After 43 Years, Chatham Banking Icon Alice Fritz Retires

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Business , Community events

Alice Fritz. DEBRA LAWLESS PHOTO

Bank customers will miss one of the most familiar and friendly faces in Chatham when teller Alice Fritz retires on March 30 after 43 years with Rockland Trust.

And what will Fritz miss the most?

“Meeting people,” she says during an interview in the conference room at Rockland Trust’s branch at 655 Main St. She adds that she enjoys her work, and that “it’s different every day.”

“People trust Alice—her processing skills, her camaraderie,” says branch manager Jo-Ann L. Martin. “Her skills as a teller are second to none.”

When word got out a couple of weeks ago that Fritz plans to retire, customers told her, “You can’t leave.”

When Fritz began work in the bank at the rotary it was called Chatham Trust Company. Alice’s father, J. Wesley Deer, was the treasurer of Chatham Trust from the days when it was in the Brick Building on the corner of Chatham Bars Avenue and Main Street. When Chatham Trust moved, in 1954, to the rotary location, the entire bank was contained in that one building. There were no branch offices—in contrast, Rockland Trust boasts 83 branches in Massachusetts, where it is based. The safe deposit boxes, which have a pleasing antique look, moved with the bank from the Brick Building. Deer retired in 1974, and Fritz signed on at the bank a year later, in 1975. Through the years, the bank changed its affiliation several times. After Chatham Trust it was the Barnstable County National Bank, Bank of New England and Fleet Bank before it became Rockland Trust.

“I’m the last of the Chatham Trust Company employees,” Fritz notes.

Fritz boasts a solid Chatham pedigree. Her mother Vivian was a Nickerson, making Fritz and her two sisters, Susan and Louise, 12th generation descendants of William and Anne (Busby) Nickerson, the founders of Chatham. Fritz graduated with 61 others in Chatham High School’s class of 1970. For a time after that, she worked at the Northport Bakery, now Chatham Bakery on Old Harbor Road.

When Fritz joined the bank there were no computers, no ATMs, no direct deposits. While it may be easy for those of us born before the days of ATMs to recall cashing checks at places like grocery and liquor stores, it’s more difficult to comprehend how a bank could function without a computerized system to inform tellers how much money was in a given account.

“We had glorified adding machines for deposits,” Fritz recalls. For withdrawals, tellers had to telephone Hyannis to check customers’ balances.

Interestingly, Fritz is still tending some of the bank’s customers from those early days. “A lot stayed with us,” she says.

During Fritz’s years here the bank was never robbed, but Fritz had to deal with a major issue of her own 24 years ago when she experienced a brain aneurism. She was out for four months recovering, and when she returned to her job she worked for nine months in Rockland’s Dennis branch followed by 18 months in the Orleans branch. When a job opened up in Chatham, she returned to the familiar faces of her hometown. Before her illness, Fritz served as head teller. When she returned to work, she cut her hours back to 30 per week.

While Fritz is best known to her public either looking out from behind the high teller’s counter or as a smiling face in the drive-through window, she also tends to many duties behind the scenes. “Alice oversees a lot of compliance procedures,” Martin says. “Alice is tremendous in ensuring that we’re on top of it. She’s got a keen eye.”

During her years at the bank Fritz and her husband Carl, who retired three years ago, have traveled extensively. They have visited St. Barts in the Caribbean, Alaska and Hawaii, where they stayed for nearly a month. Fritz loves Chatham’s celebrations, too.

“Alice has never missed a Fourth of July parade,” Martin says. She turns to Fritz and asks her how many First Night Chatham buttons she has.

“All of them,” Fritz says, smiling.

So what will life be like for Fritz when she no longer has to don her professional attire to go to work each morning?

“It’s going to feel weird,” she says. “It’s going to feel like I’m on vacation for a while.” Fritz makes jewelry and Christmas ornaments which she sells at a table at the Chatham Community Center during the annual Holiday Shopping Fair in November. She has also recently taken up pebble art, and she looks forward to having more time to pursue her crafts. She and her husband will make excursions on their small motor boat out to North Beach Island, where she collects the pebbles. They also head out to The Squire, especially when the Total Strangers perform.

Rockland Trust will host a retirement party with a cake and refreshments for Fritz on her last day, Friday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. All are welcome to come to the bank to reminisce and to wish Fritz happiness during the next stage of her life.