Life’s Lessons Learned #48: Summer Subs

In an earlier blog I had said that LCFNB had 14 branches, and they certainly did, but try as I may, I cannot remember all of them. In the summer of 1969 I was called upon, as a management trainee, to travel to several of these branches and serve as acting branch manager, while the branch managers took their vacation. I learned a great deal from the branches that I visited.

The James Street branch was located in the northern end of Lancaster at the corner of West James Street and North Prince Street. It was a stand-alone building with a separate stand-alone drive up window and a large parking lot. The manager was Charlie Rutter, and he had a corner office somewhat removed from the main floor. This was my first time as a “manager”.

I learned a great deal about employee dedication to work during my time at James Street. At the end of one day, one of my tellers was $100 off in their cash drawer. This was a big deal, and the teller was quite distraught. During my time in the “proof department” I had learned the process of running the batched work from the teller’s window and was familiar with how the teller’s deposited checks, adding machine tapes of each transaction, and the closing cash count all had to balance. Each element of their paperwork was stamped, as a transaction was completed, using the teller’s individual “key”. This provided a transaction trail to follow for each different teller. I still have my teller key in one of my dresser drawers. At the close of the day, try as hard as we could, the head teller, the teller, the proof department and I could not find the error. The teller was sent home quite upset, with a shadow hanging over them. The head teller met me the next morning when I came in to open the branch. He had already been there for about an hour. He had come in early to go through the branch’s garbage and trash. It was there that he found a scrap of paper that explained the $100 shortage error.

As an acting branch manager I had been given a small lending authority. While at the James Street branch I made my first loan. I will never forget that loan. It was a debt consolidation loan for one of my former Franklin & Marshall College professors. He came in and sat across the desk from me. With him was his elderly dog that had sat so often next to his desk in the front of his classroom. It was a very strange feeling of power reversal in our rolls that we experienced that day. He was a professor of whom I had fond memories, and there he sat, across from me, disclosing his personal financial problems. I remembered this day, years later when I read his obituary in the local newspaper.

The North Queen Street branch was only two blocks from the main office. It had been an impressive, marble columned, building in the middle of the block – a building memory of another bank, a bank that had long before merged into LCFNB. With the advent of downtown urban redevelopment the second block of North Queen Street, along with the bank branch, had recently been torn down (more about this in next week’s blog). What was left of this bank was a memory housed in a trailer in a parking lot at the corner of North Queen Street and East Chestnut Street. This trailer was legally preserving the location for a new branch to be built as part of the redevelopment.

Charlie Slaugh, one of the bank’s oldest and most tenured officers, managed the North Queen Street branch. Charlie had been passed by and left alone as bank operations and policies had evolved and changed. He was a throwback to what bankers used to be. Banking was rapidly changing and becoming removed from its customers. He predated ATMs, credit and debit cards, installment loans… Charlie was an old time banker. He made small 30-day note loans. He knew his customers, and as a result, rarely had to charge off a loan. His branch was also less profitable. Because he was widely loved and respected in the community, senior management sort of looked the other way as Charlie went off in his own direction. I remember that some of the loan managers in the Main Office installment loan department would quietly send a few, long time, older, customers, up to Charlie’s branch for a loan. These were loans with a lower interest rate than they could offer at the Main Office. Charlie would then make the loan. It was an unspoken loan with a heart, and although they would complain, senior management left Charlie alone to violate policy. I really liked and respected Charlie.

The North Queen Street branch was eventually relocated to the first floor of the new Hilton Hotel built as part of Lancaster’s redevelopment. That branch was then sold to another bank in order to allow them to enter the market. This was part of an agreement reached in 1971 to increase market competition coincidental with the approval of the consolidation of three banks, including LCFNB, to form National Central Bank.

The Wheatland Branch was located west of Lancaster in the Wheatland Shopping Center. Wheatland is also the name given to the home of President James Buchanon. President Buchanon lived and died in Lancaster. He was the country’s only bachelor President, a fact that has led some presidential historians to suggest that he was also our only gay President. President Buchanon is also often mentioned as the “worst” U. S. President. He served just before President Lincoln, and played a role in events that eventually led to the Civil War. As a side note, I currently live about three short blocks from Wheatland.

