Banking far and wide
BMO has a long history of going the extra mile to provide banking services across Canada’s vast landscape. From adopting unconventional modes of travelling to hard-to-reach branches, to devising creative ways of securing and safeguarding bank funds, the grit and determination of these bankers to help our customers and communities make real financial progress is nothing short of admirable.
Nelson, British Columbia
In February of 1892, Arthur Hamilton Buchanan set off to open a Bank of Montreal branch in Nelson, British Columbia. In order to reach the community nestled within the Selkirk Mountains, he travelled on the Great Northern Railroad and then walked an additional 80 kilometres from Northport, Washington, on snowshoes.
At the time of his arrival, the funds needed to open the branch were still in transit. Rather than delay the opening, Buchanan, who would serve as manager of the branch for 12 years, began operations with the funds leftover from his journey and a small loan obtained from two local businessmen, amounting to a total of $16.10 in cash.
Image: Artistic rendering of A.H. Buchanan travelling to Nelson on snowshoes, Bank of Montreal holiday card, 1951-1952.
The Goldfields branch was established in 1937, three years after the discovery of gold on the north shore of Lake Athabasca. At the time of their arrival, manager R.J Cock and his assistant, Fred Hutchison, had little office equipment because mail could not reach the community in the wake of the spring break-up – the roads were too soft and muddy to travel on due to melting snow.
The two bankers nevertheless persisted with their modest supply of stationery, a small savings ledger, and the portable typewriter that had accompanied them from Winnipeg. Boxes doubled as chairs and desks. Prior to the arrival of a safe, Cock and Hutchison even ensured the safety of the branch’s cash by stuffing it in their bedrolls at night.
Image: Fred Hutchison, assistant to the manager, stands in front of the Goldfields branch with tall boots to protect his trousers from the muddy roads, May 1937.
Pelee Island, Ontario
Branch staff in Leamington who served the sub-agency on Pelee Island were likewise no strangers to banking in remote locations. Located on Lake Erie, Point Pelee Island is Canada’s southernmost populated area. To reach the island, staff either departed from Leamington by plane or, during the summer months, traded their wings for sea legs and commuted on the M.S. Leamington. Their arrival at the sub-agency, which doubled as a town hall, would be announced to islanders through a general signal transmitted over the Island system by a telephone operator.
Image: Photograph of bank employees Flora Pannunzio and Ted Hossack commuting to Pelee Island by plane, Staff Magazine, June 1964.