What happened to Donald Trump that made him the successful, albeit controversial figure he currently is?
The business magnate, author, celebrity, and now president is perhaps one of the most talked about figures in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Here, we’ll explore 42 facts about Donald Trump’s childhood that may help explain how he came to be where he is today…
Donald’s father Fred Trump was born in New York and became one of the biggest real estate developers in New York City. His mother Mary was a Scottish immigrant who loved to be the center of attention and delighted in the good life provided by Donald’s father.
Fred C. Trump was a successful real estate developer in his own right and his wealth allowed him to provide lavishly for his family. Their business paid for the private schools, limousines and the 23-room house in which Donald and his four siblings were brought up.
Donald was the fourth of Fred and Mary’s five children. Fred Jr., the eldest, was an outgoing airline pilot who sadly suffered from alcoholism and died at a young age. Donald’s sisters, Maryanne and Elizabeth, became a U.S. Appeals Court judge and an administrative secretary, respectively. His youngest brother, Robert, also went into business.
Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946, in Jamaica Estates in the borough of Queens, New York. The Trumps’ home was among the largest in the New York suburb and still remains there today. Trump attended The Kew-Forest School while in grade school.
The Trumps’ wealth was marked by the two Cadillacs in their driveway. Everyone in their neighborhood talked about the Trumps because of their magnificent home and top-of-the-line cars, which had their owner’s initials, “FCT1” and “FCT2”, on their license plates, something most people didn’t have in those days.
Friends often referred to young Trump as “Donny,” “The Trumpet” and “Flat Top” (for his hair). His close friends recall that he was a blend of friendly and cocky, but they believed this was merely a facade. However, Donald was a troublemaker…
While in grade school, Donald impressed his classmates with his athleticism and wild shenanigans. But he also had a penchant for pigheadedness and even then, refused to acknowledge his mistakes. He was known, even at such a young age, for saying anything that came into his head.
When Trump was only five years old, he followed his babysitter into the New York City sewers on a sort of “urban safari” of sorts. Despite his caretaker’s reservations that that child might become scared, little Donny pressed onward into the darkness. Even at that age, the future president was fearless.
Trump’s mother, Mary was well-suited for the life she had found herself in. She loved pageantry and relished the finer things in life. Sadly, she suffered a hemorrhage following her son Robert’s birth and was given an impromptu hysterectomy, resulting in an acute abdominal surgery that nearly killed her.
Even with their mother at death’s door, the Trump children were expected to go on with life as usual. Maryanne Trump, Donald’s sister, once spoke of how callous her father was during that time. She was expected to just go to school and if anything changed, her father would call for her.
The stern, thick-mustached Fred Trump was the type of formal man who wore a tie and jacket even in his own home. He was, as expected, a wealthy and highly conservative Republican who forbade his children many frivolities. As such, little Donald didn’t get a lot of leeway when it came to misbehaving – though you wouldn’t know it from his behavior.
Donald the Menace
In his neighborhood, Donald and his friends were known to ride their bikes fast, shout at the top of their lungs, and curse very loudly. One neighbor even reported to seeing them jump from their bikes to beat up another boy.
Trump the Bully
Throughout his childhood and into his adult life, Trump showed the sort of behavior that is considered common for bullies. Young Donald was narcissistic, charismatic, and popular, and he delighted in proving his superiority over those he considered weaker than himself.
Shadows of the Future
Little Donald was essentially his adult self in miniature. It was a fact that he recognized only once he had gotten older. He once told a reporter that “When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I’m basically the same…my temperament is not that different.”
Bane of Teachers
Donald was considered surly, determined, and headstrong by several of his teachers. Once, he even gave a music teacher a black eye because he “thought he didn’t know anything about music.” He misbehaved so often that his initials became his friends’ shorthand for detention.
Trump pulled hair, taunted children on the playground, and disrupted the classroom on more than one occasion. He and his friends threw spitballs, cursed, and caused trouble all around his neighborhood.
If his current Tweets are any indication, Trump has always seemed to lack a voice of reason in his head when it came to amending what he was about to say. Even as a child, he would say anything that came into his mind, wrong or right, and he’d stick to that position no matter what.
Ann Trees, a teacher at Kew-Forest School during Trump’s tenure, found him utterly unforgettable. The headstrong boy was determined but surly to a fault. He would sit, arms folded, face contorted in a grimace as if he were daring people to disagree with him.
Taller than his classmates, Trump exuded an easy confidence and independence. He was a fierce competitor and excelled at sports, but he was also a sore loser who grew enraged if things did not go his way.
Trump at Bat
Trump would often erupt in fits of anger. He started fights and he pummeled other boys on more than one occasion. Despite a great love for baseball, he smashed more than one baseball bat if he made an out.
