My Very First Loan

By Mike Johnson

I met my first loan officer at age 12. I wanted a 12-inch black & white TV. It cost $59.98. My income was $30.00 per month. The income was seasoned because Id held the paper route more than a year.

I had no expenses. I also had no credit history.

But there was no risk in this loan. If I didnt pay, Id be grounded. Or sent to bed without supper. Or spanked.

My dad was the loan officer.

This was new territory for him too. So far, hed only fronted me free room & board. An occasional Dilly Bar. A swig of beer. Half of that double Popsicle.

But flat-out buy me something with cash money?


When he was a kid he'd had to sell his fingers for cash, so dammit, I should do the same.

I never noticed any of his fingers missing but he often asked me to pull one.

Anyway, back to the loan.

I must have caught him after church. Or payday. Or sex.

I was always a student of reading dad's vibe but I was still young. Id experienced many spectacularly wrong reads. His throbbing neck vein was my #1 tell to abort.

But today, I divined that Mr Magnanimous was feeling his oats. So I went directly for the close.

OK, how about you buy me the TV and Ill give you 10 payments of $6.00 per month?


Even then, charging your own kid interest was frowned upon. But Id eat the two cents.

I drew up a handwritten payment spreadsheet that listed the payment amounts & due dates. Wed both initial & date the empty box when I made each payment.

All official-like. Just like all my bank deals since, I kept the pen.

In the hierarchy of brothers, I was now the shit. I was oldest, had my own room AND my own TV. To them, I was wearing a monocle, sipping sherry & smoking Pall Malls from a gilded holder.

All I needed was a dame on my arm. But that required a helluva lot bigger loan than dad would ever pop for.

I did make every one of those $6.00 payments on time. I kept that payment paperwork for years. In fact, longer than that TV.

Today, I cant remember what happened to that paperwork or the TV.

Theres a lesson in here somewhere. Something about fathers & sons & obligations & paying your own way.

Fathers were gruff back then. Mine would never say those three little words to mere dwarfs living in his house.

But I knew my dad loved me because he always said, I hope you have FIFTY kids & they all turn out just like you!

And afterall, he DID give me that first loan.


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