You'd think the children would get tired of it by now, but they never do. We were all sitting in the living room, and I think it was one of the girls who brought it up.

"Tell us, Dad, how you used to just go in a bank and ask the man for a 30-year mortgage on a house and he'd give it to you."

I leaned back in my chair, took a puff on my cigar and said, "Well, it was maybe nine or 10 years ago -- I'm not exactly sure. Every paper was running these big advertisements from the banks, and the savings and loan companies were urging you to come in and borrow as much as you wanted to buy a house."

My daughter Connie said to her husband, "You see, didn't I tell you it was so? Dad doesn't lie."

My son-in-law said, "Yeah, but what was the gimmick? Why would a bank or savings and loan company want to lend you money to buy a house?

"That was their business then, Randy. They had money lying all over the place, and they didn't know what to do with it. They practically came out on the sidewalks on their knees with fistfuls of dollars begging you to take it."

"Yeah, but how much interest were they asking?" my son-in-law wanted to know.

"Five-and-a-half percent, maybe 6 if you got unlucky."

"Ah, come on, Dad," my daughter said, "you're making this all up. No bank ever loaned people money at 5 1/2 percent."

"Ask your mother. She was there when I applied for the loan. She thought 5 1/2 percent was too high for 30 years, but I wasn't in the mood to shop around, so I took it."

"And how much did a house cost in those days, Dad?" my daughter asked.

"You could get a very nice one with three bedrooms and two baths, and a completely installed kitchen and recreation room on a fair-sized lot, for somewhere around $50,000."

"Now I know you're making fun of us," my son-in-law said. "There is no way anyone could ever buy a home for that."

"Oh yeah?" I said. "Suppose I told you there used to be homes in very nice neighborhoods you could pick up for $35,000 and no down payment?"

I let that one sink in.

My other daughter said, "Didn't you and Mom almost buy a house for $40,000 in 1963 that recently sold for $450,000 right on the Potomac River?"

"Yup. I turned it down because the owner wouldn't paint it, and I was darned if I was going to pay $500 to put on a new coat. You want to know something? When it sold for $450,000 it still hadn't been painted."

My son-in-law said, "Connie tells me you were offered a town house in Georgetown for $57,000 with a swimming pool in the back."

"I might have bought it, but the savings and loan fellow got snooty and said because the house was built in 1789 he could only give me a $50,000 loan at 6 percent for 25 years. I don't like anyone taking me for a fool, so I just told him what he could do with his loan. Your mother was there."

"I remember it well," my wife said. "Still think about it every time I drive by the house."

"Gosh," my daughter said. "They must have been wonderful days. To think, anybody who wanted to could just go in and buy a home."

I took another puff on my cigar.

"Lets say they were different. You see, we fellows who came back from the second big war knew how to talk to bankers and savings and loan people. They understood we weren't about to pay more than 6 percent for a loan, and so they didn't push us around. But the kids today don't have any backbone. They'll accept any amount of interest the bank asks for. Heck, if someone ever wanted me to pay 16 percent on a mortgage, I would pick up the papers and make him eat them."

"Now stop that kind of talk," my wife said. "You're just putting on a show for the kids."

"Let him talk, Mom," my daughter Jenny said. "Tell us the time Joe DiMaggio called you up, Dad, and asked you why you didn't want to borrow any more money from the Bowery Savings Bank in New York City."