First Members of Seven Seventeen Amazed by Growth
WARREN, Ohio — As the Seven Seventeen Credit Union celebrates its 60th anniversary, two of its first members remain members, “amazed” – both used that word – by its growth and success.
Al Shinosky of Howland and George Houtz of Warren have long retired – the former in 2001, the latter in 1985 – but they used Seven Seventeen to save, finance cars and buy houses. It remains their primary financial institution.
The year was 1957 when 15 employees at Packard Electric, all tool-and-die makers who belonged to IUE Local 717, sought a charter after paying $5 each to start a credit union.
Those funds were kept in a cigar box, says Gary Soukenik, CEO of Seven Seventeen, and the members had $5 a week deducted from their paychecks to build the treasury.
The credit union office was an “8-by-8 room on the second floor of the union hall,” Shinosky remembers. “From that small office, I can’t believe where they are now.”
“The room was no bigger than my bathroom,” Houtz says, and it was always busy.
A fellow worker, a woman, approached him about joining the credit union, Houtz remembers. “How much? I asked.”
“Five dollars every week,” she responded.
“I’ve got a wife and four kids, I told her.” He was making only $39 a week, Houtz says.
She warned him of the risk he was taking, Houtz said, of the uncertain future the credit union faced.
“I had the feeling it may go; it may not go,” he recalls. But after four weeks he was confident the credit union “would fly.”
“Back in 1957,” Shinosky remembers, “I just got back from layoff and a guy suggested I join. I didn’t even know what a credit union was.”
The idea that $5 would be deducted from each paycheck before he got it appealed to him and he joined.
Through Seven Seventeen, Houtz financed “a brand-new Edsel,” he says. “I drove it to Pennsylvania and got hit by a semi. That ruined the Edsel.” (Ford Motor Co. built Edsels from 1958 through 1960.)
Houtz, later a director of the credit union, used it to help buy a brand-new house in 1961 on the west side of Warren. He paid $13,000.
Shinosky also used Seven Seventeen to arrange his first mortgage. “I was getting married and building a house,” he says. “I went to the second floor [of the union hall]. I was going to close out my account. I was going to use my savings as the down payment. But I was talked into keeping $5 in it. And I’m glad I did.”
Shinosky and Houtz have welcomed and used the products Seven Seventeen has introduced over its six decades, such as ATMs, credit and debit cards, online banking. “Whatever I went in there for, I got,” Houtz says. “They’re very nice people.”
“They’ve always been there to help me,” Shinosky adds.
They’ve kept their checking and savings accounts.
Seven Seventeen “gave me a lot of security after it got started,” Houtz says, that is, after his first four weeks as a member.
He is proud of his “real low membership account number” – Seven Seventeen has a membership of 76,000 today – that has only two digits.
Pictured at top: Al Shinosky reminisces about the founding of Seven Seventeen Credit Union with Jack Wilster, chairman of its board of directors.
Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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