Small-Town Texas Bank Still Open for Business After 100 Years

Tiny Texas business stays afloat after 100 years -- just check the hours.

OAKWOOD, Texas, Aug. 23, 2009 — -- Oakwood, Texas, has more cows than people.

Main Street dried up long ago in this small town, located 120 miles southeast of Dallas, with one exception -- a tiny business on the corner, Oakwood State Bank. The bank will turn 100 next year, and you can tell as soon as you walk in the door that it dates back to olden times. The lobby has changed little since when Woodrow Wilson was president.

"We claim to be an antique bank, run by antiques. There's nobody here under 70," said bank president R.R. Wiley. Wiley himself is 85 years old, but he still comes to work every day, writing checks on his typewriter.

Wiley manages two employees, 76-year-old Lela Coates and the young'un of the group, 71-year-old Neta Eldridge.

The trio runs America's smallest bank with machines so old that they couldn't find anyone to fix them if they ever broke down. Change comes from a mechanical device that never misses a cent.

But Wiley said they don't really need those machines.

"Most of what we do is in our heads, but because of the government, we have to keep a certain amount of paperwork," he said.

It's a bank that doesn't need a bailout and isn't too big to fail.

The Oakwood State Bank redefines bankers' hours. It's open five hours a day, closing at noon for an hour lunch. And if you don't get your money by 3 o'clock, you're out of luck because there's definitely no ATM. Wiley's attitude is that if you need cash after hours, you're probably up to no good.

Customers say that inconvenience is a fair trade for the personal service.

Customer John Tibbetts said, "They know you by name when you come in, and you don't have to worry about where your money is going."

Octogenarian Bank President Is Staying Put

The bank's appeal seems to be working -- the town of Oakwood only has 471 people, but the Oakwood State Bank has more than 600 customers. And the bank's trio promises they're not going anywhere.

Wiley has no plans to retire, saying, "They will probably drag me out of here one day."