90-Year-Old Member Recalls MIDFLORIDA’s Earliest Days
When Billy Joe Flanagan, 90, first opened his account, MIDFLORIDA was not yet MIDFLORIDA.
The credit union began in 1954 as the Polk County Teachers Credit Union in the basement of what was then Lakeland’s junior high school. There were no professional branches yet, no ATMs and no freshly popped popcorn in the lobby for patrons to munch on.
In the basement sat one young woman who managed what would become one of Central Florida’s premier credit unions.
“Rebecca Keith,” said Flanagan. “Downstairs in the basement, she kept the money in a box. She had a desk and she kept the box in the bottom drawer.”
Before moving to Florida and becoming a Polk County school teacher, Flanagan grew up in North Alabama where he would go on to attend college and begin coaching youth sports.
“I was lucky,” he said. “We had rivers on one side and the mountain on the other side. I was just having a good time as far as growing up.”
He began his collegiate career at Athens State University in Alabama where he was the quarterback on the football team, pitcher on the baseball team, and center on the basketball team. He then transferred to Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee, where he met his wife, Marci.
“She met me in college and she coached, and I coached and that’s about it,” he said.
The two married and moved to Florida where Flanagan started his lifelong career in education as a coach at Fort Meade High School. He then taught at Crystal Lake Middle School but spent the majority of his time at Mulberry High School. He retired in 1990 as the principal of Fort Meade Middle.
During those years he spent serving Polk County’s youth as a teacher and administrator, Flanagan grew to love the credit union and has kept his accounts open to this day. He watched as branches began to pop up all around him and is proud to be one of MIDFLORIDA’s first members.
“I could just put my money there and forget about it,” he joked.
Flanagan’s son, Joe, remembers his father taking him to MIDFLORIDA in 1988 to open his own account in Sebring.
“Dad would always make a day out of it,” he said. “He’d call me and say, ‘Hey, it’s Friday let’s go out and I’ll treat you to lunch so we can do some things, go to MIDFLORIDA.’”
“At any one time, my dad probably had three, four, maybe five CD’s with MIDFLORIDA that he was rolling over, so we’d always have to go do some manipulation of his funds.”
Even today, Flanagan is excited to see how far MIDFLORIDA’s reach will extend in Florida. He now lives in Stuart, which is about two hours away from Polk County, and recently attended the Grand Opening there with his son. He only had one complaint about the new branch.
“My son took me to the opening down here, and they didn’t have any popcorn,” he said. “I remember in Lakeland we had popcorn.”
While the lack of popcorn is an unfortunate result of COVID-19, Flanagan will be happy to know that MIDFLORIDA plans to bring it back once the pandemic is a thing of the past.
Flanagan is now enjoying his retired life in Stuart with his wife Marci by his side and enjoys spending time with his two sons and five grandchildren. And to this day, he still loves to make a day out of a trip to his local MIDFLORIDA branch.