Soon after our marriage, my wife and I began dreaming about owning our first house — our own place to come home to, a place to begin our life journey together, a place to rest our heads at night.
Little did we know that we would need to rest our heads overnight on the sidewalk outside the bank just to apply for the privilege.
In the late 1970s, the State of New Hampshire had a program for first-time home buyers. Candidates needed to meet income requirements and buy homes within a certain price range. They were then rewarded with the amazingly low interest rate of 8 7/8 percent. We qualified and found a house that was just what we wanted. Located in Durham, N.H., the ranch was on a dead end, several acres of woods surrounding it, quiet, and with plenty of room for a garden.
Here’s the catch: Under this program, the state gave the banks only a small sum of money to lend. We contacted the loan officer at our local bank, and it looked like things were in good order. But to be fair to all, loans were given on a first come, first served basis starting on a Monday morning in September. We knew the number of loans was limited and the demand was high, so on the Sunday before, I stopped by the bank to see whether anything was happening. At noon, there were already two couples waiting at the back entrance, settled in for the night.
I rushed home, told my wife, and went back to the bank, loaded down with folding chairs and sleeping bags. She joined an hour later with food, pillows, and paperwork, and there we were, only third in line and feeling good about our chances.
Soon other folks came, and the line grew to six or seven hopefuls. We chatted with one another, compared notes on the houses we wanted, and soon settled down for a night under the neon illumination of the “Enter” sign and the sound of passing traffic. It was a long night.
Finally opening time came, and the first two couples were called in to begin the loan process. About an hour later, a bank officer came out to tell us that the two couples had exhausted the money available; sorry, there would be more money next year. We, of course, were crushed, seeing our dream slip through our hands like sand.
Fortunately, a second bank in town had a more civil way of determining who was seen first when they began the process the next week. Applicants could call to reserve their place in line, and we were taking no chances. We asked three friends to call in with us, and one secured the second position. Thanks to a very helpful loan officer, the process went smoothly after that, and before we knew it, we were ready to close.
Our life journey did begin there. We got the big garden we wanted, a mostly perfect golden retriever, and soon two beautiful sons. Job opportunities took us elsewhere but not before many a night was spent resting our heads under the glow of the clear night sky.
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