In 1952 it cost $0.25 to join Radio Shops Credit Union – the original name of Truliant Federal Credit Union.
Radio Shops was started by Western Electric to serve the banking needs of its employees in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Burlington. The credit union started with 2,000 members.
Bob Messick was one of those early members. After graduating in 1951 from Hanes High School in Winston-Salem, Messick started working for Western, a wholly owned subsidiary of AT&T. Messick was in a two-year machinist program at Hanes, so he was qualified to work in the Western shop right after graduation. He joined the credit union in 1952.
As of 2018, Messick has been a member of Truliant for 66 years.
“I signed up for a quarter,” said Messick, 86. “It was started for active employees of Western Electric, and our credit-union office was right in the Western plant on Chatham Road. In the early days the credit union used Western employees to work for the credit union during lunch.
“Lunch was the only time they were open because we couldn’t leave our jobs at other times to go to the credit union. They had to work at our convenience. And if you wanted to apply for a loan at lunch there were only two people who could handle a loan application,” Messick said.
Messick said that he was working at Western on gun turret guidance systems for the military. “I was mostly doing wiring.”
Two years after joining Western, Messick was drafted into the military in 1953. He was about to complete his training in Fort Jackson, S.C., when it was announced that the Korean War had ended.
“They split up our group alphabetically,” Messick said. “All the M’s through Z were sent to Europe. All the others were sent to the Far East.” Messick served his two years in Germany, working as a machinist and as an auto mechanic.
When Messick returned to Winston-Salem in 1955, Western had held his job for him and they added his two years of military service to his time with the company. Messick married his first wife, Peggy, in 1955. They had three children. Peggy later died of cancer in 1982.
Messick spent the next 35 years working for Western and Bell Labs, also owned by AT&T, in various capacities as a trainer and supervisor in different shops. He retired in 1990.
Messick, who has been married to his current wife, Hilda, for 30 years, maintained his membership in the credit union, watching it adopt several names over the years – North Carolina Works in 1962, AT&T Family Credit Union in 1983 and Truliant in 1999 – and grow from 2,000 members to more than 230,000 today.
The biggest change that Messick has noticed over the years is the number of people who work at the credit union.
“They have more people. There used to be two at the Western office, but now when I walk into the North Point branch there are all kinds of people ready to help.
“I got my first car loan from the credit union,” Messick said. “It was a Chevrolet and I just about wore out that title taking it back and forth to the credit union. I took it to them every time I needed money. Then I’d pay it off and I’d get the title back. But then I’d need money again for one thing or another and I’d mortgage the car again.”
One Truliant service that Messick hasn’t used is online banking. Because he has macular degeneration – the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. – Messick can no longer effectively use a computer.
“On average I go to the North Point branch (in Winston-Salem) once a month,” Messick said. “I have most of my bills drafted. Betsy Bracken of Truliant took care of all that for me. I don’t have to worry about writing checks. I’m more forgetful now, so I don’t have to worry about my bills being paid. That’s a wonderful convenience Betsy set up.
“North Point is a really good branch. I can still drive there – with the blessings of my eye doctor. It’s only 10-15 minutes, but I don’t drive at night any longer. When I do have an issue, I just call Betsy. If she’s not in I usually get a response within a day. That’s good banking.”
Truliant’s connection has migrated through of two additional Messick generations. Bob Messick’s son Jody, 58, lives in Belmont, N.C., with his wife, Trina. They became AT&T Family Credit Union members in 1982 while Trina was employed at an AT&T plant in Winston-Salem. They are still members and Bob Messick set up college accounts for their two children: Amber, now 39, and Jamey, now 35.
Amber was able to use money from that account to attend UNC Chapel Hill and Jamey used his account to help with expenses at Appalachian State University.
Not bad for an initial membership fee of $0.25 in 1952.