CHANGE FOR A DOLLAR: A History of First Savings and Loan
By Ricky N. Smith

Change is one common denomination that we all share. Always constant, change can take place over decades, centuries, and in the blink of an eye. Those of us who are privileged to live in a small town are usually content with our quality of life and tend to bristle at the thought of change. Still, First Savings & Loan and the Piedmont city of Mebane, North Carolina, have witnessed both subtle and extreme changes that have forever altered their futures.

First Savings & Loan has served the community of Mebane for more than a century and the association and the city have much in common. They grew up together and, despite the desire to hold on to their small-town heritage, both were pulled in to the future by inevitable change.

Ricky N. Smith, life-long citizen of Mebane, NC and president of Mebane’s First Savings & Loan since 2002, tells the story of an institution that was founded in 1909 and that is one of a few mutual savings associations that still exist today. Having worked alongside his father, L. Neal Smith, for more than 20 years, Ricky has witnessed the change that leaves few people under the age of 50 familiar with the term “savings and loan”. However it was these associations that transformed America’s landscape during the twentieth century by making the dream of owning a home possible. During its golden age following World War II, Mebane’s First Savings and Loan thrived by promoting the virtues of saving and extending home loans the right way, with no gimmicks or subprime loans.

This 100 year old accounting of Mebane’s First Savings & Loan acts as a microcosm of Mebane’s considerable history by including its place of residence as very much a part of the story. In doing so, Smith reminds us that it is change that made this small North Carolina town a city today, and it was change that both built the savings and loan industry, and likewise nearly destroyed it.

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Change for a Dollar can be purchased at the Mebane Historical Museum during regular operating hours.
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