Wayne Grove was the Wheatland Office manager. I don’t remember too much about him other than he was short of stature. The office was at the end of a row of retail businesses, and had a drive-up window along its sidewall. Across from the drive-up window was Lancaster’s first McDonald’s. I ate many lunches there. A hamburger cost $0.15, fries were $0.12, and a Coke was $0.10. Most of the items on today’s menu were not then even a twinkle in the eye of their management in 1969. The Wheatland McDonald’s was originally a “Golden Arches” style building with only walkup service. They later put in walls and chairs. The McDonald’s was eventually closed, de-arched, and a new, modern store opened just down the street. The original building was put to several alternative uses, and now houses a fine jewelry store. As a bit of irony, a group of my former students, under my direction, performed consulting work for that jewelry store.

Typical Early McDonald’s

Typical Early McDonald’s

It was at the Wheatland Office where I took my first mortgage application (see last week’s blog entry for this story). It is also where I had to do one of the most difficult things that I have ever done. I had to fire one of the tellers. There was a teller trainee who just could not do the job. Keeping track of the transactions was beyond him. His work was off at the end of every day. He knew it, and I knew it, and by the time that we had our final chat he was frustrated and almost wanted to go. He was a heck of a nice fellow, but he needed to find a more suitable line of work. Never-the-less, I hated this task.

I also spent a few weeks at the Manor Street branch, west of Lancaster on the road toward Millersville. C. Wayne Creasy was the manager at the Manor Street Branch. I don’t remember anything special about my time at this branch. However it does bring to mind a funny little quirk about bankers’ names and their public identity. In those days many bankers chose to follow the practice of identifying themselves by their first initial, followed by their middle name, such as C. Wayne Creasy. The manager of the Main Office, for example, was J. Clarence Bowers. While I could have done so, I chose, for rather obvious reasons, to not be known as P. Hugh…

There was only one other occasion when I stepped in to manage a branch office. It was our Bridgeport Office located east of Lancaster. It was a winter day, and Lancaster was enduring a massive snowstorm. I lived about a block from the Main Office, and I trudged up the alley through the snow to work. The bank’s offices were being told to close. David Blank, the manager of the Bridgeport Office, lived some distance from the branch, and could not get there. One teller was, however, able to get to the office. Bridgeport was only a few miles from the Main Office, and I was put in a bank car and sent to open the branch. This was all about one, rather important, customer. He owned a big cash generating business just up the road. It was a Monday, and he had substantial cash receipts from the weekend. The branch was to open to accept this single deposit, and then close for the day. The deposit arrived by snowmobile at our drive-up window.

Here are LCFNB branches where I did not serve as acting manager:

Columbia #1
Columbia #2
Florin
Manheim Township
Mount Joy
New Holland Avenue
Trust Department Office
Quarryville

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Life’s Lessons Learned #47: Mortgage Loans

The mortgage department was an institution within an institution. The history of banking in Lancaster was deeply rooted in agricultural, commercial and mortgage banking. A mortgage was, for many customers prior to the establishment of the installment loan department in the late 1950s, the only type of bank loan they experienced. At the time that I arrived in the mortgage department, the mortgage industry was undergoing radical change. Historically, people needed a substantial down payment to qualify for a home mortgage. The great depression had led to widespread mortgage failures, and the reluctance of banks to lend money. It was common for banks to require a minimum down payment of 25% or more, and people saved for their down payment. By the time I arrived, however, loans for up to 95% were being written. This was accomplished through an insurance program provided by the Mortgage Guarantee Insurance Corporation or MGIC (otherwise know as magic loans).

An entire class of institution had arisen then to address the need for home mortgages – savings and loan institutions (S&Ls) At that time S&Ls could only offer savings accounts and home mortgages. Then they became more like banks, as they were permitted to offer checking accounts (demand deposit accounts) and, the S&Ls were permitted to pay interest on the balances! This made mortgage lending far more competitive.

