Bernie had several mentors in the early years of his career. The first were his father and mother, who ran questionable Gibralter Securities out of their Laurelton house. It was from Ralph and Sylvia that Bernie learned some of the ins and outs of the stock buying and trading game.
The second was his new father-in-law, Saul Alpern, who began steering business his way from virtually the moment Bernie slipped the wedding ring on the slender third finger of the accountant's favorite of his two daughters, Ruth—young, pretty, and smart, a chip off the old block, a math whiz.
"The Saul that I knew was the salt of the earth," asserts Joe Kavanau. "The guy was a square—with pens in his shirt pocket. He was just a funny character, a nice man."
At Queens College with Ruth was Jay Portnoy, who sometimes spent time at the Alpern house in Laurelton studying with her. From those visits, he came away with the feeling that "she really adored her father. A couple of times I was in the Alpern home [and met her father] and then afterwards Ruth would say, 'Isn't he brilliant?' or 'Isn't he great looking?' or some such like that. She was very much in awe of her father."
There also would be a third guru for Bernie as time went on, one who would play a role in his early successes, but he was still to come.
Bernie's investment advisory operation that became the Ponzi scheme appears to have begun at a most unlikely place—a ...