Louise Land is not exactly riding off into the sunset.
Though during recent months she has been retiring gradually from her employer of over 36 years, she still plans to stay on the job at First Security Bank for two days a week.
But she will ride off into the sunset. Or into the sunrise, or for that matter just about anywhere else her horse, Nin?, will take her.
By the time Louise started with what was then Batesville Security Bank in 1969, bank leaders were nearing a decision that they had outgrown their original facility on Thomas Street in downtown Batesville. The bank had opened for business there in 1952 with the completion of the one-story, non-rectangular building of blond brick. Almost 40 men, most from Panola County, had worked since 1950 to organize the bank. They adopted the motto "Growing by Serving."
Their efforts were well received in the community. By the time of Louise’s employment there, assets had grown to $6.2 million, and by 1973, the building that now serves as the bank’s headquarters had been constructed at Eureka and Highway 6.
Louise started as a teller, and during these 36 years has worked almost everywhere in the bank – installment loans, mortgage loans, student loans – and marketing. Perhaps she has been most visible to us in that latter capacity.
Louise has been present at almost every ribbon-cutting, new-business-opening event and other community milestone celebration for most of 36 years.
The list of other community activities in which she has been involved is lengthy. For many years she served as chair of the chamber of commerce’s Art Mart Committee. She was active in the Panola County Chapter of the American Cancer Society and she has been liaison from the bank to local schools.
Land will continue to serve in the school liaison capacity as a part-timer. She’s a member of the South Panola Advisory Committee for Career and Technical Development. As part of the bank’s outreach into the local student community, she has also provided "Banking on Your Future" student and teacher books from the Mississippi Young Bankers, and she teaches a "Credit Education for Young Adults" course provided by the American Bankers Association, conducting tours through the bank facility as part of the course and for other interested groups.
The now-semi-retired banker expressed appreciation to bank management and to the board of directors for their support. "The bank provided me the time to do community things; … I got paid for a lot of things I enjoyed doing," she said.
The list of activities she has planned for her extra time is also long, but at least some will be devoted to riding. Louise and her husband, George, both enjoy riding their horses, and both are involved around their farm with the fencing and pasture maintenance involved in equine care.
But their love for horseback riding has taken them far. George built a trailer that allows them to carry their horses with them when they camp. They have found many people with similar interests at horse camps in places in Montana and Iowa where, "we’ve met the most interesting people," Louise said.
With George Land, you are going to meet interesting people. He’s the kind of guy who knocked on a stranger’s door at an eastern Montana ranch and announced to the unsuspecting respondent: "I have two problems."
When George told the stranger that his problems were that his wife needed a place to ride her horse and that he needed a place to hunt pheasant, the ranch owner directed them to his barn where he would find an electrical hookup for their camper. Both problems were solved for that visit and for subsequent visits in later years, Louise said.
The Lands moved from Batesville to their farm in the Davis Chapel community in 1984 and soon became active in the historic Davis Chapel Methodist Church. They enjoy participating in All Congregations Together (ACT) which brings their small congregation in fellowship with congregations of other small churches in north Panola and in Tate County.
"It lets us meet together for things that each individual little church wouldn’t be able to do," she said.
Louise will continue to participate weekly in the Explorer’s Bible Study as she has for many years.
"I plan to volunteer at the Sardis Library because of what the library meant to me growing up in Sardis," she said. She now finds herself spending more time visiting the Sardis nursing home.
"There are some special people there; a former teacher of mine, a fellow church member and friend, and a former fellow employee from the Sardis Luggage Company," she said.
Louise also spends time with their children, Martha Goodwin of Senatobia and John Land of Sarah, and two grandchildren
That job Louise mentioned with the old luggage company was a step after her first job as a "soda jerk" at the old William and Pasley Drug Store in Sardis where she first honed her people skills. She has seen the bank grow from 13 employees in 1969 to 184 last year, and that number has certainly increased with the planned opening of First Security Bank’s 13th branch, this one in Southaven.
The change in 1993 from "Batesville Security" to "First Security" preceded rapid growth into the northwest Mississippi regional market. Assets have climbed to more than $390 million.
Banking has changed drastically during her career.
"When Louise started working at the bank, every aspect of banking, making loans, opening accounts, posting checks and balancing were manual processes," FSB President Frank West said.
"Now all of these functions are automated and highly regulated by government mandates," he added.
"There were no ATM machines, Internet banking or telephone banking," West continued.
Gone also is the bank’s original building on Thomas Street, destroyed by fire in 1999. Of the bank’s 40 original incorporators, only one survives today.
Still in demand, however, are those people skills. "Louise has a special touch with people that time hasn’t changed. She’s one of a kind." the bank president said.