Banking in Vila

By Peter Robinson

Over the two years that I worked for ANZ Bank in Vila there were some very interesting times to be had.

One Saturday morning all the single guys were dragged out of their beds by the Branch Accountant and told to get to the bank immediately. That was certainly strange because we did not open on weekends!

We arrived at the branch and found the customer area packed with local people all lined up at the teller counters waiting to be served. The trouble was that, until we arrived, there were no staff waiting to serve them.

It turned out that the cleaner had forgotten to lock the front door of the branch on Friday evening and someone saw that the door was open on Saturday and then many more people lined up and waited. Well, we served the customers, put the cash away and made sure that we locked that front door.

On another occasion, a bloke came in and told me that I had stolen his money from his account. I tried to find out how he came to that conclusion and he showed me a withdrawal on a certain date and proceeded to tell me that he was not even in the country when that withdrawal was made. I asked him where he had left his bank book while he was away, and he told me he had given it to his best friend. It turned out that his mate had the passbook and a signed withdrawal and needed some cash, so he came in and made the withdrawal. I told the bloke to go and see his mate and get his money back.

Back in the 70s all bank tellers held pistols in their teller’s unit. This was not different in Vila, apart from the fact that our pistols were always securely locked in the safe. Somehow, the police found out about the pistols and told the Accountant that they were illegal and had to be sent back to Australia. Well, we boxed them up and tried to post them back to Sydney. Once the postal clerk saw the mention of guns on the customs declaration he refused to accept the package. Our next option was to try and get the guys on the cruise ship bank agency to take them back. Again, no luck. Finally, the sergeant of police came back to find out what had happened. We explained that we had been unable to get them back to Australia. He asked if he could see the guns and requested a few of the calico bank bags. He then sat down disassembled the 3 pistols and put pieces of each in the 3 calico bags. Leaving the bank, he walked across the road, climbed the sea wall and got into a canoe. He paddled out into Vila harbour stopped and emptied a bag into the water and then proceeded to paddle a little further and emptied the other bags. Pistols gone!

It was always good fun working when a cruise ship was in town. I remember one day a young couple came in to cash some travellers’ cheques. I started to talk to them while getting the transaction completed. The female asked if I was from New Zealand and of course I looked very shocked at that. Her husband said I had to be an Aussie because of my accent and asked where I was from. I said I was from Brisbane and asked where they were from. They replied that they were from Newcastle. Well at the time, Bob Hudson had a hit song called “The Newcastle Song” and when the tellers each side of me heard where they were from they both leaned over and said, “G’day, how you going. Do you do it?” lines straight from the song. We all had a great laugh about that.

Copyright Peter Robinson 2018 All rights reserved