, it’s kind of appropriate that the bank’s is a Pleasant Street address (number 15, Suite 1, if you’re looking for it). Within a couple of years, Jay upgraded my job, but from the day I made my initial deposit I’ve enjoyed the same treatment I’ve seen everyone accorded at the bank. If ever there was a place where all were treated equally, it’s this bank. Customers’ treatment doesn’t reflect the size of their accounts, and the staff, who greet them, eye to eye, and strive to meet their every need, treat one another with the same solicitude and respect.

Piscataqua Savings Bank opened its doors in 1877. I wasn’t there. Really, I wasn’t. But despite all the changes in the world — all the challenges to kindness, gratitude, sincerity and mutual respect; the seeming falling out of favor of gentleness, good will and optimism — this bank remains a local institution with a positive outlook that’s manifested in the flowers that bloom around it, in the faces and demeanor of those who work for it, and reflected back by the customers they serve and even passersby, locals and strangers alike.

It’s this — this, it turns out, not so secret garden — to which I’m saying goodbye after 10 years. Oh, I’ll still be an occasional visitor; my money remains in this bank. But I’ll miss the daily give and take, the acquaintanceships and friendships, the greetings and news, the exchanges of pleasantries. I’ve been here a respectable time, though, and am ready to bid structure adieu and indulge in a little rest and recreation. So a tentative farewell to my colleagues and friends, tentative because an occasional encounter is still, thankfully, likely. It’s been a wonderful 10 years.

Bill Loughlin is a resident of Rye.- See more at: http://www.seacoastonline.com/article/20141026/NEWS/141029406/101053/OPINION