The bank that couldn't

Art Buchwald

January 09, 1991|By Art Buchwald

THEY SAID goodbye to the Bank of New England this week.

When a bank dies there is no ceremony, no tears are shed and few mourn. It gets buried with only a small obituary in the local paper.

This is wrong. A bank is a loss to everyone when it dies and the least it deserves is a eulogy.

Something like this:

Dearly Beloved:

We are gathered here today to bid farewell to the National Bank That Couldn't, which passed away in its sleep just days ago when it ran out of funds.

This is a sad moment for those of us who knew the Bank That Couldn't over the years and was befriended by it time and time again.

The Bank That Couldn't did not die because it couldn't get a money transfusion. It died of a broken heart, when the people it loaned money to told the bank to shove it. People say that the bank had only itself to blame for its demise. But it is cruel to speak this way about the dead. Sure, it made mistakes, but no more than Chase, Citibank or the Bank of New England. It invested its depositors' savings in the future at a time when there was no future there.

I'm not here today to talk about the bad things that happened to the Bank That Couldn't. I'd like to say something good about it. This was a happy bank. Even when its loan officers made grievous errors you could still hear singing in the back rooms.

I remember one time walking into the bank and I saw Jed Tobin, the vice president, sitting behind his desk, splitting his sides.

"What's the joke?" I asked.

"We were holding $30 million in junk bonds and the department store chain defaulted on them."

"What's so funny about that?"

"The investment bankers who sold us those bonds offered to sell us $30 million more."

"I still don't see the humor."

"The bank's officers bought them."

There was never a dull moment at the Bank That Couldn't. This valiant institution not only invested in our little town but in Argentina as well. If you deposited more than $50,000 you got a calendar of Evita Peron. Everyone had faith in the bank because its marble floors were cleaned twice a week, and the bronze bars on the tellers' cages were polished every day. The bank even paid to put up a Christmas creche on its roof.

When it was in serious financial trouble it did not cry and whimper -- like a savings and loan. It went to its senators and said, "We will finance your campaign if you get us out of this jam." Few senators could say no.

Why, many of you are asking, did the Bank That Couldn't pass away? It died because it lost the will to live. It was driven to its death by heartless examiners and federal insurance accountants who cared more about the bank's books than they did about the people who owned its stock.

When it could not take the pain any longer, it pulled down the blinds, closed its eyes and stuck its head in a 24-Hour Deposit Box.

We will all miss the Bank That Couldn't.

Perhaps the money is gone, but as we all know there is more to life than a bank having money.

Let us pray for the Bank That Couldn't and hope that it will find eternal peace in the big Chapter 11 in the sky.

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