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Memories, anecdotes and just a bunch of stuff

from Mike Burke, Editor

© Chartcraft Inc, November 9, 2001


From tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow


I noted this morning that AMC was showing a 1952 film called “Macao” with Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell and William Bendix.  It’s always best to begin at the beginning and this was really where my interest in the Stock Market began.  This was the movie playing the first day I began to work as an usher at the RKO movie theater at Fordham Road in the Bronx.  A friend of mine got me this job, and although it paid only 55 cents an hour, a sum my friends said they would not work for, I liked the job, put away the money and after a couple of summers working forty hours a week, I had over  $1,000 in the Bank when I left. We also got a couple of Free passes each week, and my friends never seemed to mind accepting these. I also got my first girl friend at the RKO. She came there as an usher and on our dates we used to go to our rival theater, the Paradise, where the ushers used to let us in for nothing, and we used to let them in for nothing to our place. This kept my dating expense to virtually nothing and helped my confidence a lot in that neither my friends nor I could really believe that such a beautiful girl would go out with me even once, much less on a regular basis.


What first caught my stock market interest was that RKO stock sold around $2 a share and I used to speculate in my mind about what made it go up and down. But I was an outsider. Our Christmas show that year was the “Snows of Kilimanjaro” with Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward and, although the place was packed, it did not help the stock.  I didn’t understand why.


In 1953, another friend of mine got me a job at the Hanover Bank down on Wall Street. This was an hour and a half subway ride from my house. It paid $40 a week, the going rate for High School graduates. My plan was to work both jobs for the summer, quit the bank in the Fall and then go to City College full time and Major in Chemical Engineering, a field, by the way, I was totally unfit for. I would keep my movie job.


Two things changed this. The first was that I was placed in the Brokers Loan Department. We used to lend money to people and institutions and they would bring in stocks or bonds as collateral. I was fascinated by the fact that we would lend them money at 3% for portfolios on stocks that were yielding 6-8%. I could see myself doing that. Bank accounts then paid 2% and that 6-8% looked terrific to me. We used to lend money to the Bond Portfolios at 1 ¾%, but the bonds were only paying 2%, so that did not interest me. I was also really encouraged by some of the brilliant people that worked in that Department and I decided to buy some stocks. 


The second thing that happened was that I was fired from my movie job. This happened because one night I was helping the Electrician change the Marquee outside the theater for the new show that was coming in the next day. This was a three hour job and it was about 10:30 at night. The second feature of the movie was already on ten or fifteen minutes, when a woman came up and wanted to buy a ticket. Instead of escorting her into the theater and taking her up to the Assistant manager’s office on the second floor to buy a ticket, I just told her to go in, sit down and enjoy what was left of the movie. She turned out to be a “Spotter” and that was it for that job.  That taught a lot about the milk of human kindness.


I decided to keep my stock market job and go to night school and Major in Business. With the help of advice from one of the knowledgeable ones at work, I made an $800 profit on a $240 investment as I really learned something about the market for the first time. When you’re making $40 a week, a $800 profit is BIG, and this turned me on to the stock market for life. I was hooked.   


© Chartcraft Inc, November 9, 2001


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