Thursday, March 27, 2008

Post# 8 - 'The Young Turks' of the TSE (2)

The Young Turks. This is the best way I can describe the group of younger, mostly male, hard working, harder partying floor traders from my early days on the floor of the TSE. The adrenelin and bravado and the money created many interresting moments both during work hours and most especially after hours.


Chris was not your prototypical floor trader. He seemed much more refined and measured compared to the 'got to have it nows' that made up the majority of the traders'...myself definately included! Perhaps it was his British ancestory or his very laid back approach to life. Whatever it was, it served him well in his chosen profession and made him an interresting subject. Maybe that is why Stevie Gilbert and I were so drawn to him. Stevie and I were both insane and required a balance in nature so we didn't implode. Chris provided us with that balance.

Chris has an amazing sense of humor and was a perfect straight man foil to Stevie's comedic wanderings. There are so many of my TSE memories that revolve directly around Chris that he will be forever linked to almost everything I did during my time as a 'floor trader'. I am pretty sure Chris didn't have any enemies. Even his old girlfriends still really liked him. What a wierdo!

When I started socializing with Chris, he was living with two other floor traders, Bill Walsh and Rick Walker in a house at Bayview and Eglinton in Toronto. This place was the home to way too many great parties and after hours get together. Since all three residents were on the same party page, in the same line of work, there were very few disputes over things like being kept awake all night. Cleaning the dishes...well that was another matter. I have some great memories of that place and the guys there but unfortunately I am not at liberty to discuss too many of the details. Once again, to protect the guilty.

When Chris was working the greenshields wire (arb) and training me for the 'floor wars', I used to be amazed at how much shit he could tolerate. The sources of this shit were mostly on the other end of the phones and on the floor in the form of barely competent traders making his life hell. I was in that category for awhile, so I can speak from experience. In my case I just didn't give a shit at first. In the case of some of the other traders...they just sucked!

Chris and I shared a lot of quality party time several bad habits. Although, to be fair to Chris, he was, or always gave the impression that, he was much more in control of things than I ever was. Some of my fondest memories of Chris involved the pre-tanking meal rituals he introduced me to before going on a weekend binge or two. While Chris lived at Bayview and Eglinton there were a couple of restaurants on Mount Pleasant that we used to frequent that provided you with an ample serving of comfort food at a very reasonable price. It didn't matter how much money any trader made, they invariably would hunt down the cheapest meals and then go out and blow $1000 on a weekend of booze and happy time indulgences. Yeah, if we were anything, we were ANY trader! I have great memories from tons of parties like the 'bun toss' and Montreal 'oyster' parties with Chris. Sharing rooms at the Manoir Le Moine in Montreal or the Harbour Castle in Toronto, where we would house ourselves when the serious party season was upon us. I remember being in the Harbour Castle at 4:30am and having probably 35 people in the room, fighting for the ever decreasing oxygen supply and barely being able to focus on the other side of the room because of the bellowing cigarette and weed smoke. Yes, it's true. People DID smoke the ocassional joint at parties. Relax, we all feel shame today. Oh yeah!

As I mentioned in my Steve Gilbert blurb, Chris and Stevie were the best of friends. Together there was nothing but good times and happy memories, at least while Stevie was alive. After Stevie died, Chris was never quite the same. Many of us felt that way as well, but with Chris it was much more tragic. Being as close as they were, I can only imagine how much pain was and still is, involved in Stevie's death.

I lost touch with Chris after I left the business. When I did leave the business and moved to the Caribbean to do a tourism development on the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, I tried to get Chris to come down and hang out there with me but it never did come to pass and we didn't connect again until the 'new' floor closing in 1997. Even there we didn't spend much quality time together. There were just so many people to talk to and share memories with that it was virtually impossible. It wasn't till this Mark Grimes inspired reunion event came up that I finally tracked him down and we spend much phone time reconnecting.

I feel like I owe Chris alot for the great friendship and good times we shared. He was one of the truely GOOD guys on the floor as could be measured by the huge number of people that counted him as a friend. I was lucky to be one of them.


