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Citizens Bank alumni gather to reminisce
Pat Rail stands next to former Citizens Bank president Pierce Hancock as she speaks about her years with the longtime Gainesville bank Sunday afternoon during a bank reunion at St. Paul United Methodist Church on Washington Street.

Fifteen years after Gainesville's Citizens Bank ceased to be, nearly 100 former employees gathered Saturday to catch up and reminisce, flipping through bank books instead of yearbooks at a reunion that paid tribute to a bygone institution.

For folks who worked at the main branch between Spring and Washington streets or the branches in Oakwood and Flowery Branch, the 81-year-old business was more than a job. It was a family.

"We had a good crew, a good president," said Jim West, a former Citizens Bank vice president. "Everybody did something for everybody. People never said, ‘that's not my job.'"

Pat Rail, who worked nearly 40 years at the bank and organized Saturday's reunion, recalls co-workers gathering for cookouts after work.

"It really was like one big family," she said.

One of the family's patriarchs, former bank president and 50-year employee Pierce Hancock, was honored Saturday with a proclamation from the Gainesville mayor and City Council and praised as a true father figure -a father who was fair but could on occasion give a stern warning.

"I remember him telling me once, ‘If I ever have to get on you, I'll fire you,'" West joked.

Over the years, five couples met while working at the bank and later married.

Terry and Connie Evans were the first of Citizens Bank couples, who began dating in 1976, when she was a teller and he was a lending officer. Had it not been for the bank, "we wouldn't be together," Terry Evans acknowledged.

Connie Evans said it was the people she worked with, and the sense of community they felt with customers, that made Citizens Bank a special place to work.

"Everybody knew everybody by name," she said.

In the banking industry, it was a simpler time. When West went to work at Citizens Bank, there only were three banks and two savings and loans operating in Hall County.

"Now it's like service stations used to be - there's one on every corner," West said.

Bank South acquired Citizens in 1994. Now it is part of Bank of America.

But the old green and white logo was on display Saturday at the fellowship hall of St. Paul's United Methodist Church.

"I learned a lot about life there," said Don Hall, who oversaw the bank's conversion to computers and is now in his 52nd year in banking. "I always will remember the Citizens Bank."