Because he was so good at it and because he loved it so much, Trump’s best sport wound up being baseball. Even at 12, his passion for the game inspired him to write a prose poem in the yearbook. He relished the noisy cheers of the crowd and likened himself to his hero, Yogi Berra.
By the time he got into sixth grade, Trump had become such a talented right-handed hitter that the outfielders had to shift to left field just to make sure no ball got by them. Nevertheless, he was a strong hitter and he almost always managed to hit the ball through people rather than simply past them.
At the age of 12, Trump would take the E train into Manhattan with his friends. They did not ask their parents for permission and purchased knives while in the city in an effort to channel gang members from the then Broadway hit, “West Side Story”.
Due to his seemingly endless string of behavior problems, and following the knife incident, Trump’s father enrolled him in the New York Military Academy at the age of 13, where he finished eighth grade and high school.
While at the military boarding school, Trump learned the hard way that instructors could punish him severely, even strike him if he misbehaved. The school requirements included daily inspections, commissary meals, and strict curfews.
Trump’s bad behavior had essentially seen him “banished” from the family home. It was about to be a serious wake-up call for the young man, who had known nothing but luxurious living for most of his natural life. Still, he wouldn’t let it beat him.
Taller and Tougher
As Trump grew, he became taller and more muscular. His sports ability and daily exercise at military school certainly didn’t hurt things in that department. But the opinionated young man from a well-bred home still had a chip on his shoulder, and it made him combative even in the academy.
As it turns out, military school proved to be a positive influence on the young Donald and during his senior year, he participated in marching drills, wore a uniform, and even attained the rank of captain.
Military school, for all the challenges it posed, taught Trump that no matter how much one suffers through, one must persevere. More importantly, it taught him that one cannot simply persevere, one must prevail. It was a lesson he took with him through two divorces, bankruptcy, bad publicity, and a divisive presidency.
Humility…of a Sort
The academy also managed to teach Trump humility as well. He was forced to dress in uniform, wake early, and eat with his other cadets in a crowded mess hall. The food he was served was hardly glamorous and he had little privacy, but perhaps that helped him in the long run.
Trump’s stern father was replaced by Theodore Dobias, a no-nonsense combat veteran who had served in Italy during World War II. He often used corporal punishment and slapped students who ignored him. He even set up a boxing ring so fighting students could “settle their differences”.
Despite the positive influence of the military school, Trump still had a temper. He once struck a fellow cadet with a broomstick during a fight and he tried to push another out a second-floor window. Though, thankfully, this attempt was thwarted by two other students.
Rise and Shine
To Dobias and the other teachers at the academy, Trump wasn’t some rich boy from Queens, he was just another cadet. He may have not have liked to shine his shoes, clean the sink, or do his homework, but he learned the value of those things in time and the value of discipline.
Needing Number One
One of the other things Trump’s instructors noticed was an innate drive within him to be recognized. Trump had always wanted to be number one and positive feedback, and compliments drove him even further. As such, he distinguished himself among his fellow cadets.
By the time he was a senior, Trump had become something of a ladies man. He was bringing stylish, gorgeous women to campus; the type of women you’d have met on Fifth Avenue. Handsome, athletic, charismatic, and rich, it was no wonder that Trump seemed to get any woman he wanted.
During the Vietnam War, Trump was in college and therefore obtained four student deferments. In 1968, Trump was briefly classified as fit by a local draft board, but was given a 1-Y medical deferment in October of 1968. Trump’s official position was that this was a medical deferment due to heel spurs, despite being deemed fit for service previously in 1966.
Captain of the Class
His own school career didn’t see him losing any steam in the rankings, however. By the time he was a senior, he had become the prestigious captain of A Company. During his tenure, he never had to raise his voice, just flash a look. Trump was not the type of man you wanted to mess with or disappoint.
Eventually, though, a crisis emerged that saw Trump reassigned as a battalion training officer and stripped of the captain’s rank. One of his sergeants shoved a plebe and the school decided that rather than face more hazing controversy, they’d simply make the problem go away.
One of the turning points in Trump’s young life came in 1964 when he joined his father for the dedication of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Trump noticed that no one at the ceremony seemed to pay any homage to the bridge’s 85-year-old Swedish designer, who had traveled from Europe for the occasion.
That incident stuck with Trump until years later when he told a reporter about it. “I realized then and there that if you let people treat you how they want, you’ll be made a fool. I realized then and there something I would never forget: I don’t want to be made anybody’s sucker.”
At even 18, Trump knew that destiny had a great deal in store for him. He spoke to fellow cadet Jeff Ortenau about it at the time, telling the lad, “I’m going to be very famous one day…” His friend returned with, “You know what? You’re probably going to be president.”
Trump’s temperament has not ebbed even a little since his youth. Even Trump, who was 70 at the time of writing, admits that he is basically the same as his first-grade self. Whether or not this demeanor, which has helped him immensely in his career in business will help him in the presidency, well there’s a few more years left.