The Millionaire Next Door

My First Encounter with a Millionaire

When I was a boy, we lived in a small apartment in a blue-collar section of the Bronx.  Just a quarter mile away was the wealthiest neighborhood in New York City, a residential community called Fieldston, aka Mansionville!  I was nine years old.  I told my eleven-year-old sister, “I’m disgusted with the marginal propensity of the people in our own blue-collar neighborhood to give to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.  I think we need to move out of our neighborhood this Halloween and go to Fieldston.”  So, Sissy, her two friends and I began by cold-calling a home on Waldo Avenue in Fieldston.  The first home we identified was on two acres with a large wall and a large gate. It sat one hundred and fifty feet from the street.  There were no lights on.

I knocked on the door for five minutes.  Finally, it opened up, and there was James Mason, the distinguished British actor in front of me.  “Trick or treat,” I said in my best Halloween commando voice.  Mr. Mason informed us that he had no candy to hand out but he would give us “all the silver in the house.”  This was my first affluent experience! While he was inside the house gathering our “treat” I told my sister, “it’s either coins, flatware, or some combination of both.” That kind man gave us two handfuls of nickels, dimes, quarters, and half-dollars, the equivalent of what we would have received if we had trick-or-treated at three hundred blue-collar households.  That’s what it means to be wealthy in America.

After our stop at Mr. Mason’s home, we noticed that the lights were on at the English Tudor-style home across the street.  Attached to the front door was a note:  “Attention, trick-or-treaters.  My husband is ill.  Don’t ring, don’t knock.  You’ll find coins in the milk box.”  Inside the box was a treasure trove:  more than twenty business envelopes with lovely black writing on them.  The envelopes were designated for groups of one or two, three, four, five, six or seven trick-or-treaters.  Eight-plus was the big envelope, and there were three for each category.  We removed only one envelope, for the group of four; then we left Fieldston and went home.  Twenty years later I began studying the affluent in America. And I am still as enthusiastic as that young trick-or-treater!

1 thought on “My First Encounter with a Millionaire”

  1. Love the story.
    Love the book.
    My children (8, 11 and 12) know most of the Millionaire stories by heart because I bought the audio cds and listened to them in the car on the way to school and work in Nashville. Fantastic stuff!

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