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In the old days, banks were more blatant.

Great Deals*

When it comes to deals hindsight is 20/20

June 16, 2009, 12:00 am

It’s eerie: Through 35 years of SFR stories and ads, one can watch the seeds of today’s poisoned economy get planted, sprout and bear fruit.

It started so innocently. SFR’s first issue in 1974 announced a wild new “modern banking concept:” a bank (now defunct) that stayed open on Saturdays. Above head shots of nubile staff, another now-bust bank warned, “Our girls are after your money.” Longer hours and a little sex appeal—tame stuff, compared to the hardcore screwing to come.

Through the late ’70s, thrift was in, but appetites grew as the ’80s approached. In 1979, SFR reported a planned south-side shopping mall. How would people pay for all the stuff at the mall? The answer was on page two, in an ad by Commercial Credit: “Need $25,000?…Commercial Credit can help.”

Later spun off by its parent company, Commercial Credit subsidiary eventually became Citigroup. Citi, as it’s now known, took a $45 billion federal bailout last year.

The real ominous stuff came as President Ronald Reagan began appearing in cartoon form. SFR’s classified ads featured strange words like “income property” and “condo.”

In 1983, a “great annexation controversy” raged in southwest Santa Fe. Annexation begot overdevelopment, which demanded consumer financing. In 1984, Los Alamos Credit Union—now Del Norte Credit Union—took “a new direction,” with 11.9 percent adjustable-rate home equity loans.

The late ’80s brought ATM cards. Televisions grew in size and cost (27-inch for $1,500, adjusted for inflation). People grew, too, judging by the “Xtra Lovely” clothing sizes. SFR’s real estate section fattened as well. Owner-sold properties got buried by glamour shots of realtors.

Fast times got faster in the Clinton era. In 1990, First Interstate Bank ran an ad with a picture of peel-out marks headed to the horizon: “Two hours ago a man applied for a loan to buy this Corvette. Obviously the answer was ‘yes’. Obviously the bank was First Interstate…the only bank in town that will process your consumer loan application within two hours. There’s no need to even put on your best suit and tie.”

National chains threatened local stores. The tagline for a video release also advertised by Hastings—the “action romance” Catch Me If You Can—captured the zeitgeist: “Money does’t [sic] come easy when you play by the rules…If you can’t win the race, move the finish line.”

Who knew the finish line would move so close to the starting line?

Finance companies grew increasingly desperate for clients. In 1991, Reditax promised “Quick cash! Get $300 to $3,000 in just a few days. No credit check. Bring two IDs and your W-2s. Se habla Espanol.” Meanwhile, Charter Bank promised home equity loans “for any worthwhile purpose.”

Even those glamour-shot local brokers promised “equity credit lines at 9 percent*” for up to $100,000.

Cracks began to show, but in smaller type. Century 21 advertised a foreclosure property: “Owner will consider all offers.”

Sanity left Santa Fe by 1993. Advertisements for therapists and “healing” services overwhelmed those for car parts and dry goods, like people bought back in the ’70s. Banks offered credit cards “with no annual fee.”

It was nothing, by 1995, to see an ad in the city’s alt paper urging readers to “Take advantage of Paine Webber’s RMA money market portfolio.” Sweet, dude.

Good times, the ’90s. By the end of the decade, Santa Feans could move into new luxury apartments, with jacuzzis, for $420.* Sound Look would sell you a big-screen TV for “0 money down/0 payments/0 charged interest/for 18 months.”*

In a strip mall off Cerrillos, Security Finance—“we like to say YES!”—advertised “Loans from $100 to $500.” Borrowers could even apply by phone.

Y2K came and went. Anyone willing to sign paper could buy a house. SLC Mortgage Co. offered “creative solutions” for the self-employed, those with “problem credit, no tax returns, no money down, previous bankruptcies or foreclosures.”

In 2000, SFR’s classified section introduced a handy guide to home mortgage loan rates, so readers could pick an adjustable-rate mortgage on an overpriced home that would be in foreclosure a decade later.

“Real Estate is fun!” a broker ad said. Indeed.

This was also the year America elected George W Bush. The rest is history.

* Some strings attached.


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