BLOOMINGTON — After 54 years, 85-year-old Lee Menken will retire from banking.
The merchant sales coordinator at First State Bank of Bloomington has seen a lot of changes in his half-century-plus career. After initially retiring from another bank at age 70, he returned to work again and his last day is now March 31.
First State Bank is planning an open house at 4:30 p.m. April 4 at Lakeside Country Club in Bloomington.
“He told me just the other day he's going to miss going to work. There is a bet going around the bank that in his first week (of retirement) he'll show up sometime,” said Menken's friend of 65 years, Dick Johnson.
At the bank, 204 N. Prospect Road, Menken opens the business each weekday at 7:15 a.m. He is in charge of all of the buying for the bank and manages the credit card programs.
In his early years, Menken helped start the Master Card/Visa credit card program at Peoples Bank and was also involved in establishing the bank's first walk-up window, which led to the first drive-up window, in the 1970s.
“When I started, we didn't have computers — we used calculators,” he said. “I've enjoyed banking but I've seen a lot of changes. It went from the old way to the new way, it has been very interesting.”
Another major change is the amount of regulations and compliance laws that banks face today.
“Back then, people knew you and they would just have to sign a few papers. Now, you've got all kinds of papers to sign,” he said.
Menken first retired 15 years ago, at age 70, from Bloomington's Commerce Bank, formerly Peoples Bank. That retirements only lasted about two months. He got a call from First State Bank and quickly accepted a part-time job there.
“I don't like to sit around. I was bored. I thought I would only work a few years and I've been here 15 years,” Menken said.
He began his career as a teller at Peoples Bank in 1959 after he heard of an opening from a co-worker at Montgomery Ward.
“I went in and the next thing I knew I was hired and there for 38 years,” he said, adding it was never his goal to work at a bank.
Menken grew up in Bloomington and after high school went into the military and served during the Korean War from 1952-1953. After six years in the military, he enrolled at Illinois Wesleyan University and graduated with a degree in commercial art and advertising.
“The banking thing came up and I said 'I'll try it,'” Menken said. “I tried it for 54 years. I don't regret it, it has been very good to me. I've met a lot of nice people and hopefully helped some people.”
Johnson, retired president of WJBC, has lunch with Menken once a week and has watched his career in banking progress during their 65 years as friends.
“It's hard to believe because he's the type of character that enjoys going to work. Everybody at work loves him. He's just a character and is always in a good mood,” Johnson said.
In his retirement, Menken plans to travel with his wife, Barb, go on golf trips to Florida, continue playing tennis, work on landscaping around his home and take painting classes.
“You only get old if you don't do anything and that won't be me,” Menken said.