LCFNB’s mortgage department was small. There were two lending officers, John Davis and Don Derstler, and two support personnel, Helen Nolt and Joyce Biechler. Don was relatively new in his position. While I was the bank’s second management trainee, Don had been the first. John Davis, on the other hand, was close to retirement, and had spent his entire career with the bank. He had joined the bank as a teller after graduating from Franklin & Marshall, and worked his way up to Vice President. John was quite conservative in his approach to lending and, for example, practiced redlining with Lancaster’s minority neighborhood. At the time I was wearing wire-framed glasses (as they were then popular) and I remember kidding him that his own old-fashioned wire-framed glasses were now back in popularity. He, quite seriously, pointed out to me that his only had the wires on the top, were not a fad, and were proper and in good taste.

Joyce Biechler was the daughter of the president of the Conestoga National Bank, an LCFNB competitor. Joyce was about my age, and had recently undergone a divorce. She was having some short-term personal financial problems, and in our discussions she told me that she wanted to sell her engagement ring. It was a substantial, 1.5 carat, pear-shaped, diamond ring with two baguettes, and she was asking $2,000 for the ring. I took the ring to a local jeweler, who I knew and trusted, for his opinion. I remember him making me promise, before he would look at it, that I would only buy the ring if he advised me to do so. After examining the ring he said that if I didn’t want to buy it, he would. I wasn’t even dating anybody at the time, but I applied for a loan from the bank, bought it, and put it into a safe deposit box. More about this ring in a later blog.

For comparison – a 1.5 carat diamond

For comparison – a 1.5 carat diamond

Mortgage lending was, at that time, going through significant changes. Shortly after World War II the United States made the decision to encourage home ownership. Tax laws were changed, and VA and FHA (government guaranteed) loans were common by the late 1960s. With the advent of consumer protection legislation and mortgage guarantee insurance, loan settlements and the necessary paperwork had become complex. My training included learning: bank mortgage lending policy, how to take a mortgage application, how to verify the information in the application, knowledge about the mortgage documentation, and the property appraisal process. While I was not allowed to actually take an application, I did sit in on and observe most of the applications taken while I was in the department. I also helped prepare documentation for, and then attended, closings with either John or Don.

Later, while covering for our Wheatland branch manager’s summer vacation, I was allowed by John to take a mortgage application. This was a shocker throughout the bank as I was the first person, outside of the mortgage department, to do so. I called John to tell him that I had a customer that wanted to apply for a mortgage, and to schedule an appointment for the customer at the main office. John just said, “You know how to do it. Take the application and send it in.” I was greatly honored by his trust in me. Several years later, when I was working in the main office as a Commercial Loan Officer, and both John and Don were in the hospital for surgery, I was put in charge of the mortgage department until they were well enough to return.

During, my stay with the mortgage department I assisted in the computerization of the department’s accounting system. This involved a time period during which parallel bookkeeping was maintained. My next training assignment was with auditing, where I was of significant help in explaining the new mortgage bookkeeping system.

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Life’s Lessons Learned #46: Installment Loans

As a management trainee I spent time in many different departments. One of these was the installment loan department. LCFNB was the first bank in Lancaster County to have an installment loan department. John Jones, a banker “imported” from Philadelphia, brought this about. However, after several years living and working in Lancaster, he was lured back to the City of Brotherly Love to run the installment loan department of a major bank. I met John Jones prior to my accepting the position with LCFNB. You see, he fell in love with Lancaster, and when he once again took a job in Philadelphia, he decided to commute by rail. Over the years I have met several others who currently do the same. John Jones was instrumental in guiding my decision to take the LCFNB management trainee offer.

When I got there, the installment loan department was directed by, Gene Kline, John Jones’ former assistant. The department was located on the lower level of the bank building (basement). It shared space with the mortgage department, the coin vault, a document room, a good deal of storage space, and the building’s utilities. The department consisted of Gene Kline, his assistant, and three loan managers. Each loan manager had a filing clerk, and Gene and his assistant shared a secretary. Finally, there was a receptionist. This was a very profitable department. They financed (floor planned) inventory for car dealerships and appliance dealers. The department also made car and appliance loans to the bank’s existing customers (whether or not we were financing the sellers inventory). And, they made loans to new customers referred to the bank by our floor plan customers. Finally, the department wrote personal loans for our customers for other purposes (for example, debt consolidation). All of these loans were with a payment coupon book, most were secured by personal property, and all carried an interest rate about double that of a personal note written for the bank’s “better” customers.

