SUBMITTED PHOTO The plaque was hung in its proper place at 2201 E. Southport Road, which now houses the E.M. Co., owned by Greg Schaub. The sign is visible from the street.
SUBMITTED PHOTO Southport Mayor Jesse Testruth holds a picture of Jack Whalen, founder of Southport State Bank. Joan Miller (below, from left), president of the Greater Southside Business Alliance, Diane Saari and Barry Browning of the Perry Township/Southport Historial Society were present for the dedication hosted by state Sen. Brent Waltz.
A bronze plaque with the words “Southport State Bank” caught the attention of the city and the Perry Township/Southport Historical Society during an auction at Christys of Indiana in 2014. And now it has been returned to its original location at 2201 E. Southport Road.
A ceremony to mark the occasion was hosted by the society Friday, with State Sen. Brent Waltz dedicating the plaque.
“I was really excited,” said the society’s Barry Browning. “As far as I knew, all the traces of that bank were long gone. When the plaque came up for auction, Christy’s secured it for the city. I’m just tickled. It’s good to see the plaque returned in the bank’s history.”
Southport State Bank was originally owned by Jack Whalen. On June 11, 1956, the bank was robbed of $66,546, the second-largest robbery in Indiana at the time. Roy Rudolph Drake was arrested two days later. That may not have been the only time the bank was robbed, said Browning, who witnessed a robbery when he was young, around the same time as the 1956 heist, but he can’t recall if it’s the same incident.
“What I remember, I was spending the day with my aunt and uncle,” Browning said. “I was 4 or 5 years old. My uncle had to stop by the bank. At that time there was parking on Southport Road.
“My uncle went in, and we sat there and sat there. We were wondering what was going on. My aunt gave me some change, and I went across the street to get a bottle of orange pop. I looked in the bank’s windows but didn’t see anybody. I told my aunt, and she said that’s ridiculous; there had to be people in there. My uncle finally came out and told us the bank had been robbed. ‘They held us at gunpoint and made us lie on the floor and took our wallets,’ he said. That’s the story I remember as a kid.”
Browning said the society didn’t want to see the plaque just sitting on a shelf someplace. By mounting it at its original location – now the E.M. Co. owned by Greg Schaub – it is visible to the public.
“Our history was saved from being destroyed,” said Southport Mayor Jesse Testruth. “The bank was the main area for the community to come to. It’s exciting.”