I think everyone on the floor that knew Steve Welch really liked him. You can count me among those numbers.
Steve was a very good friend of Stevie Gilbert and was almost as funny. He was also a person that was well respected as a trader and hockey purist. Steve was a charter 'Goon Pool' member, like myself, and although he once drafted Bjore Salming as a goon, which was a stretch, he was a fan of the hockey pugalist. Stevie was long time friends with George Ellerby, Terry Blackwell and Dennis Hill and Terry Blackwell going back to the time he first started as a floor trader. When I started on the floor Steve was good friends with Chris Martin, Rick Walker, Stevie Gilbert, Jack Harvey and Bill Walsh from the 'Turks' and old schoolers' like Ike Ross, Lenny Webb, Frank Koren, Jack Elliot and too many others to mention. Steve was always a smart guy and a dependable voice of reason when things got hairy. He could bring a chuckle to almost every situation, which in our line of work was an amazing saving grace.
Steve Welch was another of my favourites on the floor and I will always count him as a wonderful friend who could make me laugh when I needed a laugh.
Steve is retired now and I only wish great things for him and his family. Oh yeah Steve, thanks for the great Ricky story in Vegas. You still got it and my cheeks still hurt from laughing!

Ralph 'Radar' Ditchburn

Way back in the day there was a TV show called M.A.S.H. which was really popular and one of the most popular characters was called Radar. That name came about because he could tell when things were going to happen and when things were going to be said, just before they actually occured. Kind of like he had built in radar. The character of Radar was a diminuitive guy with receeding curly hair, glasses and a very shy, scared of his shadow personality. He rarely lost his temper or fought back against his attackers.

This brings us to Ralph Ditchburn, aka 'Radar'. He got the name because he was a diminuitive character with receeding curly hair, glasses (later on) and a very shy, scared of his shadow personality. He rarely lost his temper or fought back against his attackers.
I mentioned early on how important a role intimidation played in the everyday activities on the trading floor. Ralph was one of the victims of that intimidation but it never outwardly seemed to bother him too much. The fact that he didn't ever come onto the floor one day with an automatic weapon and just spray the place in a very postal manner will forever be a mystery to me. Ralph had to suffer the physical and emotional wrath of almost every bully with shark blood in his veins, and there were many. Ralph was the proverbial guppy swimming with the floor trading sharks. But there was a little 'smart' shark in Ralph as well! Radar was able to use his victim persona to his advantage as often as not. Radar was, after all was said and done, a pretty decent trader, certainly above average. One of the wierdest things I observed with Radar and his interactions with his fellow traders in general was his ability to be 'kept in' on trades when he had orders. Now this surely wasn't all the time. However, unless you were Bainey, there were lots of times when the 'Pros' wouldn't 'keep you in'. Being 'kept in'meant that the 'Pro' in the stock would keep you involved in trades in his stock instead of using the information from your order against you to profit from it himself. This being 'kept in' thing with Radar was because he provided a kind of outlet for the bully boys and they probably, at some really deep level, felt bad about the way they sometimes treated this 'nice' guy, Radar. Yeah, I know. It sounds really wierd but remember that we worked in one of the wierdest places on the planet.

Ralph was trading Pro with George Chisholm for a period in his career and was a decent student of the 'charts'. I remember thinking that it was kind of wierd that George, who was known to be quite the bully himself from time to time, would hire someone that he had probably victimized was rather ironic. Obviously George considered Radar to be a good trader, which requires respect, yet still be capable of treating him with the least respect imaginable. Wierd is surely wierd!