Each of the loan managers had a portfolio of dealers for whom they wrote loans. Each also took loan applications from walk in customers. It was not uncommon for a loan manager to pick up his phone when he spotted a walk in so that somebody else had to do the loan interview. I learned how to take loan applications. Since I did not have any lending authority, I would then have to review the applications with either Gene or his assistant. The loan managers also had to do periodic inventory checks on their retail customers. If the bank was financing a car on a dealer’s lot we needed to verify that the dealership had not sold the car without paying off their bank loan used to purchase that particular car. I helped do a bunch of these inventory verifications. We would drive to the dealership and check the serial numbers of every car on their lot against our list of financed cars. The same was done with appliances. For items without serial numbers we used a simple “count”. The other accounting process involved was “curtailments”. As a car, for example, sat unsold on the dealer’s lot, the dealer was required to pay down a percentage their loan.

When a customer’s installment loan was not properly repaid, and after some significant effort to work with the customer, the time finally came when the bank felt that it had to repossess the collateral for the loan. Quite often this involved a new or used car. At that point the loan manager who was assigned the loan would, in essence, go out and pick up the car. First, with the aide of the dealership, a new set of keys would be made. The local police would then be notified that the bank was about to repossess the vehicle. The bank would try to gain the assistance of the delinquent borrower in the process, but often they would resist turning over the car. They might hide the car, and then the bank would need to search throughout their neighborhood, or perhaps visit the borrowers place of employment to locate the car. On occasion I accompanied the loan manager at night, after people were asleep, to basically steal our collateral from the borrower.

One of the memories, that stays with me to this day, is about a systematic process of discrimination against minority customers. In those days, as I noted in an earlier blog entry, there were no computers. Each loan had a manila file folder wherein various loan documents, along with the loan application, were stored. In the upper corner of a minority applicant’s application you would find a number “2”.

The bank, at that time in 1968, had only one African-American employee. His name was Barney Ewell, Jr., and his was an interesting story. He was mentally disabled, and walked with a limp. He worked for the bank for a while in several different jobs before he was let go. His father, Henry Norwood “Barney” Ewell, was a Lancaster and American hero, and the bank felt moved to hire his son. The following about his father is taken from Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barney_Ewell)

“Henry Norwood “Barney” Ewell (February 25, 1918 – April 4, 1996) was an American athlete, winner of one gold and two silver medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics. Born into poverty in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Barney Ewell was one of the world’s leading sprinters of the 1940s. Mr. Ewell attended John Piersol McCaskey High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. McCaskey High School honored Mr. Ewell by dedicating their stadium in his name. Mr. Ewell was also inducted into the J.P. McCaskey Athletic Hall of Fame during the school’s 50th anniversary year in 1988. He was the state’s greatest high school sprinter-jumper in the mid-1930s, but he first achieved renown while a student at Pennsylvania State University, running the 100 m and 200 m races and winning 12 gold medals and championships in collegiate meets between 1940 and 1942. He also won 11 gold medals in AAU national meets between 1939 and 1948. He was an outstanding long jumper as well, leaping 25 feet 2 inches (7.68 m) in 1942.
He served his country during the years 1941 – 1945, returned to the university and received his B.S. degree in 1947. He surprised everyone by making the 1948 Olympic team, equaling the world record of 10.2 in the 100 m dash at the 1948 AAU championship, which was also the Olympic trials. At the Olympic Games in London, he thought he had won the 100 m only to learn the victory was given to teammate Harrison Dillard. In the 200 m, Ewell had another close finish and again finished second – this time to teammate Mel Patton. He was added to the 4 × 100 m relay when Ed Conwell became sick and the American team rolled to an easy victory. However, the exchange between Ewell and Lorenzo Wright was ruled out of the zone and the American team was disqualified. After viewing a film of the race, however, officials reversed the ruling, and Barney Ewell finally had his Olympic gold medal.

The New York Times obituary for Barney Ewell (April 5, 1996) had the following rather ironic quote:

“A son, Barney Ewell Jr., said that Ewell had died from complications following amputations on both legs.”

