Pig money, and the season for student loans

Friday, June 2, 2017

Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Scott City and other nearby communities have plenty of banking establishments. You could throw a quarter in almost any direction, and it would land on the roof of a bank. Some intersections have a bank on almost every corner. And sometimes it seems we've almost run out of names for all the new banks. They start sounding a lot alike.

Let me say that I know several bankers, and they all are smart, knowledgeable and genuinely nice to be around. So anything I say about banks isn't meant to jab any bankers or banks. It's just a bunch of observations -- impressions, if you will -- about banks in general.

When I was growing up, there was one bank, the Bank of My Favorite Hometown in the Ozarks over yonder. It was run by Mr. Leeper. It was owned by Mr. Leeper. I only had one business dealing with Mr. Leeper. I was a senior in high school and had been accepted for admission to a few colleges. I was looking for a student loan to pay any expenses not covered by the scholarships I had received.

In addition to scholarships, I had another small reserve of college funds. It was the pig money.

Let me explain.

In the months before I was off to college, my mother and stepfather paid for 20 hogs that were delivered to the back lot behind the barn. This was, of course, the year before the tornado took every board and timber of the barn and dispersed the ill-gotten lumber over Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois.

Here was the deal: I would be responsible for feeding and watering and otherwise tending to the hogs. At the end of the summer, the hogs would be transported to the stockyards in East St. Louis. Remember? After deducting the upfront cost of the hogs plus all feed expenses, anything left over would be mine to use for college expenses.

Pig money.

But even with scholarships and the pig money, I wasn't sure everything was adequately covered. One of my high school teachers told me about some special student-loan opportunities, but they existed only at participating banks. So I went to visit Mr. Leeper to see if he would make me a loan.


Our conversation must have lasted all of 45 seconds.

Here's something to take into account: We didn't have a telephone yet on the Killough Valley farm, so any attempt to contact more distant banks meant going to town to the telephone office and asking the operator, Virginia, to put through a long-distance call -- paid in advance, thank you.

That's what I did.

I called banks in Poplar Bluff, a big city where there was more than one bank. The second banker I spoke to said yes, that bank participated in federally backed student loans, and he said he would send me some application forms to fill out. I got a loan. For $500. Which I didn't have to pay back until I left college. What a deal.

When I drive around town these days, and see all the banking establishments, I wonder if having a plethora of banks means earnest college-bound students have more opportunities for student loans than I had. I'm not saying it should be too easy to get a loan -- of any kind. There are good reasons for all the hoops that must be mastered by both banks and borrowers.

Still, who has pig money these days?

One thing I've noticed about all the banks hereabouts is how few cars I see parked in their lots or going through the drive-up windows. So many of these banks look like such lonely places.

I had an idea the other day. Actually, it was Tuesday of this week, when I saw a notice that another bank building is planned in Jackson -- which, as you know, has just as many bank branches as anyplace.

Instead of umpteen bank buildings, why not build one all-purpose bank and divvy up the banking hours?

So, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. the sign out front would read First National U.S. State Community Midwest Alliance Regions Commerce Capaha Montgomery Wood & Huston Bank of America.

From 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., it would be the National U.S. State Community First Midwest Alliance Regions Commerce Capaha Montgomery Wood & Huston Bank of Missouri.

From 11 a.m. to noon, it would be …. Well, you get my drift.

This would, it seems to me, result in a terrific savings in operating costs for all the banks. Which might make more money available for student loans.

I'd be happy to stash my pig money in such a banking establishment.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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