Impractical, gorgeous, Jet Age modern Van Nuys Savings and Loan, more recently operating as La Tapultecha mercado, has finally met the wrecking ball. In the 1960s it paid 4% interest on savings accounts. Trying finding that today. Banks offer 1%, maybe, less monthly fees.
Usury was illegal then. Usury, meaning 18% loans. Anything beyond that was in the hands of the mafia. Now credit cards frequently charge 30%. Payday loans can run to 400%. They offer them up the block at PL$, 24 hours a day, from behind bulletproof glass.
It was a different world, reflected in the architecture.
To understand just how shocking the idea of 18% interest was not so long ago, here’s a clip from the original Fun With Dick and Jane, set in the San Fernando Valley of the late 70s. The protagonist couple, middle-class and overextended, visit a clip joint looking to borrow their way out of trouble. The scene is an earth-toned bridge between the aspirational world of mid-century thrift, with passbooks, and the quantitatively eased may a billion debtors bloom electronic currency casino we enjoy today.
Guess who’s living inside the old safe? You can’t blame them. The door was open, and it’s quiet inside.