March 6, 2024

Remembering visits from banker George Parrish


            Initially, all that I knew was his reputation as a “moody” banker.

            I didn’t know his wife, Mary, either. But as a child, I asked, “Mother, who’s the lady in the choir with a ‘nervous’ voice?” “Honey, that’s Mrs. George Parrish,” she said. “It’s called vibrato. That’s the way she sings.”

            George Parrish ran the American National Bank (ANB) on Cherry Street, beneath the old Ingleside Hotel. I first saw him in Ralph Grantham’s chair, getting his silver hair clipped in Jack’s Barber Shop, near the bank.

            When the dapper banker left, another customer said, “I went to see Mr. Parrish last week. I needed to borrow $500. So, I asked, ‘Mr. Parrish, did you take a bath this morning?’”


            “Because they said that I was going to have to kiss your … ummmm … foot … if I was going to get the money.”

            George Parrish didn’t think that was funny.

But barbers Jack Jackson, Herbert Dent and Ralph howled, as did the patrons sitting in the chairs against the wall and waiting their turns under the cotton-cloth capes.

I told my dad what I had heard.

Big Dink had a story, too.

At the time, we had been living in cramped quarters in the rear of NeSmith Funeral Home. The five of us were packed in the space of a three-car garage. My dad went to see Mr. Parrish on a Monday morning about a loan. When he explained that he needed as much as $5,000 for a home-improvement loan, Mr. Parrish snapped, “We don’t make those.”

            End of discussion.

            A friend advised, “Oh, Dink, never ask Mr. Parrish for money on a Monday morning.”

The next week, on a Tuesday, Big Dink went to ANB to make the same request. Mr. Parrish reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a promissory note. In a few days, Cecil Griffis and his carpentry crew were sawing lumber in our back yard.

In the 1980s I met George Parrish Jr., an accomplished artist/illustrator who had studied with Norman Rockwell. Several pieces of George’s artwork hang in our home. He donated an exquisite railroad painting for the cover of a Wayne County history book that was published by The Press-Sentinel.

            I believe George Parrish Sr. had died by the time that I was invited to join ANB’s board of directors, when James Harper retired. I teased Pete Smith, the bank’s president, that I was put on the board—as a 30-something—to chauffeur longtime directors Dr. John Wolfe Sr. and Harvey York to the Brunswick meetings. Actually, it was an honor to just be in the car with them.

            By the time that I came along with borrowing needs, Mr. Parrish had turned over the vault to his understudy, Carey Brannen, who loaned me my first $3,000. Following Carey, Lonnie O’Quinn and Linton Lewis were my lenders. I could wallpaper my office with all those paid 90-day notes.

            I never got to experience the “moody” side of George Parrish. What I did enjoy was a courtly gentleman who took an interest in me. He’d stop by the newspaper office to “check on me.” One day, he said, “I want to give you something. I think you need this.”

            He was right.

            And since that day—50 years ago—I have shared hundreds of copies Wilfred A. Peterson’s prayer, “Slow me down, Lord.”


            I think George Parrish would be amused by this follow-up twist. When I was director of the senior adult Sunday school department at Jesup’s First Baptist Church, I handed out “Slow me down, Lord.” I told my Mr. Parrish story.

            There was a pause, and Rufus Robertson spoke up, “Little Dink, this is nice. But at our ages, we need a prayer to speed us up rather than slow us down.”