Saturday, November 13, 2010

Financial Advice

Ben and Cele on the left with friends at Wyndham

An unknown golfer in the family album

The photo of the golf gang at Finnegan's Tap Room in the last post brings back a few memories and inspiration to try a little internet research on the people in the photograph.

Here is a collage of George and Grace Walters Gerard. Vera said
 they owned the Halesite Golf Course where everyone golfed in the '40s.
It was at the top of Young's Hill.

These people were icons of my youth as they had, my father often told me, bought land on Long Island when it was CHEAP, operated the golf course there (near the Bay above) and then sold it when land was EXPENSIVE. At least this has been my memory.

Many times Ben bemoaned the fact that he'd never bought land on Long Island when it was cheap. As children we thought this marked him as rather foolish, letting that chance go by. It was certainly a mistake we would never make when we grew up.

Ad from 1914. My Dad was 4.

Were he around today I would remind him that he didn't have any money when land on Long Island was cheap, something I didn't realize until I was grown up. 

The ad below from spring 1945 in the N.Y. Times might be the time Ben had the opportunity to buy land from George. The ad for 65 acres says George will "sacrifice for less than the assessed valuation."

Ben in 1945
He had no money then and his first child was on the way.

I found out a little about George. He was a golfer, probably a sportsman in general, and he raised and judged registered English Setters and pointers. He was shot once as an innocent bystander in a hold-up. I found out more in this story from 1952, when he finally sold the land for $140,000 ($2,000 an acre).

The best thing I learned in the article was in the last 2 paragraphs:
"The Halesite golf course was laid out in the early Nineteen Hundreds by the late George Taylor and later sold for $900 an acre. About 1929 it was resold to the late C.J. Walters for $1,800 an acre. The present owner, George B. Gerard, who was Mr. Walters' son-in-law, has operated the golf course up to the present time..."
George did not buy the land cheap. He married Grace whose father owned the land. And he didn't make that much money on the land. Between 1929 and 1953 it only increased by 11 per cent.

It became the Marble Hills neighborhood. The developer advertised in 1953 that houses on 1/4 acre lots were expected to sell for $21,000 to $27,000. For those of you who don't live in Huntington I'll tell you those houses (now on smaller lots I'd imagine) go for $600,000.


Ben in 1966
I tried to follow out of my father's footsteps, but found that buying land when it is cheap is really no key to a fortune. I have myself purchased several parcels of land when land was cheap in Lawrence, Kansas and I am not rich yet. Land remains relatively cheap in Kansas. What he should have told me was to marry money.
 Huntington about 1910

As for local memories of the Halesite Golf Club and George...I did notice there is a Gerard Street in Huntington, right downtown north of Main.

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