Uncle Calvin and the Car Loan

I was twenty-seven and I had no credit. That sounds bad in today’s market, but it was 1967 and I was in graduate school in the tiny town of Pullman, Washington. I had no credit cards, I hadn’t bought a house or a car and I had paid for everything I bought by check or with cash. My folks had been hit hard in the great Depression on 1929, and they never bought anything on credit, once they had paid off their farm. The rule in our house was don’t buy what you can’t pay for, and I was a very good student.

But I had fallen in love with the ads for the 1967 Mustang convertible, specifically the model in golden brown with a black top. Unlike today’s college students, I was finishing up graduate school with no debt, but school cost much less in those days. And I went to Clark Community College in Vancouver and then to Washington State University, both schools in my home state. I once figured that my entire college education cost under nine thousand dollars. I had money saved from my three years in the Air Force, and I worked whenever I could. By the time I got to graduate school, I was eligible for the G I Bill so that helped with my last couple of years. Pullman was 400 miles from home, and I was getting set to head out into the wide world, seeking employment as an English teacher, and I needed wheels in the worst way. I was suckered in by the ads showing beautiful young people sailing through the world in their Mustangs. Life would be wonderful, just as soon as I had my own Mustang. My roommate tried to warn me that I was being overly optimistic, but I knew better. Sure I did!

My Mother and I went to the Woodland Ford dealership to order my car, because there was a cousin working there, and she thought we would get a good deal because we were family. Did I ever mention that I am related to half the people in southwestern Washington? We were treated like royalty, or like customers with cash in hand, and was all set to pick up the car as soon as it was delivered. No, I didn’t get the five speed with the huge engine. I settled for a three speed with a six cylinder engine which was the least expensive Mustang convertible available. It cost 2,608.00 dollars. All I had to do now, was to apply for a car loan at the bank I had an account with in Vancouver. Unlike today, there were not banks on every corner. I think there was just the one bank in Clark County, but don’t quote me on that.

The day after ordering my car, I walked into the bank, all set to talk the bank into giving me a loan, even though I had no credit and not that much money in my checking account. I was a bit green, since I had never asked anyone for a loan before. As I walked into the bank lobby, an older man in a very nice suit introduced himself and asked how he could help. I explained that I was buying my first new car, and I needed a car loan. He smiled and asked my name. I answered that I was Barbara Relyea, and I was just finishing graduate school at WSU. When he heard my last name, he just beamed down on me, then he called one of the loan officers up, introduced us, and told the young man to give me a car loan. Did I mention that my Uncle Cal had one of the largest dairy farms in the county and was very active in running the County Fair every year, and had a big account with this same bank? What the bank President didn’t think to ask was if Uncle Cal was my father.

When I sat down with the loan officer to fill out the application, he became very uneasy as I answered his questions. Did I have credit cards? No. Did I own any property? One saddle and thousands of books. Did I have a co-signer for the loan? No. If I had been anyone else, I am sure my application would have been turned down, but the bank President had told him, in front of God and everybody, to give me a car loan, so he did. When we filled out all the blanks we could find answers for, he took the application back to the President, who promptly signed off on it, and I was all set.

God bless Uncle Cal. My dad had died four years before from leukemia, my mom owned our little farm, and not much else. Our branch of the family was not well to do, or well known, but Uncle Cal saved the day for me without even trying. Sometimes it is a very good thing to have lots of relatives.

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2 Responses

  1. Sigh — a 1967 Mustang convertible… my grade four teacher had one.. gave us a ride one… never forgot it. Thanks for the memory, and thanks for the nice story. Yay for Uncle Cal!

  2. It was a wonderful car. I kept it for ten years, but then it got to needing repairs more often than I could afford to have it fixed. I drove it from coast to coast and had a wonderful time doing it. Ended up getting a job in St Louis and staying here. Next car was a Fiat Spyder, but that’s another story.

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