BOUND TO HAPPEN
MARCH 11, 2017
It was bound to happen. I was young and naïve about mortgage lending. I was a young man just mustered out of military service. Back in the early 70’s, I’d been offered a job working for a mortgage company. I was told I was going to be a mortgage representative. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? I had no idea what I was getting involved in, but I took the job anyway. My impressive job title boiled down to, sales guy.
Before my first day, I worried how I would handle the job. I lay awake at night thinking I would be carrying sacks of money to someone, someplace. I worried that I would get hit over the head and all the money stolen. Needless to say, I had a steep learning curve ahead of me.
I was told my job was to approach the real estate offices on the west side of Indianapolis, walk in the building and somehow get to the large back room where the real estate agents were sitting, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and working on real estate transactions. Some offices were harder to get by the receptionist than others. In some cases, I had to literally sneak by the receptionist. Once I was in the “bullpen” or the back room I would beg … or should I say, explain why allowing me and my mortgage company finance their customer’s home purchase is a great idea. A professional sale person would call that selling the “features and benefits.” As opposed to the dozen or so other mortgage companies trolling these same isles. It was standard fair, for guys like me to leave a flyer or a rate sheet, a piece of paper with our current mortgage interest rates and fees. Then, over time, get to know key people in the office. I would pass by agent’s desks and see other mortgage company’s flyers and rate sheets on the desks. If an agent was on vacation or gone for a couple of days their desk would be a sea of flyers. What to do to get their attention? My eyes would also check the waste baskets under their desks. It was normally full of a week’s work of rate sheets. Some agents saved selected flyers and rate sheets in a basket for reference. But it was noted in my mind, flyers and rates sheet alone was not going to cut the mustard.
I learned over time a valuable formula critical to my success, anybody’s success. I assume this formula could be applied to almost any business. 80% of the real estate sales were handled by the top 20% producing agents. The other grim fact, 80% of the other agents sold the remaining 20% of the listings.
Other marketing tools by my mortgage company was an entertainment budget. Why just take a few Realtors to lunch, I was told. Lunch could and very often lasted a couple of hours. A couple of adult beverage at lunch was also common in the early 70’s. It seemed the 80% of the low-producing agents in the office had a lot more time for long lunches than the producing 20% who almost never took advantage of a free lunch.
That’s the way business was handled, before the internet. Face to face. My company was a fair size operation, we had a great reputation. By association, I had a good reputation too. This was also a wonderful time for a green marketing man, like me. I was issued two company charge cards. One for fuel, and one for entertaining. So, it was considered standard fair, to wine and dine. How could life get any better than this?
Eventually, I would head back to my office with a mortgage loan application or two under my arm and hand the mortgage applications off to my loan processor. That would be the start of the loan application approval process. We had several sales people like myself and a good size office staff to support sales.
The Indianapolis office.
The floor plan was residential and one side of the wall, commercial lending on the other side of the wall.
Loan processing and loan processors used the 10 desks in the open area.
The Christmas holiday was just around the corner. This period, the early 70’s, is a time when the proverbial and time-honored office Christmas party was still acceptable. Adult beverage, lots of food, desserts, and entertainment. We all dressed for the party and let our hair down.
I was called into the bosses’ office. Bob had the big office in the corner, with windows, expensive chairs in front of his very large dark and an expansive wood desk. He also had the couch over to his left next to the bookcases.
“Steve,” (I was called Steve back then, not Duncan like I’m called today.) “Steve, the big holiday party is coming up and I want to talk with you about any ideas you might have for entertainment?” Bob was the main man, the boss, our encourager, leader and a chain smoker. He had this little scab on the back of his head in the middle of his bald spot. As he talked, he would unconsciously reach up to scratch that bald spot with the hand holding his cigarette. His long cigarette ache would drop off the cigarette and cascade down his shirt on to his pants. He would then notice the aches and use his hand to brush the ashes off himself onto the carpeted office floor. It was such a common occurrence, we would take bets on how long the cigarette ash would get before it fell on his cigarette and land on his head and down his shirt.
