A bank storyteller

By on August 31, 2016
Lee Fry confirming the provenance of one of his Lititz items to a potential buyer.

Lee Fry confirming the provenance of one of his Lititz items to a potential buyer.

Lititz collector shares local memorabilia, and tales, at the Antiques and Collectibles show

Lee Fry has been collecting Lititz memorabilia for almost all of his 81 years, and he had a stand at the annual Antiques and Collectibles Show at Lititz Springs Park on Saturday. He brought along a bunch of his stuff, his sense of humor, and that twinkle in his eye.

“Lititz is the only town, you know,” he said. “Akron? Where’s that? In Ohio? And who ever heard of Eee-frata? Lititz is the only town around here.

“And my last name is spelled F-R-Y, Fry, not F-R-E-Y. Be sure to get that right.”

Well, we’ll get that right, we promised, as soon as he gets our hometowns straightened out and how to pronounce them.

“Deal,” he said. And then we got on to his Lititz collection and a very interesting story about stock certificates for the Lititz Springs National Bank. He has just one of those certificates now, and it’s worth maybe $10 or $15 as a piece of historic art. At one time, they were worth good money, but most people redeemed them when the Lititz Springs National Bank was sold.

The people who owned the majority of those certificates did really well when ownership changed hands, which was true as well of Brownstown National Bank and Denver National Bank. Fry owned small pieces of those banks, but he had to scramble to get them. And he redeemed them when the banks were merged.

In the early years of the 20th century, not only did a buyer need money to own a piece of Lititz Springs National Bank, he needed connections. Being successful wasn’t enough. The buyer needed to know “people.” The “people” were doctors, lawyers, company presidents, old money — that sort. Fry’s father owned William B. Fry Pontiac in Lititz, one of the nation’s first Pontiac dealerships. He was a successful businessman. But he never owned a share of the Lititz Springs National Bank.

His son bought his first share of bank stock when he was 17 years old. It was Brownstown National stock, and he didn’t buy it from “people.” He bought it at an auction in Lancaster. It was 1952 and the stock’s going price was about $21, Fry recalled. He outbid a roomful of cigar-smoking gents who didn’t want to pay Fry’s bid price of $23 a share, and the teenager walked out of the auction room with three shares of Brownstown National. Probably the only non-connected teenager in the county, or maybe the state or the country who could claim such an ownership.

Over the years he wasn’t bashful about approaching all and sundry about buying their shares of bank stocks — he always had an interest in banks — because they were kind of an exclusive item and he had to work a bit to get them. But banks no longer issue ornately designed works of art to signify ownership. Owning a bank stock now means claiming a few digits in a remote computer.

“And there’s a bank on every corner,” Fry said.

Not all the vendors at the park were as chatty about their collections as was Lee Fry. We talked to a couple of out-of-town people with really interesting stuff on their tables, but they didn’t want us to use their names, where they were from, what they were selling, and they didn’t want us to take pictures of them or their wares. These folks were concerned about thieves who read newspapers to find out which shows the vendors attend, and the times of the shows, because those are the times when nobody’s home, and those are the opportune times to go rob somebody. It’s hard to say “paranoid” about these vendors, because what they described actually happens.

But, it was a good day in the park for the vendors in attendance and for the collectors who have come to see the annual Antiques and Collectibles Show as an opportunity to fill a void in their collections.

The show is sponsored each year by the Lititz Springs Park Board.

Dick Wanner is a staff writer for the Record Express, and a resident of Akron (Pa., not Ohio). He welcomes reader feedback and story ideas at rwanner.eph@lnpnews.com.

 

You couldn’t just pay money for a Lititz Springs National Bank certificate. You had to pay money and you had to “be” somebody.

You couldn’t just pay money for a Lititz Springs National Bank certificate. You had to pay money and you had to “be” somebody.

 

If it was old it was on sale at the annual Antiques and Collectables show in the Lititz Springs Park.

If it was old, it was on sale at the annual Antiques and Collectables show in the Lititz Springs Park.

 

Aaron Fry with a banner from the 1956 Lititz bicentennial celebration.

Aaron Fry with a banner from the 1956 Lititz bicentennial celebration.

 

Sheri Money and her husband Larry visited the annual Antiques and Collectables show at Lititz Springs Park on Saturday and took a six-pack of Lititz soda along home to Edgewood, Kentucky. The Money’s are frequent visitors to the area.

Sheri Money and her husband Larry visited the annual Antiques and Collectables show at Lititz Springs Park on Saturday and took a six-pack of Lititz soda along home to Edgewood, Kentucky.
The Money’s are frequent visitors to the area.

 

The occasional patch of sunlight added visual drama to many of the objects on display.

The occasional patch of sunlight added visual drama to many of the objects on display.

 

Shade was a welcome relief for standholders and customers.

Shade was a welcome relief for standholders and customers.

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