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Life’s Lessons Learned #45: Working at LCFNB

Every morning I would go to the bank well before it opened. I would go back to the Board Room where the senior management would be gathered eating donuts and drinking coffee. My mentor in the trainee program was a bank Executive VP, Charlie Van Dusen, He had extended the invitation to me to join them in the morning. I was only the bank’s second trainee, but the first was already working as #2 in the mortgage department. This was a great opportunity to get to know the senior management of the bank. Besides Mr. Van Dusen the others often there were Jack Barry (Exec VP commercial lending), Robert Garret (bank President) and Stan Musselman (VP agricultural lending). Jack Barry and Charlie Van Dusen both worked on solving the New York Times daily crossword puzzle, and I started doing so as well. To this day I solve one or two crossword puzzles a day. When I took the SAT exam in 1962, I scored 99th percentile in math and 92nd percentile in the verbal. By the time I took the ATGSB (now known as the GMAT) for graduate school of business in 1974, I was 99th percentile in both parts. I credit the improvement to doing these puzzles, and have since then recommended to my students that they take up the habit of the daily crossword puzzle.

The main office of the bank was then at 23 East King Street in Lancaster. 23 East King Street is now a vacant lot. By the time that I was hired, the bank was already the result of several mergers. It was then known as the Lancaster County Farmers National Bank or LCFNB (a result of the merger of the Lancaster County Bank and the Farmers National Bank a few years earlier). It had 14 branches, all in the county, and total assets of about 114 million dollars. At that time it was the 114th largest bank of the 14,000 banks in the country (Any numerologists out there?). By the time I left in 1975 it had grown, through mergers and acquisitions, to 52 branches and 1.1 billion dollars in total assets. The main office moved, shortly after I left, to the corner of Orange and North Queen Streets. Today, after many changes, it is now part of the Wells Fargo Bank.

LCNFB – 23 E. King St., Lancaster, PA

LCNFB – 23 E. King St., Lancaster, PA

The management trainee program was initially designed to be a two-year program. In my eight years with the bank nobody ever went to the end of the program. It was a small program (with a maximum of 4 college graduate trainees), and the need for first level managers was so constant, that trainees were consistently offered full-time positions prior to completion of the program. Your first stop in the training program was with time in the bookkeeping and central file departments. The heartbeat of a bank is its deposits, and understanding how these were handled was pivotal. Checks were read and sorted through MICR ink (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) located on the bottom of the check.

MICR ink (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition)

MICR ink (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition)

In 1967, LCFNB’s systems were not yet fully computerized. The central information files and loan ledgers were all still manual operations. A key department in bookkeeping was the proof department. There, the individual teller’s transactions were reviewed, and errors identified. At that time this was also a manual procedure. The entire top floor of the bank housed these bookkeeping operations.

Shortly after my arrival, the bank’s first mainframe computer was installed. It was an IBM 360 (a 32k machine). I have since owned watches with far more computing power. A number of the bank’s employees were given aptitude tests by IBM. I learned that I had the second highest score, behind my assigned mentor, Charlie Van Dusen. The computer had it’s own air-conditioned room built within about half of the second floor. The floor was raised by about a foot with all of the wiring running under the floor panels. Every night the processing programs were read from a paper strip (later IBM cards). There were no screens or keyboards at that time.

IBM 360 program/data entry card

IBM 360 program/data entry card

After a short familiarization period on the third floor I settled in working on the main office teller line. There, I was trained by Fiana Diffenderfer. She was the “grand dame” of the main office teller line. She taught me so much about customer service. She knew most of her customers by name, and she really cared about them. The teller line was “manned” by all women, with the exception of the head teller. These women were all long-term employees, and in the days before ATMs, the teller was the bank to the customer. To this day I remember these women with great respect for their skill. After a while, Fiana certified to management that I was ready for my own window, and I moved on to first the drive up window and then the “late” window (open late after the rest of the windows closed for the day). Fiana’s husband was an amateur historian, and a member of the Lancaster County Historical Society. She started me on a life-long interest in my family history when she gave me a copy of an article he had published in the Society’s Journal chronicling the life of my great-great grandfather, J. P. McCaskey.

