As we near the end of 2017, many of us who like to plan ahead are already thinking about next year’s calendar. We know we need a place to schedule appointments and make note of birthdays and other celebrations. Here in Fulton, perhaps the most anticipated calendar is the one created by The Fulton Savings Bank. Each November, patrons of the bank start asking the tellers: “Is the new calendar ready yet?”
Nancy Kush Ellis would have the answer to that question. Nancy is a vice president for the bank and the coordinator of the calendar, now in its 22nd year. I’m one of those who look forward to getting a copy each holiday season and over the years I’ve enjoyed their themes, which often focus on local history. I was curious how the bank selects those themes and how the calendar got started in the first place. Nancy had the answer to those questions, too.
“In 1996, the bank was celebrating its 125th year,” Nancy explained. “Before that, we’d given out little desk calendars, but then we saw a sample of a larger, customized one and I got the idea to try it for our bank.”
I sat with Nancy in her office to hear more about the bank’s famous calendars. She spread out three big binders on her desk, which had samples of each of the 22 calendars. As I looked through them, year by year, their bright photographs in brilliant colors got me wondering: Who creates these works of art?
“The bank has a marketing committee and each year we sit down to discuss different theme ideas,” Nancy shared. “We discuss the pros and cons of each idea, deciding if we can find pictures to support the theme and if it can cover the cities and towns the bank serves.” Nancy reminded me that not only can you find a Fulton Savings Bank in our city, but also in Phoenix, Central Square, Brewerton, Constantia and Baldwinsville.
Nancy gives a lot of credit for the calendar’s beauty to Ed Vayner, who has designed them from the first year. Ed once owned an advertisement business in Fulton and, as Nancy pointed out, “he works with our theme, hunting down pictures, designing them and then finding a local printer to produce them. Even though Ed retired a few years ago, he still takes on this project for the bank.”
I made note of the different themes the bank has undertaken. Its first year celebrated the bank’s anniversary, with photos of one-room schools, fire departments and sports activities. Sports have been the theme for several years – it helps that Bank President Mike Pollock is an enthusiastic local sports fan and supporter. Other themes focused on places of worship, community servants, historic bridges, trains and trolleys. For the year 2000, the calendar celebrated a whole century with “It All Started Here,” which covered nationally known products made in Central New York. The 2017 theme, “Whether the Weather in CNY,” is an apt one, since each of our seasons comes with its own unique weather.
To me, the calendars seem like collector’s items and Nancy confirmed that. “I’ve had people come to me and say ‘I’m missing last year’s calendar,’ so, for a couple years after each calendar is released, I’ll keep a stack of them for those requests. One year, we were trying to figure out if the monthly paper statements we mailed out were effective in informing our customers. To find out, we put in a little notice that said, ‘Our calendars are coming out soon and if you’d like us to, we’d be happy to mail one to you.’ We thought we’d get ten or twenty requests. We got over a thousand.”
The year 2002, the theme focused on “Supporting the Communities We Serve.” One page featured a photo of some of the bank’s scholarship winners. It caught my eye and I asked Nancy to tell me a little more about the scholarships. “The Fulton Savings Bank Scholarship Program started in 1998 and it gives a $500 scholarship to two high school seniors in each of our county’s nine school districts and Baldwinsville. Those students have chosen to attend either SUNY Oswego or Cayuga Community College, and as long as they remain a fulltime student there, the $500 is awarded to them annually.”
I did a little math in my head: ten school districts per year for two students over the nearly twenty years the program has existed. That’s a substantial amount of financial support for local youth. Nancy’s staff provided me with the actual figures, showing that Fulton Savings has awarded over $413,000, benefitting 186 Oswego State students and 168 at Cayuga Community College. This year, some lucky young people will be added to that total.
Nancy explained that creating the calendar is really a yearlong process. “As soon as one year’s is finished and sent to the printer, we’ll begin looking at ideas for next year. Over the months, we narrow it down to one and then Ed takes over, spending months coming up with the right photos, design and text.”
Nancy will be ending her 40-year career at Fulton Savings Bank in the near future and she’ll have a lot of memories to take with her. Putting together the Bank’s calendar is one of her favorites. “I love seeing it all come together,” she commented.
I got a sneak peek at next year’s calendar, which the bank is calling “The Falling Waters of Central New York.” Nancy explained that it will go through four or five drafts before it’s approved. Based on the 22 years of calendars that Nancy shared with me, we can be sure that the 2018 edition is going to join the others as a real treasure of our community’s history.