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Historic CU photo recreated at CUNA anniversary
ESTES PARK, Colo. (9/17/09)--Leaders from the Credit Union Association (CUNA) and today’s credit union system held a commemorative ceremony yesterday on the YMCA camp grounds in Estes Park, Colo., the original site of CUNA’s founding 75 years ago. About 150 system leaders gathered to hear commemorative remarks from CUNA Chairman Kris Mecham; CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica; American Association of Credit Union Leagues (AACUL) Chair Rosie Holub; Bill and Catherine Herring, the son and daughter of early credit union organizer Louise Herring who attended the 1934 Estes Park meeting; and Kathy Pelletier, the granddaughter of credit union pioneer Roy F. Bergengren. The following are excerpts from their remarks:
* CUNA Chairman Kris Mecham recalled that back in 1934, before
Click to view larger image Seventy-five years ago, pioneers of the credit union movement--including Edward Filene, Roy Bergengren and Claude Orchard--posed at the YMCA campsite in Estes Park, Colo., to record the founding of the Credit Union National Association on Sept. 10, 1934. The photo has become an icon in the credit union movement history. (Photos provided by CUNA).
setting out for the Colorado meeting, Roy Bergengren expressed his thoughts about the movement in a letter to his boss, Edward Filene. "I sincerely believe," Bergengren wrote, "that what we are going to do at Estes Park will have extraordinary consequences." Added Mecham: “How right he was. The system that sprang forth on Aug. 10, 1934, is ‘extraordinary.’ Our early founders would be proud of their work, and they would marvel at how our system has grown and evolved during the last three-quarters of a century. But we’ve maintained the same values as the pioneers initiated in those early days. We are still ‘not for profit, not for charity, but for service,’ and all about ‘people helping people.’" * AACUL Chair Rosie Holub noted that in 1934 there were only five sustaining leagues (New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Missouri). “A primary purpose of CUNA then was to form leagues in every state to develop the credit union movement and credit unions in those states. In the early days Roy Bergengren emphasized the importance of unity; it was difficult to achieve even then. Let us pledge, as did the credit union leaders, to work together cooperatively and collectively to achieve unity of purpose and voice.” * Kathy Pelletier read portions of a moving speech her grandfather,
Click to view larger image Leaders and supporters of the credit union movement gathered Wednesday in Estes Park, Colo., to commemorate the founding of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) there. One of the day's highlights was a group photo similar to the original photo of CUNA founders taken there in 1934.
Roy F. Bergengren, delivered in Estes Park on CUNA’s 20th anniversary in 1954. Her grandfather took note of great events in history--the signing of the Magna Carta (the beginning of democracy), the Mayflower compact (symbol of the right to worship according to the dictates of conscience); the Declaration of Independence (our American charter of liberty); the U.S. Constitution (which gave practicality to freedom); the Gettysburg Address (rededicating us to government by the people). He explained how these are all milestones that are “great days of remembrance.”

“We too, would add a day of remembrance,” Bergengren said then. “Because there are nine million of us today and the prospect of 100 million in the not too remote future, and our day is of more than passing significance.” He went on to say the day is made significant because “usury has existed all through the centuries because of the false assumption that the average man was not entitled to normal money credit.” The solution was found “in the hitherto unsuspected capacity of the people to work together, to pool their savings, however small, and thereby to create normal credit for themselves without usury.” He later concluded: “May our children and our children’s children return to this spot, from time to time over the years, here to renew their inspiration to carry on the war for economic opportunity, which their ancestors started.” Even today, her grandfather remains “her role model,” Pelletier concluded. * Bill Herring, a CUNA board member, and Catherine Herring are both CEOs of Ohio credit unions and each recalled their mother, Louise, sometimes referred to as “the mother of the CU movement” who in her day organized more than 500 credit unions. Bill said that his mother and her fellow founders 75 years ago saw the effect of the high cost of credit on every day people. “They had a vision that a national organization working with state leagues would organize credit unions and represent credit unions as a strong voice at the state and national level. The founders 75 years ago would be proud of CUNA today.”.”

Catherine Herring noted that her mother was among the youngest attendees at the 1934 Estes Park gathering, but all her life was never one to be shy or intimidated, especially when it came to credit unions. “If you think about it, it was a pretty radical concept at the time. Working people would work together for the common good. She felt credit unions would make a difference in people’s lives,” Catherine said. She also told the audience how her mother summed up what was distinct about credit unions: “Their aim is to allow the average working person to exchange their paycheck for the maximum amount of goods and services.” * CUNA President/CEO Dan Mica told the audience how he was struck by the “simplicity of the original photo 75 years ago. The majesty of the mountains, the beautiful scenery.” Looking at the same surroundings today, Mica said, “It is truly great to be part of the credit union movement. We have something special to be proud of.” But he said we should “honor and learn from the past, but we should not be chained to the past. There’s still a lot of work to be done to educate the rest of the world about who we are and what we do. We have tomorrow’s opportunity in front of us.”
Guests at yesterday’s commemoration included the CUNA and CUNA Stratetgic Services (CSS) boards and executive management teams, league presidents and their chairs, representatives from affiliated and guest credit union organizations, and National Credit Union Administration board member Gigi Hyland. Additionally, honored guests included past CUNA chairs J. Alvin George, Gary Janacek, Nancy Pierce, Dave Maus, Barry Jolette, Dick Ensweiler, Juri Valdov, Allan Kemp McMorris, and Tom Dorety as well as former CUNA President Ralph Swoboda. To further mark CUNA’s 75th anniversary, a photo of today’s group was taken at the same location where 52 credit union delegates from 21 states and the District of Columbia originally posed for the iconic photo taken in 1934 against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
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