After several months on the teller line I was sent to work with the head teller, who was also the note teller (who handled loan notes). All of the lending documents were, at this time, processed by hand. While there, I was approached by the vice-president of marketing for the bank, and offered a position in marketing. Each of the two banks (County Bank and Farmers Bank), prior to the merger, had a single marketing person. The one from the County Bank was put in charge (VP), and the marketing person from the Farmer’s Bank became his assistant/clerk/secretary. I was offered the position below the VP with the likelihood of replacing him within a few years when he would retire. I learned from the tellers that the Farmer’s Bank marketing person (a woman) had been poorly treated as a result of the merger. I said no thank you to the offer, with a claim that I wanted to learn a great deal more from the program before identifying my banking career path.

Shortly after this I was temporarily assigned to the Credit Department, which was headed by Charlie Bender. There was a rush need to prepare spreadsheet analyses of financial statements from the bank’s commercial loan customers. My accounting courses came in handy here. LCFNB was a member of the Robert Morris Associates. This group of banks shared standardized financial statement data, and developed, using SIC Codes, industry averages by size of the business for assets, liabilities, and operating data. These averages were then used by RMA associates, who would compare and evaluate the financial and operating condition of their loan applicants with the averages in their industry. At that time, there were no computer spreadsheet programs. All calculations were done with an adding machine. Ratios were calculated on a slide rule. Actually, this time period predates the availability of calculators. It would be several more years (1972) until Texas Instruments introduced to the market my first calculator, a “Datamath”. When I finally bought my first calculator, it was a personal purchase, and cost $54, about ½ of a week’s take home pay.

TI2500 - Datamath

TI2500 – Datamath

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Life’s Lessons Learned #44: Givant’s Deli

After living for a short while above the House of Pizza, I moved closer to work. I found an apartment that was about a block from the main office of the bank. At that time I was not packing a lunch, but rather took daily advantage of the plethora of eating establishments in downtown Lancaster. I regularly ate at Zimmerman’s Restaurant on the corner of Orange and North Queen streets. My favorites were their daily soup specials (especially their bean soup with rivels) and or the often-available snapper soup. The restaurant is still there, but the clientele, name, and the ownership have changed, and I have not been in the restaurant since the mid 1970s. Now I have to drive about two hours to the Pinetown Inn near New Hope, PA, for authentic snapper soup.

Some of the other places I frequented for lunch downtown (now all gone) included:

• Woolworth’s lunch counter – good German Chocolate Cake
• The Rendezvous Café at Watt & Shand – in the store basement
• Garvin’s Department Store lunch counter – in the store basement
• Central Farmers’ Market (Tues. & Fri.) – buy a roll, meat, chips, etc…
• Southern Farmers’ Market (Wed.) – see above, same stuff
• Givant’s Deli – Lancaster’s only true Jewish delicatessen

Givant’s Deli, East Vine St.

Givant’s Deli, East Vine St.

Morris Givant owned a very popular deli with sit down tables in the rear. He made great sandwiches, on wonderful breads, and had homemade soups, including Matzo Ball soup, to die for. I was a regular customer, and learned that he had a single bedroom, furnished, rental unit on the second floor. It offered off-street parking, and a “sort of roof deck” out the back entrance. The quality of my lunch (and now sometimes breakfast) meals improved greatly with this housing change. I also was able to pick up a few extra bucks on the weekends as I helped Morris with cleaning and stocking the deli shelves.

This apartment was a vast improvement over the one above the House of Pizza. Since Givant’s was closed at night, it was also quieter. However, the neighborhood was substantially worse. Lancaster was at the time a racially segregated community. To some extent it still suffers from the residual effects of this. The area that was available for housing for persons of color, as well as Lancaster’s sizable Puerto Rican population, was the Seventh Ward (based on gerrymandered voting districts). This neighborhood was also the only location for the city’s public housing units. Indeed, the head of the mortgage department at my bank had explained to me during my training in his department, that there was a neighborhood within the city where the bank did not give homeowner mortgages. He then showed me a map of the city with the “Seventh Ward”, actually outlined in red ink, i.e., they actually “red lined” it!!! East Vine Street was the northern border of the Seventh Ward, and also the location of Givant’s.

