Don Durando of Long Beach explains how The Beatles and his father played a part in his meeting the love of his life, wife Sandy.
I remember watching The Beatles perform on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964 and then asking my dad for a drum set and a pair of Beatles boots. He said, "Sure, when you get a job you can buy them."
The next day, I went to the Big A discount store around the corner from us in Astoria, Queens, and was hired, at age 11, to deliver weekly circulars. I continued working there part time, advancing to stock boy and toy buyer by the time I was 16 in 1969. That's when Sandy, also 16, started working at the store as a floor helper. On her first day, I introduced myself and asked her to lunch. We started dating and knew right away we were meant for each other.
I lived on 33rd Avenue and Sandy lived two miles away in the Astoria Houses projects. On weekends, we'd go either to dances at my school, Mater Christi High School in Astoria, to concerts or to the movies. We also liked bowling at nearby Strand Lanes and going on the amusement rides at Adventure Park in Flushing.
At first, we were worried about how our families would react. Sandy is of Puerto Rican descent and my family is Italian. Our fears were unfounded. My parents and family took to Sandy right away. Her family, all wonderful people, took a little longer to accept me. However, her father always watched me from their fifth-floor apartment window to make sure I was safe whenever I left to go home.
Sandy went to All Saints Commercial High School for Girls in Brooklyn. She took the subway and then had a long walk through an industrial area to the school. I accompanied her to and from school on most days to make sure she arrived safely. In my senior year, my brother gave me his old Pontiac, which made the trip a lot easier.
On May 24, 1975, Sandy and I got married in St. Mary's Church in Long Island City. Our reception was at Dante's Catering Hall in East Elmhurst. In 1991, we purchased our house in Long Beach.
Sandy is a mortgage consultant for Citibank in Queens. I retired from the New York Police Department in 1993 as commanding officer of the Homicide Major Case Squad. I then ran a private investigation company until 2008.
We have one son and two beautiful granddaughters. We recently celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary with our family at Angelo's of Mulberry Street restaurant in Little Italy. After being a couple for more than four decades, Sandy and I feel that meeting at Big A was our destiny.