Musings of An Old Man

by Brian K. Moore

Phyllis Gets Tough

In 1964 Mike Montejo, a tile contractor who did tile work for us, told us that his wife Happy Montejo, who was a real estate broker, had a couple of lots for sale at a good price, on the corner of Highway 18 and Acoma Road in Apple Valley Road. I went and looked at them. They were good lots, suitable for apartments and with the proper zoning. The corner lot was priced at $5,000 and the adjoining lot was priced at $4,500. Ninety-five-hundred dollars for a very good apartment site was a really good price.

I went home and told Phyllis that I thought we ought to buy these lots. As I have mentioned before in these writings, Phyllis’ initial response to a new or unusual situation was almost always NO! That coupled with her naturally financially conservative nature made it a particularly hard sell.

I would not have tried to make this sell if I had felt that it was really against her wishes, but I was almost completely sure that she would come to realize that this was an opportunity. She semi reluctantly approved the purchase of the lots. She was later heard to say many times, “that if making new financial moves had have been left entirely to her, we wouldn’t have anything.”

We bought the lots. I designed and drew plans for the apartments. The plans were for an eventual twelve apartments, built in an open U shape with a swimming pool in the center of the U. We would build the first six now and the other six and the pool later.

We borrowed $100,000 from Phyllis’ father and stepmother at 6% interest. With this we built the first six units. We had them rented before they were completed! But, get this, the two bedroom apartments rented for $165 a month and the one bedroom apartments rented for $135! This was the going rate at that time.

The first six apartments were built in 1964, and stayed rented continuously, but it was 1970 before we were ready to tackle the last six and the pool! Again we went to Phyllis’ father and stepmother for financing. They loaned us an additional $125,000, but at 9%, a much higher interest rate. Interest rates had soared in the six years between the loans and of course their loan would be based on the market.

We took this as a mater of course but were quite surprised when Phyllis’ father wrote the notes so that as well as charging the new higher interest rate on the new loan, it also raised the lower rate that we had on the old loan to the new 9% figure.

Phyllis and I didn’t think that this was entirely proper, although her father had always been very generous to us. We did notice that the notes we signed were made out to Phyllis’ stepmother Maxine, and Phyllis’ aunt Margaret, not to Phyllis’ dad. Phyllis’ dad was fixing it so that Maxine and Margaret would have income for 22 years! He also fixed it so that Phyllis and I would be making payments at 9% for 22 years!

By the way, as an aside, we owned and self rented these apartments for forty years without ever posting a “for rent” sign, and without any kind of advertising. All we had was a small sign that said “manager” and the phone number.

This brings us to what the “PHYLLIS GETS TOUGH” story is about.

Apartment owners and managers find that in some people’s minds, apartment swimming pools are public domain, so they will usurp the use of an apartment pool, especially at night. They will just show up, usually as a group and go swimming! I don’t think that they think it is really OK. I think they just think that they can get away with it. But it doesn’t go unnoticed. The tenants identify them as outsiders and call the landlord. We have had to deal with this several times over the years.
Usually it was my job to deal with it, but this particular time I was gone on a river running trip with our son Jim and the job fell on Phyllis.

This incident started when several of the tenants from the apartments across the alley climbed the fence and went in our pool. At the time we had an on site manager, Eina Davis. Eina and her husband Don for years had, for a reduction in rent, been our on site managers. Don died, but Eina continued as manager. Eina went out and ordered them to leave. They gave her a bad time but did leave. However they came back again another night and she ran them off again. This continued and they became more brazen and began mocking her and doubting her authority.

At this time Eina asked for help from us, but I was gone and that left it for Phyllis! Eina told Phyllis that she had found that they were Air Force guys, living off base.

Sweet, demure, little Phyllis, doing a job that she just detested made a trip to the apartment across the alley and looked up the manager lady. She made her complaint and told the manager lady that she expected her to see that her tenants behave and stay off our premises.

The manager lady tried to brush her off and told her that she was not responsible for her tenants and had no control over them. Phyllis told her, “OK I’ll just go out to the Air Base and report it.” This was the right thing to say! The manager lady did a 180 so fast she burned rubber! She said, “Oh Please don’t do that! I’ll take care of it! They will never be there again!”

Phyllis let it go at that and we never saw those guys again.

I was glad to see that Phyllis, who was usually shy, sometimes almost to the point of being timid, could rise to the occasion and get tough when the circumstances called for it.