Australian man finds unlikely pen pals in Tennessee


By Dave Ongie, News Editor

Paul McVey’s unlikely discovery of a Bank of Tennessee cap in Australia led to him finding pen pals halfway around the world.

It was a blistering summer day in Melbourne, Australia, and Paul McVey desperately needed a hat to keep the unrelenting sun off his balding head.

McVey ducked into a general store, but much to his chagrin, he found the pickings were slim in the hat section. The hats bearing logos of various sports teams and popular culture references didn’t do much to pique McVey’s interest, but then he happened upon an unfamiliar logo that caught his attention.

The hat read: “Bank of Tennessee.”

While his countrymen wore New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox caps, McVey wore his Bank of Tennessee hat with pride. It was a way to stand out from the crowd.

During a subsequent family vacation in the United States, he sported the cap from Disneyland to Times Square, the White House to the Golden Gate Bridge. On a street corner in New York City, McVey asked a couple if they would take a photo of McVey and his family, and they agreed before noticing his cap and telling McVey they were from Nashville.

In Las Vegas, a concierge saw the cap and didn’t know what to make of the Australian accent that came out of McVey’s mouth when he spoke.

Eventually, time took its toll on McVey’s cap. Weather, sweat and countless trips through the washing machine caused the hat to fray. When McVey realized his hat needed to be replaced, he logged onto the Internet and investigated whether the Bank of Tennessee really existed. Up until that point, he wasn’t sure.

After finding the ‘Contact Us’ button on the BoT website, McVey sent a virtual message in a bottle across the vast ocean that separates Australia and Tennessee. In his email, he asked if the bank might have any spare caps lying around.

Considering the fact that the folks at Bank of Tennessee don’t get many emails from Australia, McVey was skeptical about getting a response. But before long, Jennifer Greenwell and Rebecca White of BoT reached out to verify his story. Not long after that, a couple new Bank of Tennessee caps showed up at McVey’s house with a few other goodies.

McVey has become Bank of Tennessee’s International Hat Ambassador, wearing his cap at locales such as Buckingham Palace.

Since then, McVey has become BoT’s International Hat Ambassador. As he traveled, McVey would share photos of himself and his cap at spots around Australia and abroad. A pen pal situation developed as Greenwell and White shared news about what was going on at BoT.

McVey is hoping to visit Tennessee one day, but the coronavirus has delayed those plans. Greenwell and White are also looking forward to meeting McVey, who wants nothing more than to walk into a BoT branch and extend the hand of friendship.

For now, however, a tip of the cap must suffice.


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