Don Aronow: The Formative Years
Excerpt from Paradise Lost: The Rise and Fall of Ben Kramer. Read the full story in Véhicule Magazine.
"Donald Joel Aronow was born on March 3, 1927 and grew up in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn back when the borough was largely farmland. He grew up rich, but that didn’t last. His parents lost the taxi company that made them wealthy, which kickstarted Don’s hustler instincts. He began his working life at a gas station before moving on to ushering at a movie theater. He proved tactful at moving his way up through the ranks wherever he was employed, supplementing his income by flipping cars on the side. He enlisted in the Merchant Marines during World War II where he was first introduced to boats.
After returning home in 1947, the GI Bill sent him to Brooklyn College. The knack he showed for sports while there fed his fiercely competitive nature. If for nothing but lack of direction, he became a high school gym teacher after graduating—a job whose only redeeming characteristic for Don was the uniform. He fell firmly into the “jock” category. Things were good. Things were easy.
As a change of pace, he relocated himself and his budding family to New Jersey and went to work for his first wife’s father’s construction company. Words came to near-blows in a matter of months, and by 1953, Aronow had opened his own contracting business in the area—The Aronow Corporation. In less than ten years, he would make his first million building commercial properties in the area, taking full advantage of America’s lingering post-war boom.
By age 32, in 1959, he figured that he had amassed enough wealth to live comfortably—he retired and moved to Miami. Why did he move, uprooting his family in the process? He would go on to say that he was simply bored in the northeast, living the same life he had for far too long. It was time to head down I-95 until he ran out of road."