With its motto “We Sit Securely on Our Assets,” the Outhouse National Bank strove to offer the finest service to its only depositor, my 10-year-old brother Doug. It was open 24/7 for deposits, almost all of which were imprest as a result of the superior judgment of the 15-year-old employer of said brother. It was mere coincidence that said employer was also the owner of the bank.
After a few weeks, Doug had accumulated a substantial two-figure account balance in the Outhouse National Bank. He proudly showed the bankbook that documented his financial responsibility. It was several pages of yellow paper, cut to bankbook size, emblazoned with a hand-drawn outhouse on the cover, its crescent moon smiling crookedly, an effect that was unintentionally counter to the sound banking policies that underpinned the first and only financial institution ever founded at 324 E. Maple St.
Paying responsible interest 25 basis points above the competing local banks’ passbook rate, the Outhouse National Bank secured its depositor’s balance with its owner’s Bar Mitzvah money, now carefully invested in a diversified, teen-managed portfolio of common stocks (including now-defunct corporations like American Motors, American Viscose, Continental Can, and Outboard Marine, among others now lost to memory…the records were destroyed in the figurative, but devastating Great Outhouse Tipping of 1962).
There were frequent runs on the Bank, each occasioned by a sibling argument that migrated precipitously from, for example, who broke the stems on Mom’s new plantings (“So what if I kicked the ball. You should’ve caught it!”) to a vindictive and ill-considered decision to withdraw all money from the bank. Management met these irrational demands with a conservative and effective policy that limited the hours during which the institution was open for withdrawals.
It was a multi-step process. First the Bank President (Steve) would ascertain that no Bank Examiners (parents) were in the building. Next, in order to give bank employees (Steve, Steve, and Steve) the freedom to adjust their eye shades, open their cash drawers, and perform other banking tasks too complex for pre-teens to understand, the Bank Guard (Steve) would clear the bank lobby (living room) of all unauthorized persons. This involved grasping the irrational withdrawer (Doug) firmly around the waist and forcibly inserting him and his bankbook into the waiting room (coat closet). The Bank Guard, after securing the waiting room door with an aptly positioned foot and shoulder, would then notify the Bank Manager (Steve), who would loudly announce, “The Outhouse National Bank is now open for business.” This clarion call would almost certainly provoke a loud series of bellows and insinuations from inside the waiting room, none of which could be heard or understood by the Window Teller (Steve) who waited patiently for any customers who wished to transact business.
After a few minutes, when no customers had come forward, the Bank Manager would announce, “The Outhouse National Bank is now closed,” and all employees would immediately decamp.
This even-handed policy (all depositors received equal treatment) had an unexpected result. In addition to successfully eliminating rash depositor actions, by the time I went off to college, Doug’s inability to spend his money, now totaling over $350, had turned his reality of cash into a vaguely held wisp. He almost completely forgot that I owed him anything…and so did I.
Years later, after I graduated from college and business school and got a job, the memory returned to one of us, and I did pay him back…every penny, plus accrued interest. It was a lot more than the candy he never got to buy.
The Outhouse National Bank is still open for deposits (utterly uninsured by the FDIC). Please contact the Head Teller (Steve).
(Continued in next post.)