Wednesday, January 2, 2002
The continued blackout of the First Independent Bank time and temperature sign in Bingen is sad.
It offers a good example of the old slogan, "You don't know what you have until it's gone." Many of us probably took the informative sign for granted, and now we miss it.
For 33 years -- since 1969, even before it was First Independent Bank -- that reliable sign has blazed out vital information in its quiet way. On your way to a meeting? The sign was there to give you an accurate reading of the time. Driving down the hill on your way to Hood River? The sign was there to let you know if the roads were just wet, or likely to be covered with ice.
Ironically, before turning off the sign, the bank applied to the city of Bingen for permission to install an upgraded version. A technologically-advanced digital time/temperature display was planned, and the city OK'd the permit with little ado last summer. But then a problem cropped up: Apparently the bank's headquarters office in Vancouver didn't have a good estimate of the cost for the new sign in advance. When the estimate came along, it was decided a new sign would cost too much.
We're hoping the bank's administrators will reconsider. That sign was the ultimate form of free advertising for the bank, and in effect it provided a community service. It was like a dependable friend.
By the way, bank employees and managers at the Bingen branch office seem to miss the sign as much as the rest of us, so don't blame them. This is a corporate decision, and it's being made elsewhere.
Now, we see the fancy time/temperature sign on the Riverview Bank office in Stevenson, and feel left out. We notice the huge time/temperature electronic reader-board outside the Hood River Inn in Hood River, and feel shorted. If they can afford it, why is Bingen not deserving?
Those making the calls in the bank's headquarters are apparently considering putting in a lighted display that points to the bank's drive-through window. That would be a terrible tradeoff, and would just add brine to the community's cut.
Memo to the decision-makers at First Independent Bank: A lot of us living in this part of the Columbia River Gorge miss that sign, customers and non-customers alike. We realize we're not in a booming economy, but the goodwill spawned with that longstanding sign ought to be worth more than a few dollars. Please take another look at this situation, and find some way to get your bank's informative visual display back on the job.