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Making Peace with the Bank 


In November 1964 I bought my first car, a green 1958 Volkswagen. At a time when the average price for a new car was around $3,000, it cost a princely $200.   


I had not planned to buy a car. The bus service in Ottawa has always been quite good. But that late October morning when the temperature dipped dangerously, and the winds blew belligerently on me waiting at the bus stop, it seemed as if the bus would never come. I gritted my chattering teeth, shivered in the autumn cold and reminded myself grimly that it was not winter yet. Worse was to come! Well, I'd be a boy scout. I would be prepared. I would not be standing outside in this malevolent weather waiting for any bus. I was going to get me a car. 


Just a few blocks up Bank Street, at the corner of Second Avenue, Morton Motors had a used-car lot and while there were three or four cars that attracted me, only one came near to the purchasing power of an expatriate student who had not planned to buy a car. There was a Mercedes Benz, a stately diesel. I looked and looked and yearned. But the price at $600 was beyond me.   


The next best thing was another German car, a Volkswagen just like the one I had learned to drive on. The price was $200 and I thought I could get them to come down a bit. After all, I would have to buy insurance too. But, no go. Two hundred dollars was what they insisted on. The days passed and still it was two hundred bucks. Two weeks… and still $200. So, screwing up my courage, I walked into the Bank of Nova Scotia on Bank Street just south of Sunnyside and spoke to the manager about a loan. 


"How much do you want," he asked. I told him.   


"What can you offer as collateral?" 


Well, there is the car itself..." I began. But he cut me off.  They would not take so old a car as collateral on a loan.  Was there anything else?  


"Well," I offered brightly. "I have a type-writer and my books." 


The manager tried valiantly to suppress a smile. But it was a losing battle and his professional resistance eventually gave way to a little smile. I suppose he remembered his own penurious student days. Besides, I had hastened to indicate that the Bank of Nova Scotia was well known in Jamaica and that I had done business with them. Or he thought I had an honest face. Whatever. I got the loan. And the car!   


Ewart Walters, From his book: “To Follow Right – A Journalist’s Journey” 

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