Bernie Madoff had a choice of two public high schools after graduating from P.S. 156 in June 1952—Andrew Jackson or Far Rockaway, both of which were in the Laurelton district. With his mediocre grades, he never would have made the cut for the elite public secondary schools such as the Bronx High School of Science, or Brooklyn Technical, where his brother, Peter, would be accepted.
Bernie chose Far Rockaway primarily because it attracted a relatively affluent, fast-track crowd. The other option, Andrew Jackson in St. Albans, Queens, was garnering a reputation as a Blackboard Jungle sort of school.
As Jay Portnoy, who commuted on the 20-minute train ride to Far Rockaway with Bernie and Elliott Olin, observed, "St. Albans was becoming New York City's first suburban American black area," drawing kids from poor neighborhoods, "which scared many of Laurelton's liberal Jewish parents."
However, many of those same parents, like Ruth's, had low-paid black maids—schwartzes, they called them—working either full-time or part-time in their homes.
"They were bringing young girls, young black women up from the South to work in the houses," says former Laureltonian Marion Dickstein Sherman, a doctor's daughter, whose family had a live-in black maid. Sherman, who was a classmate and sorority sister of Ruth's, observes, "Andrew Jackson was getting a little scary. It was low-income, scary black." But she ...