Great State: 75th Anniversary at Communication Federal Reveals Tiny Origins

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SHAWNEE, OKLAHOMA -- He just needed a little cash for the weekend, but longtime credit union customer Gary Briscoe ended up being the first official customer for the grand opening of the newest Communication Federal Credit Union branch in Shawnee.

The party atmosphere inside the lobby was extra, but he knew he didn't need an invitation.

"They know me just like I know them," he said. "We're on a first name basis."

A ribbon cutting like this might be important to the gathered crowd but have few ripples beyond the front entrance.

The story of this new branch, though, gets a lot more interesting if you look at how small the financial tree was when the founders planted it.

Pioneer Bell Federal Credit Union started with five phone company employees in 1939.

By the end of the year they had 91 members and 'whopping' $437.00 in assets.

Back at the new branch opening party it still felt like a family gathering.

Jim Funderburg joined the credit union board in 1976.

"Everybody that joins us, they're very pleased with us," he said. "They're life members from there on."

He's one of many lifetime members.

Chairman of the Board Mirl Whisman joined the credit union in 1988 several years after Pioneer Bell joined with Tulsa's Bell credit union.

Another quick look at the balance sheet reveals nearly 60 thousand members now and nearly $1 billion in assets, but still that familiar feel.

Whisman said, "When a member comes in, they're not simply addressed with a 'hello' or 'how are you' only. They're addressed by name and these folk in here know their name and know their family."

In the spring of 1963 directors broke ground on the first branch outside the old phone company offices.

That branch still sits at 6th and Walnut in Oklahoma City.

There are 20 branches that spread out over Oklahoma and Kansas.

A familiar swoosh is the company logo.

Meant, originally, to look like a 'C', it's become a friendly reminder of who they are and where this financial institution came from.

For more information on Communication Federal Credit Union go to www.comfedcu.org

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