At the end of my recent trip to America's Credit Union Museum in Manchester, NH, museum director Peggy Powell gave me a copy of the Michael Behrendt's recently published book Comme D'Or: The First Fifty Years of Holy RosaryCredit Union. According to Ms. Powell, the book is representative of a new trend in the historiography of credit unions. For the past few decades, when written about at all, the primary focus of credit union history has been at the level of the national and state-level movement institutions. More recently, however, Ms. Powell has encountered a number of folks working on detailed histories of individual institutions, of which Comme D'Or is an excellent example.
Self-published by Holy Rosary Credit Union of Rochester, NH to commemorate its fiftieth anniversary, Comme D'Or is accessibly written and structured in a way that reveals it's author's solid understanding of the nature of the credit union model. At a time when uncertainty about the nature of the difference between banks and credit unions is far too common, it would be quite easy for a writer coming from outside the movement to write the history of a credit union as if it were that of a bank, with the economic story taking center stage.
Fortunately, Michael Behrendt doesn't fall into this trap. The city planner of Rochester, NH by profession with a book about that city's architectural history already under his belt, Behrendt brings an enormous depth of knowledge about, and appreciation for, the social and cultural history of Rochester to Comme D'Or. As a result, while the economic aspects of Holy Rosary Credit Union's development are not neglected, people and community are (very appropriately) at the core of the narrative.