Gene's Note: 60 Years of Service to Southern Oregon
I was sitting at lunch at the Real Deal Café just a block away from Jim and Harriet Johnston’s home and the incredible 60 year history of your credit union came flooding back to me. Back in October of 1956, a group of teachers gathered in a classroom to discuss starting a credit union. The prosperity of the post-war era was creating a new consumerism, but access to low cost credit was still out of the reach of most citizens. Yet, a wave was sweeping across Oregon and that wave was driven by a simple concept of people helping people. So, that group of teachers spent time that evening discussing a concept where by joining together they could help each other out. Bob Newland had heard about credit unions and shared the concept with this group and they decided to start their own credit union.
I know for a fact after visiting with Curtis Kinney, the first Treasurer of the Board, that no one at that meeting ever imagined that this little credit union would grow to serve over 100,000 members throughout Southern Oregon. It was exciting to join with Curtis to meet our 100,000 member in February at our 59th annual meeting. While Curtis is officially member number one, he only served on the Board of the credit union for seven months before returning to his home state of Indiana. So, Jim Johnston stepped up and along with his wife Harriet, Jim served the members of the credit union from his living room and then his garage before moving to their first office in 1964. Jim served the credit union for 26 years before his retirement. I recently had the opportunity to tour the Johnston home and look in the famous “garage” that so many of our early members talk about. I can assure you that I work every day with our staff and Board to ensure that we remember the dedication to service that Jim and Harriet displayed as we serve our members today… After being in the “garage” I know I have a duty to protect the personal care and concern that was a hallmark of Jim’s service to our members.
Now, nearly 60 years from that original meeting, your credit union has joined with multiple other credit unions, including Chetco Federal Credit Union to become Southern Oregon’s credit union. There is a rich history of service and community focus in the many organizations that have joined together to become what you know as Rogue Credit Union today. I follow in the footsteps of great leaders like Jim Johnston, Vern Arnold and Tim Alford. While I never met Jim, I respect and love Vern and Tim. Each of these leaders were the right leader at the right time in the growth and development of your credit union. I am so honored that they continue to stay engaged with the credit union and help us celebrate milestones like 60 years of service to Southern Oregon.
There are so many stories of service, dedication, and sacrifice over the 60 years of your credit union’s history. In fact, there are too many to list in this article. So, I invite you to visit our Administration building in Medford to learn more about the history of your credit union. We have worked to make the building a living history museum of the credit union with displays on the early days in the “garage” to celebrating our 100,000 member. We would be honored to share with you the foundations that make your credit union one of the best performing credit unions in the country!
Your continued loyalty is what makes this success all possible! Thank you!