Remembering When

by Jerry Person
Huntington Beach City Historian

Dedicated to the people of Huntington Beach about its rich past

5-Points Bank of America


Last week I attended the grand opening of the new Discovery Store in 5-Points Plaza in which our own Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce was involved. That reminded me of another grand opening at 5-Points in which the chamber took part.

At one end of the shopping plaza sits the Bank of America and this week we'll remember their grand opening 58 years earlier. But first you might like a little early history of this truly California bank.

In 1904 the City of San Francisco was the financial hub of the west with many large banking houses there catering to the newly rich of the city. Immigrants from many countries came to San Francisco to seek their fortune and each group settled in their own community section.

One of these communities was the Italian community of North Beach where a young man was planning his dream. His name was Amadeo Peter Giannini and he was motivated to create a different type of bank, one that would center on the working classes of people that dominated San Francisco at the time.

Giannini’s dream was realized in 1904 who he founded the Bank of Italy in San Francisco and when the 1906 earthquake leveled most of the city, Giannini and his bank continued banking outdoors making loans to help people rebuild their homes and businesses.

As the state grew so did his bank and the number of branches spread across Northern California that by 1920 the Bank of Italy was able to merge with Transamerica. In 1929 the California-based BankAmerica in Los Angeles and Giannini’s Bank of Italty merged and Giannini’s dream of a national bank was on its way

In the early 1960s we had only one bank national bank here, that being the Security First National Bank at 202 Main Street for our residents to deposit their money into.

By the 1960s many of our local downtown businesses were moving out to the newly built 5-Points shopping Plaza at Beach Blvd. and Main Street including Jack's Jewelers that originally had been on downtown Main Street.

When the new 5-Points Plaza opened there was space available for a new bank branch as that area was fast growning into a residential community. The bank sent representives to look over the new location and decided that the 7,250 square foot vacent offfice would be just right for a branch. It was located at the northeast corner of Delaware and Main and close to State Highway 39, Huntington Beach Boulevard, later to become just Beach Boulevard.

The bank's opening date was planned to be on Friday, July13, 1962 with a planned open house the evening before, but the bank changed their opening to Wednesday, July 17th, maybe so not to tempt fate of Fridat the 13th, and their open house ceremony was moved to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16th. The open house had a colorful event, tailored to fit our city’s new national fame as an oceanside resort.

On hand that evening to officially open the doors and launch the “S.S. Huntington Beach” branch for the Bank of America fleet was our own William Gallienne, executive secretary of our chamber of commerce, Howard G. Stephens, president of our chamber of commerce, Ralph Windsor, vice president of Bank of America’s Los Angeles headquarters, Carol Almgren, Miss Huntington Beach, and William Peterson, the branch’s new manager.

Windsor presented Peterson with a gold key, a tradition of Bank of America for openings of new branches. The public who attended that open house were given a card good for a gold-colored key, a duplicate of their car’s ignition key as a souvenir.

The bank had arranged special displays and exhibits including the coin collection of Cyrus Phillips that traced the history of American money back to its earliest days.

For two hours the public was treated to tours of the vault, staff rooms and were able to inspect the new windowless teller stations.

The public was also invited to guess the exact number of coins in a chest located in the bank’s entrance foyer. Thefirst three coming closest would receive $50, $25 and $10 bank accounts.

The branch's new manager, William S. Peterson had been employed by Bank of America and came to our branch with 20 years of banking experience.

Peterson was born in Iowa and as a youth his family came to California where Peterson attended South Gate High. After his graduation from high school, Peterson attended Compton junior college where he received a degree in business administration and would later attend the American Institute of Banking.

In 1939 Peterson joined Bank of America as a clerk in Los Angeles and worked his way up the corporate ladder. He worked in the Torrance, Compton, South Pasadena and Pasadena branches before coming to Huntington Beach. Yet he continued to live with his wife Marjorie and three children, Sheryl, Gregory and Jeffrey in Glendora.

Bank officials picked another Iowan to help Peterson at the bank, Don Ducommun, and he would serve as its operations manager. Ducommun received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morningside College in Sioux City and after coming to California he spent a year doing graduate work at Long Beach State College. His family included his wife Carolyn and they lived in the City of Orange.

The third member picked to work at this branch was Jack Hyatt, as assistant cashier, and he was born in Brooklyn and attended Thomas Jefferson High and City College in New York. Hyatt worked at the bank’s Wilshire-La Brea branch before coming to Huntington Beach and lived in Cypress with his wife Jo Ann and son Daniel.

Within two years a second Bank of America branch was opened, this one on Springdale Street and today Bank of America continues to be an important part of our community as that of our own Chanber of Commerce.