I was born decades before the Digital Age. When I was in high school, the word “computer” referred to a person who was a math whiz, at least in circles outside of the military and higher education where what would eventually become the internet was already underway.
Then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the world was tied together through computers, cellphones, Dick Tracy wrist phones, and the Vulcan mind meld. Okay, I made up the last one, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen someday. The point is, computers and the ability to get online to shop, bank, make airline arrangements, and manage just about every little detail in life with the push of a few buttons or with voice commands has changed our world.
But don’t tell that to Roddy Wiley.
When we first visited in 2006, Roddy was president of the bank in the tiny town of Oakwood, where everything—and I do mean everything—was still done the way they ran banks in the days before computers. He had been running the Oakwood State Bank since his daddy handed over the job and retired decades ago, and his employees—all of two of them—had spent their entire working lives at the bank.
At Oakwood State Bank, you did not need to know your account number because they didn’t use them. Each depositor was assigned an account number, but that was only because the federal government required them. At Oakwood, every customer was known solely by their name, usually their first name. And the records for the eight-hundred-plus customers were kept in old-fashioned ledgers that were stored all over the bank.
Off camera, Roddy told me a story that was fitting for such a bygone institution. He told me about the time would-be bank robbers attempted to take him hostage at his residence. They said they were going to make him open the safe at the bank and tried to force him into their car. But Roddy truly was a bank president from a different era—like a scene from a western movie that could have been filmed in his bank’s lobby, he got the drop on them and held the robbers at gunpoint until the police arrived.
Roddy died a few years later, in 2010, and the bank was sold to new owners who have since introduced a website. I suppose change does eventually come, but for the many years that Roddy ran the bank, change was simply the coins you got back from a dollar bill.
“We like it better this way,” he told me.