I came away from that meeting with a new assignment. Come up with an idea to entertain the office employees at the annual Christmas party. I was sitting at my desk and I noticed the brand new 35 MM film camera on the work table at the back of the office. I walked over and picked it up and walked back to my desk with it. This baby was sweet. There was an exposure needle in the viewfinder. If you moved the aperture and shutter speed settings on the camera and kept the needle in the middle of the viewfinder you were assured of a proper exposure. How sweet is that? During this period of time (The early 70’s) we were using film. Digital photography is still a long way off. I kept playing with the camera and ask if I could run a roll of film through the camera to get a feel for how it would perform. I had an idea for the Christmas Party. My test prints came back and each one was spot on for exposure. Wow, this camera is fantastic.
My office party entertainment plan was to take photographs of all the employees in the Indianapolis, Kokomo and the Bloomington office. Find out something interesting about each one of them and hopefully create a joke or a story that would make people laugh or at least smile. My idea was to project their photograph onto a screen. Everyone who worked for the company could put a face with a name and know a little about each of their co-workers.
The home office in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The Muncie office in Muncie, Indiana
The Kokomo Office in Kokomo, Indiana.
The office camera was mine for almost a month. I don’t remember whose name was on the camera but, I loved that camera. I didn’t want to give it up. It was bound to happen, the guys in the commercial department were looking for the camera, the camera was taken from me, pushed into service as it was intended. I lost control of the camera. Oh, and by the way, the office party entertainment was a huge success.
Karen Gillespie, receptionist.
My processor didn’t like her birth name of Earnestine, and wanted us to call her Ernie.
Dorla Sadowitch was the serious one in the office. The lead processor. If you had questions about a loan she was the person you wanted to talk with about the loan. I was about to say, she was a no smoking, no joking, woman. But if you look off her right hand you see she smoked the nonfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes. With the ever ready zippo lighter close at hand.
Dorla Sadowitch I must have caught her on a good day. The coke and a pack of cigarettes and the ashtray full of used cigarettes not far from the work area. Don’t even think about using the zippo.
I don’t remember Mary’s last name. She was quiet and watched everybody and everything.
Evie Glick A real jewel.
This young lady was a new hire and I can’t for the life of me remember her name.
Carol was Gary Steinhauer’s processor.
This young lady was a big cut up in the office. She keeps things light.
Speaking of a cut up – she loved the camera. You would think I would remember her name, right?
Sally Miller was in the closing department. Once the loan was approved, Sally was the person who got the paperwork to the title company so the loan could be funded and closed.
Robert “Bob” Burke
Real Estate offices generally had their weekly meeting on Tuesday. So, Bob would hold a weekly meeting in our office.
Pat Kenworthy, Sally Miller at the Tuesday morning office meeting.
Gary Steinhauer, Dorla Sadowitch, Pat Kenworthy, Sally Miller. Tuesday’s office meeting.
Pat Kenworthy, Sally Miller, Eve, Bob Burke, Gary Steinhauer. Tuesday morning meeting.
Gary Steinhauer, Dorla Sadowitch.
Gary Steinhauer sitting with his processor.
Not a happy camper. He did not want to be here.
Chuck Putt, Ted Schlagenhauf, Gary Steinhauer.
James D. Tipton – Commercial loans. Enjoying an adult beverage after hours in the office.
The Gatekeeper for Jim D. Tipton. She could connect you, or Jim would “Not be available.”
James D Tipton – Commercial loans
Lowell Essex, Bob Burke enjoying an adult beverage after work in the office.
Bob Burke in James Tipton’s office enjoys good conversation and an adult beverage after hours.
Mr. Charles Madden worked the insurance side of the mortgage business.
Shirley was Charles Madden’s right arm.
An insurance agent in waiting.
Young aspiring insurance agent.
Kathy was insurance and was able to do almost anything.
The other side of the wall. Insurance and Commercial activity.
