The Millionaire Next Door

A Millionaire’s Treat on Halloween

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.  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.  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. 

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! And now I know that not all of those
who distribute mega treats live in mansions.

1 thought on “A Millionaire’s Treat on Halloween”

  1. Nkeng Kole Kole "Pillow" Manji

    Very interesting, as it is Halloween night 2014 and I just returned from a somewhat more affluent neighborhood than my own…
    There is definitely a spirit of “we” and though we didn’t get coins and not much candy either, we were treated to 3 haunted houses in a row, 2 robot lights-all-over radio controlled cars and lots a scary front yards…
    All homes were older with simple affordable durable cars in their driveways… A far cry from the flashiness I see in the less well-to-do neighborhoods.

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