Banking has changed quite a bit in the 40 years that Colleen Courts has been in the industry. In April, she celebrated 35 years working at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in Slave Lake. Prior to moving to Slave Lake in 1985, she worked at a bank in Calgary for five years.
In 1985, Courts’ husband lost his job in Calgary. One of Courts’ uncles gave him a job driving tank truck in Slave Lake.
“We were only going to stay 10 years or so,” says Courts.
Slave Lake in the 1980s was a bit different.
“When we came here,” says Courts, “there was no cable. I think the Sawridge had a satellite we could get some movies on sometimes. Other than that, there was CBC.”
Also of note in the mid-1980s was a housing shortage in Slave Lake. The couple moved in February to a trailer in Widewater without running water. Shortly afterward, they moved into the brand-new fourplexes across from the Slave Lake RCMP station. Eventually, they found a trailer in Slave Lake which was rent-to-own. By the early 1990s, they had bought a house.
While in Slave Lake, Courts gave birth to four boys.
Courts started her career in Slave Lake in 1986. This is 37 years ago, but with mat leaves it works out to 35 years in April.
One of the mat leaves was cut short, because of lack of staff.
“They were calling me,” says Courts. “And I hadn’t even had my second child.”
She didn’t go back quite then, but she did shortly afterwards.
Back in Calgary in the early 1980s, the mortgage rate was very high and a lot of people lost their homes.
The bank would strip it bare, says Courts. They’d even take the bathtub.
By the time, Courts and her husband moved to Slave Lake, there was an oil boom.
Courts started at the RBC when it was in half of the space which is now Rexall on Main Street. The other half was Barton Drugs. In about 1990, the bank moved to its current location across the street.
Courts is one of the front desk people at the bank. Over the years, the role has had many names including bank teller and customer service representative.
At the Slave Lake RBC, Courts has held various jobs, including teller, approval clerk, loan clerk, receptionist, Demand Deposit Accounting (DDA) clerk. The DDA kept track of personal chequing accounts which were out of the bank. This is now centralized, and there’s no DDA in Slave Lake.
Centralization has been one of the biggest changes Courts has seen in her career. When Courts started, the RBC in Slave Lake had more employees than it did now.
Technology has been the other one.
Back in Calgary prior to 1985, Courts didn’t have a computer.
“Everything was done by hand,” says Courts.
This included calculating interest and verifying cheques. Bank account information was kept on microfilm.
“When I went to the Royal Bank, it was my first experience with computers,” says Courts.
The tellers had their own computers, but shared a bankbook printer.
Prior to 1990, the bank had an ATM. One of Courts’ jobs was stocking the ATM. This only gave out $20s. Next, $5 bills were added. Many years later, $50s and $100s were included.
Cash and cheques were the order of the day.
On a Monday morning, the whole staff would sort cash and cheques that people deposited in the ATM or the night drop box.
Some bars would come in with hundreds of $1 bills, says Courts.
On paydays there would be long lines of people waiting to cash their paycheques. Most companies use direct deposit now, so that’s a thing of the past.