The Whitin Machine Works Credit Union

INTRODUCTION :
    What is a credit union? A credit union is a cooperative banking organization the operates for the benefit of its members. Savings are pooled and money is borrowed at interest rates often lower than those charged by most banks. Credit unions, as in the case of the original Whitin Machine Works Credit Union, are organized among company employees, or as members of farm groups, labor unions, or educational, religious, and social institutions.1  Now, there are about 13,000 sorts of credit unions in the United States, with a total membership in excess of 65 million. These credit unions hold assets of approximately $300 billion! Deposits are insured up to $100,000 per account by the federal government. 

ORIGIN and HISTORY :
    Cooperative credit societies started in Germany during the 1840’s. Alphonse Desjardins organized the first credit union of North America in 1900 in Quebec, Canada. He also helped to set up the first credit union of the U.S. in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1908. And interestingly enough, Massachusetts became the very first state to legalize credit unions in 1909. Desjardins helped draft the new law. Afterwards, a Boston, MA merchant named Edward A. Filene became the leader in the development of other American credit unions.  Presently, more than half of all credit unions in the United States operate under federal charters. They are regulated and supervised by the National Credit Union Administration. The other credit unions are chartered by their respective individual states.  
    The Whitin Machine Works Credit Union marked its 25th Anniversary in 1957. A banquet was held at the Northbridge High School Auditorium on May 11th. About 200 members and guests attended. At the end of a full-course chicken pie dinner, Mr. Gerrit H. Ebbeling, then President of the W.M.W. Credit Union, gave a warm welcome to the assembly. The Toastmaster of the evening was Mr.Henry S.Crawford, W.M.W. Credit Union Treasurer. Among the other speakers he introduced were Mr. Melvin Anderson, who as President of the Worcester County Chapter, extended greetings of the Chapter and congratulated the W.M.W. Credit Union on the occasion of its 25th Anniversary; Mr. Chester Caron, President of the Credit Union League of Massachusetts, spoke of the rapid growth of credit unions throughout the country and of their importance to employees as lending institutions.  Mr. E. Kent Swift, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Whitin Machine Works, congratulated the W.M.W. Credit Union on its steady progress and then he explained how and why the Credit Union was started. 
    The Whitin Machine Works Credit Union had its beginning on March 2, 1932, after a Whitin employee’s unfortunate experience with a loan shark was brought to the attention of Mr. E. Kent Swift. To prevent other employees from being victimized in a similar way, Mr. Swift, who had always been interested in the welfare of the Whitin workers, asked Employment Manager, Mr. William T. Norton, to consider the feasibility of establishing a credit union at "THE SHOP".  Moving swiftly, Mr. Norton communicated with the Massachusetts Credit Union League for detailed information concerning the requirements and procedures for forming a local organization. After getting the needed information and advice, twenty Whitin employees then applied to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a charter. A committee of three Whitin workers was delegated by the founding employees to represent them in their search for a credit union charter. The Commonwealth’s Treasurer and the State Bank Commissioner, who are entrusted by the Commonwealth to establish the rules under which a credit union must operate and who must approve the by-laws of each such organization, investigated carefully and thoroughly the Whitin group’s purposes for establishing a credit union. Satisfied with the group’s status and aspirations, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts granted a charter to them as the "Whitin Machine Works Credit Union". 2  An organizational meeting was held in the Whitin Community Gymnasium in February of 1932 . At this meeting the first officers as well as directors were elected.3 

PHENOMENAL GROWTH and DEVELOPMENT:
    The Credit Union’s chief objectives through the years have been to promote thrift among the employees and to provide them with a means of getting financial help in the form of loans at reasonable rates of interest. During its very first year of operation, the W.M.W. Credit Union accumulated assets totaling $2,551.12 and its 104 members were granted loans amounting to $630.00. From this tiny and meager beginning, the W.M.W. Credit Union grew incredibly, so that by the close of 1956, (almost 25 years later):

  • its assets totaled in excess of half a million dollars($529,180.72)
  • its membership numbered 2,524
  • and its outstanding loans amounted to $307,264.75.

    During the twenty five years of its early existence, the W.M.W. Credit Union had greatly benefited many Whitin employees with financial assistance for a wide range of worthy purposes and help in all sorts of emergencies. The Whitin Machine Works Credit Union was a member of the Massachusetts Credit Union League and was recognized as a well established and successful enterprise. Its sound and rapid growth had been due to prudent management by its Board of Directors, to its dedicated personnel, to the loyal and faithful support of its members and from the continuous support and assistance of "THE SHOP".4 It was quite fitting that one would glance backward from a 25th Anniversary Milestone to praise the vision of Mr. E. Kent Swift and the foresight of Mr. William T. Norton and his associates in the founding of the W.M.W. Credit Union.  
    Mr. J. Hugh Bolton had authorized new and larger quarters for the W.M.W. Credit Union. And in 1957, the Whitin Machine Works Credit Union had a 21-member board of directors.  From its inception in 1932 until 1982, the Whitin Machine Works kept its name and function intact. If one had worked in "THE SHOP", regardless of creed, belief, or job position, each employee had a voice and shared in its operation. An initial deposit as low as $5.00 was sufficient to open a savings account. Also, because there were no stockholders, rates for loans were kept low and available to all members fairly.5  
    After the demise of the textile industry and the sale of the Whitin Machine Works in 1984, there were many changes, especially in the name and size of the former W.M.W. Credit Union. Physically changing both in location and size, the credit union was renamed to the Whitin Machine Works Community Credit Union. With "THE SHOP" gone, in 1985 the credit union had its own building for the first time. It was relocated into the former Peck Motors building (Chrysler-Plymouth dealership), which was later occupied by "Weepin’ Willies" (produce). Patrons continued to frequent and appreciate the easy access and free parking at the credit union’s new location (two distinct advantages it had over its space in "THE SHOP").6 The building at 1298 Providence Road, Whitinsville proved ideal for size and accessibility, and it would later serve as a branch office for the Board of Directors. The name was changed to ‘The  Blackstone Valley Credit Union, but that designation did not last very long, and re-purchase of the credit union resulted in another name change to the Webster Credit Union. A final merger and acquisition would take place in the nineties and the name, as it presently stands, is the Webster First Federal Credit Union.7



APPENDIX:
 

PRESENT LOCATIONS: (in alphabetical order) *denotes ATM locations 
    1 Bartlett High school- Webster MA 
    2 Trolley crossing, Rt. 20 - Charlton MA 
    3 282 Main Street- Douglas MA* 
    4 Dudley Plaza- Dudley MA* 
    5 Norton Branch(employees only)- Worcester MA* 
    6 118 West Main St.-Spencer MA*(most recent branch office to open with Open House held 1-5-2000) 
    7 1 Norman St.- Webster MA* 
    8 1298 Providence Road- Whitinsville MA 
    9 800 Millbury St.- Worcester MA* 

CREDITS and REFERENCES:
 

1.  1999 World Book CD; W. Monroe, Chicago IL 60661 
2.  "The Whitin Spindle"; Vol. X #6; June 1957; (pp.15+16) 
3.  "The Whitin Spindle"; Vol. X #6; June 1957; (pp.15+16)
4.  "The Whitin Spindle"; Vol. X #6; June 1957; (pp.15+16)
5.  Interview: Mr. Roland Beaudoin; (4-19-1999)
6.  Interview: Mr. Roland Beaudoin; (4-19-1999)
7.  Leaflet: "Your Key to 24-hour Banking"; Webster First Federal Credit Union-1999 

 

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