Steel left a good early impression

Talk about foreshadowing. Wachovia CEO Bob Steel addressed a whole contingent of Tar Heel bankers back in February, when the N.C. Bankers Association took a trip to the nation's capital. Steel was working for the Treasury Department then. It was a few months before Wachovia dismissed Ken Thompson and persuaded Steel to return home to the Old North State.

Bob James, the chief exec of Fifth Third Bancorp's N.C. operations, was chairman of the N.C. Bankers Association at the time. He says Steel was one of the more informative speakers.

“I didn't know at the time he was going to be coming to Charlotte,” James said last week in an interview with the Observer. “I'm sure he didn't either.” James says he hasn't talked to the other Bob since he became Wachovia's head honcho.

“But,” he added, “I'm sure he'll do a great job.”

A gift from Golden West

In 2006, Wachovia's charitable foundation received an unusual gift of $370 million in Freddie Mac stock from Golden West Financial, the mortgage company it was buying.

Luckily, the bank made a smart move and sold it soon after. Freddie Mac's stock is now trading for less than $1 per share following the government's takeover of the mortgage giant and its sister Fannie Mae.

The bank has said it will use that money to maintain a consistent level of giving through various economic cycles.

Halloween masks: Palin trails badly

Barack Obama has nothing to fear from Sarah Palin – at least not over at Morris Costumes on Monroe Road in Charlotte. A staffer there says the store has an array of political masks for Halloween, including Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton – but that it doesn't expect any Palins.

A bigger threat to Obama: Indiana Jones, Bigfoot and Batman. “Political masks are not as popular as you would think,” the staffer says. “People go for movies, TV characters, stuff like that.”

Panthers signature sandwiches

Insert a “tackle your hunger” joke here: Charlotte-area Harris Teeter stores and Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross are serving up the first of this season's three Panthers signature sandwiches. Called “the Big Block,” Gross' pick is a turkey sandwich with onions, sprouts, banana peppers, cucumbers, provolone cheese, light mayonnaise, oil and vinegar on whole grain bread.

The Teeter is mum on which players are involved with the forthcoming sandwiches. So could we see Julius Peppers' “sack lunch”? John Kasay's “kickin' cold cuts”? Stay tuned.

NFL fans get touchy to get tickets

Speaking of the Panthers, fans this week got to prove their loyalty and win season tickets by doing one simple thing: touch a giant inflatable football jersey … for a really long time.

As part of a Bank of America promotion, several fans tried to outlast each other by keeping a hand, foot or other body part in continuous contact with the 20-foot-tall jersey. The contest started at noon Tuesday at Trade and Tryon streets, and as of 3 p.m. Wednesday – 27 hours later – three people were still standing.

The reward for the last to let go: tickets to every Panthers home game this season. Oh, and a spokeswoman for the promotion said contestants got a 10-minute restroom break every three hours. That's a relief.

Odds and ends

Fastest Items in Town™: Charlotte financial adviser John Gugle of Alpha Financial Advisors is a contributor to a new parenting book, “The Twin Set,” from Three Rivers Press. It's a subject he knows: He has 4-year-old twin boys, and his wife, Ann, is a former board member of Charlotte Mothers of Multiples. … Rain forced the developers of Kannapolis' Kellswater project to cancel a road opening event where they planned to donate $5,000 to Cannon Memorial YMCA to emphasize their focus on community. Not to worry. The Y's Kimberly Cousineau was called to the Kellswater Bridge Development office later to accept a check from Kellswater's George Kiser Jr. and Don Wagstaff and Merrifield Partners' Jim Merrifield.

staff reports

Coming Sunday in On The Boss's Mind: LendingTree founder Doug Lebda talks about working with former GE chief Jack Welch.