On April 4th, 1968, I watched from my window as two firebombs were tossed: one into a Watt & Shand Department Store warehouse just a half of a block north of my apartment, and one into the Haddad Shoe Company just outside of my rear door. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated that day. When I came home that afternoon (the bank closed early that day because of the assassination) one of my black neighbors warned me to stay indoors that night. I watched as the mob rioted one story below me where they were met by the Lancaster City police.

I built my first piece of furniture while living above Givant’s. It was a cube table made of 3/4” birch-faced plywood that I finished in a dark maple stain. I had begun subscribing to Apartment Life and saw the idea in the magazine. The rest of the apartment was fully furnished. It was inexpensive furniture, but I did have a small kitchen. I began to cook some of the recipes in Apartment Life as well. I still have a few of those recipes in my recipe box. The bedroom had two twin beds. I remember that the bathroom had a tub with a shower, and now, as I think about it, I think that my first apartment bathroom only had a shower.

One bathroom memory from this apartment sticks out. I had a friend from the bank that was getting married, and I arranged his bachelor party. He lived a good distance outside of Lancaster, and was far too drunk to drive home, so he bunked at my place in one of the twin beds. In the middle of the night he threw up, and I hauled him, and the sheets, into the bathroom and put him, and the sheets, under the shower. I then threw him back into bed. The next morning, as he awoke I told him that he had been sick and he said, “I WAS NOT!” I simply replied, “Where are your sheets”, and we had a good laugh. He later divorced, went to divinity school, became a minister in Boston, divorced, remarried, and is now back in Lancaster. We are no longer close, but there are some great memories in our past.

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Life’s Lessons Learned #43: Lancaster – House of Pi

After a four-week stroll down memory lane, or should I say “drive” down memory Lane, I return now to the original timeline for the blog, “Life’s Lessons Learned”.

James & Nevin Streets (Former House of Pizza)

James & Nevin Streets
(Former House of Pizza)

Returning to Lancaster, and taking up residence above one of my favorite eateries while at F&M, afforded a slow transition from student to adult. While living there I spent many evenings eating pizza, however, now I was upstairs from the “House of Pi” rather than at a table inside the place. My first apartment was a furnished one bedroom. It was on the second floor in the front, James Street side, of the building. There were two rooms and a small bath (to be honest, I don’t remember the bathroom at all). The front room was my bedroom. In one corner there was a bay window occupied by a single bed. I’m sure there was other furniture in this room, but I could not tell you what it was, or what it looked like. The second room, the kitchen/living room was behind the bedroom. It had a bar/counter behind which there was a stove, sink, and refrigerator. The other side of the room had a couch, chair, corner table, and a coffee table. The door to the hallway and out was in this room.

I had a small phonograph player that provided my entertainment. Those days music came from either your radio, or from 45 rpm or LP records. My two favorite records at the time were of a Bach organ piece, and the group the Young Rascals. I also had an LP of the Borodin String Quartet. I had the chance to hear them play a concert at F&M, and got backstage to meet them. They did not speak English, but the one fellow knew German, and we had a brief conversation. They also signed my LP cover.

Over the years, for no discernable reason, I have been brutal with my hands. It was in this apartment that I suffered my first such cut/scar while drying a glass. My right hand has a history of misadventures with sharp objects.

My landlord was an interesting fellow. He was an active member of the local Greek community. I would later learn how close this community was through my Greek customers at the bank. Just about every day I would see John sitting just off the hallway in the kitchen playing backgammon with one of his Greek friends. I still remember the sound as they had this wonderful process of banging the pieces down on to the table.

Since I am writing this for my daughter and grandchildren I will keep the blog G-rated. However, I do want to say, that I really was quite the late bloomer when it came to women, and it was in this apartment that I had my first real experience. I had sung the night before at the Hickory Tree Coffeehouse in Lancaster, and a young woman who was in the audience that night was eating at the House of Pi the next afternoon. Let’s just say that later that evening I was her “one night stand”. I never saw her again, and no longer remember her name. I learned later that she had also taken a liking to another singer on the bill that night at the Hickory Tree, and paid him a visit the night before she met up with me.

houseofpi

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