Bob Burke, Ed Nuffer
Ed Nuffer was a man I really couldn’t read. I suspect he wanted it that way. He hid behind a blank facial expression. You might say he was guarded. I don’t remember Ed ever laughing in my presence. Ed wasn’t the number one man in the company, but I have no doubt Ed thought he should be and it would only be a matter of time before he was. This picture (above) gives a classic example of Ed and Bob posturing for position at a sales meeting in the home office. Ed was an important man. With no expression, Ed is watching Bob, the Indianapolis branch manager saying and doing, performing the way Bob thought he should be performing. Anyone who interfaced with the “Powers that Be” worried about keeping their paycheck.
1969 Volkswagen bug.
When I started working for Colonial Mortgage, Indianapolis my personal vehicle at the time was a black 1969 Volkswagen Beetle. Some of you might remember they also called the Volkswagen Beetle a “Bug.” My personal automobile was never talked about by anyone until a mucky muck, Ed Nuffer, from the home office in Fort Wayne announced he was coming to Indianapolis to pay a visit. I was told to hide my car down the block from the office. Better yet, borrow a better car. Don’t let Ed Nuffer see or know you drive “that car.”
Borrow a better car?
The better car meant to drive a more successful looking ride. Must we give the impression we are keeping up with the “Joneses?” I took offense to the request. I kept my contempt to myself and simply complied. I rationalized it this way. Ed Nuffer was only going to be in town for one day. What Ed didn’t know wouldn’t hurt his fragile sensibilities would it? So, I played their silly game. But, I didn’t like it.
However, One Saturday afternoon I came to my senses. I was driving on a very snowy street when a big old ugly Buick pulled out in front of me from a side street. I slammed on the brakes. The engine on a Volkswagen Bug is in the back. I started sliding as if I hadn’t even applied the brakes. I was instantly angry and aggressive pushing my body forward wanting to impact the Buick with as much of my own body force as I could muster. I hit the Buick very hard in the rear side panel. I remember yelling out loud, what the hell are you doing, “Expletive Deleted.” I put my full body weight into the impact like I was driving a “Dodgem Car” at the county fairgrounds when you intend to hit another “Dodgem Car.”
The Buick turned 180 degrees and it ended up in somebody’s snow covered yard. The front end of my car was smashed in and sheet metal was wrapped around my legs inside the cabin. I sat there in dead silence in the middle of the street. The Bug and I had come to an instant and immediate stop. I realized I was just involved in an automobile accident. The sound of two cars coming together, metal hitting metal, slamming together. That awful sound stays with you for a while.
Hitting another vehicle happens so quickly. I moved my legs. I didn’t feel pain. I lifted one leg at a time from the twisted sheet metal and realized I was emotionally shaken, but apparently nothing physically wrong, no bleeding, broken bones. I forced my driver’s side door open and stepped out into the cold winter afternoon. I walked slowly to the front of my car. The front wheels were pushed back under the nose of the car.
1970 OLDSMOBILE 98
The accident in the Volkswagen Beetle left me with real questions as to the type of car I wanted or needed to be driving. Being a mortgage loan officer and sales guy, I was in and out of my car all day long and occasionally driving at night taking mortgage loan applications, in people’s home. I realized I would be safer in a heavier automobile. One of my clients was Blue Ribbon Realty. I pulled into the Blue Ribbon parking lot with a borrowed car and noticed a for sale sign on a 98 Oldsmobile. I asked the receptionist who owned the car? Lloyd Bridges, the owner of Blue Ribbon Realty was selling his family car in order to buy himself a new Oldsmobile. I asked to speak with Lloyd and I was ushered into his office immediately.
I remember heading home late one night with my new ride under my butt. It was night and dark outside. I had the tufted upholstered seat tilted back slightly, I had an easy listening music on the radio. I had the cruise control on. This was the way to live. Simply a much more luxurious way to travel the highways and byways of Indianapolis. Oh, Ed Nuffer? Eat your heart out.