Until I was in fifth grade we lived in Queensbridge, a low-income housing project in Queens. My father, a teacher, and mother, who worked as a secretary and went to Queens College at night, had very little money.
After my mother earned her master's degree, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, she got a job teaching in Sea Cliff. My father had 35 children in his class in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and my mother had around 15.
We moved to Laurelton, the last town in Queens before the Nassau line, so, as my parents told me later, I could attend a city university for free as a city resident. Eventually my parents moved to Sea Cliff.
Bernie Madoff, who was much older than me, was a very smart kid in Laurelton.
I would never take any money from my parents, and I always worked. I would date the rich girls in the Five Towns area but did not like to spend my hard-earned money on dates.
When I graduated from Andrew Jackson High School, I had $5,000 in the bank and used some of it to buy a year-old 'Vette. After owning it for a year, the engine blew up and Chevrolet would not honor the warranty. I was a lucky person. Some fool stole the broken car, so the insurance company made me whole. I would not buy another Chevy until I again bought a 'Vette 30 years later. I now own a few 'Vettes.
After buying my first 'Vette, the rich girls really liked me. We used to drive out to Links Log Cabin in Centerport. I was so cheap I would try to get my dates to eat before I got to their parents' houses. I worked hard for my money, sometimes with two jobs while in college, and was good at saving.
After college, I started dating in the distant suburbs: Huntington. I dated someone whose parents owned a clothing store. She brought me into the store and wanted to give me clothing for free, as I was too cheap to spend money on expensive clothes. My mother told me to give back the clothing, or to pay my friend for it. Of course, I did not listen to my mother.
There was a big difference between the kids in Queens and the Island. Most of my friends in Queens had jobs while going to school. My new friends in Huntington and the Five Towns all had new cars that their parents bought for them. My best friend in Freeport also had a boat that his parents had bought for him. We used to go water skiing during the summer, after I was done working.
I went to grad school at night, and worked full-time in finance during the day. I have become successful because I always had to work and learned the value of hard work and money. I am no longer cheap, and used to give out my season tickets to the Yankees and the Mets to my friends. I had seats behind home plate for the Yanks, and at first base for the Mets.
I ended up marrying someone from Plainview, and eventually I moved to Plainview, after owning some homes in New Jersey. When I became successful, my wife would make me look for homes in Woodbury. She would tell me that's where we should live, with other rich people. I liked it in Plainview. The park was across the street where I had organized football games, and I played softball at John F. Kennedy High School.
We got divorced because I saw no reason to leave Plainview. Maybe I should have, as the house that we almost bought is now worth millions.
I had such fond memories of Huntington, and also of driving to Links once a week, that when I dated a woman in Centerport on Mill Pond Road, I moved in. I was going to buy half her house, to free up some cash for her, but it did not work out.
--Lance Wallach, Plainview