Ralph and I were friends for a long time and he is one of the few people from the floor that I spent any time with after I left the business. Ralph used to hold annual 'super bowl' parties which were really good. While attending these parties for several years I got to see a few other floor people which was always cool. One of the neat features of the parties was the outdoor touch football games in the street in front of Ralph's house. In addition to the parties I frequently hung out with Ralph to 'jam' with him and some of his friends. Ralph and I both played guitar. Although we hated each others idea of cool music, we always seemed to enjoy playing together whenever we could. Another cool thing about the times at Ralph's place was that he lived with Peter Morrison at the time and Peter made the best organic homemade pizzas. I hope you like anchovies! We always enjoyed really good food at Ralph's place with Peter there and the close proximity to 'Greek Town' in Toronto. Love those cheese and spinach pies...mmmmmmm!


When I think about the excesses of the 1980's where there was lots of money and the good times seemed like they would never end, I can easily envision Cliff. Cliff was born into privlidge and he wore it very very well. He was the Richie Rich of the 'young turks' on the trading floor. Cliff's dad, Cliff Jones Sr. was a bit of an institution on the floor of the TSE. Cliff Jr. was definately Cliff's Sr.'s blood. They both carried an air of money and privlidge that was as palpable as it was annoying to some of his peers.
Like almost everyone else on the floor, Cliff had to pay his dues, but maybe it was a little easier to pay those dues when you have a bloodline guardian on the floor to watch over you. But to be absolutely fair to Cliff, he had to show up to work just like everyone else. He had to know what he was doing to be successful. He had to take chances and put his ass on the line just like everyone else. What might have made some of a little envious was the fact that if Cliff screwed up, he had a pretty nice pillow, filled with cash, to land on.

My first memory of Cliff was in my first couple of days on the floor when people were rushing to the front of the 'old' TSE building to witness an obviously exciting event. The place came to a virtual standstill. What was so important that it could cause such a stir and bring the crowd out into the street? Well it was Cliffy pulling up to the front of the building in a shiny new candy apple red Mercedes 450 SL with a totally hot and gorgeous blonde in the front seat beside him. Truely, it was something to behold. They were both dressed to kill and with those oversized shades that were so popular in the day, they totally looked the part. This was so very hollywood. This was so very Cliff. This flair for the dramatic and the 'in your face' style with his money made Cliff an easy target for his critics. But really, he didn't have too many. Personally, I never had a problem with Cliff. We didn't socialize except at the countless stag parties at the enevitable craps games with him and Larry Farrel and of course the bun tosses and Jimmy Barkwell's excellent swarees' on Wellington. He certainly didn't bother me except for the envy I probably felt for his silver spoon situation. That, of course, was my problem...not Cliff's!
Cliff had some tough times trading, like everyone else, but always had a smile on his face and a fearlessly positive attitude toward the future. He always maintained that wonderful 'swagger' that served him so well in his professional and personal life. is honey after all. So I guess Cliff was just a little sweeter than most of the rest of us.


Denis was one of the ultimate 'shooters' on the TSE floor. He loved to gamble and rarely missed a hockey pool or any other such opportunity to make some extra cash. Denis traded like a madman from time to time. He was courageous and very on the edge. He had a lot of balls which was a proverbial 'curse and blessing' for Denis. I used to love talking to Denis about trading. He didn't have the holier than thou attitude so many 'shooter' traders had. They gave the impression that they were always afraid you were just going to somehow hone in on their trading action and steal their secrets. Denis wasn't anywhere near that insecure. He felt very confident in his trading style, his very on the edge trading style, which of course drove his assorted bosses absolutely insane. An excellent example of that ability to induce insanity in his boss came from his time with Bainey. When I was with Burns Arb and trading American Barrack Gold in Bobby Churchill's square every day, I had a real opportunity to see Denis in action. It was an exciting sight well worth seeing. Bobby was a 'close to the vest' Pro Trader that rarely shared ALL of the information that he had. He always hated dealing with the Burns Arb but had to keep us in because we could hurt you as a Pro if we wanted to and we often did. Bobby could be partictularly difficult for other pro traders, like Denis, to deal with. Denis actually got along amazingly well with the crumudgeon Bobby Churchill. When ABX (Barrack) was trading in its hey day with huge swings and volumes, Denis was all over the stock sometimes holding hugh positions. Huge positions required tying up HUGE amounts of capitol by the company that the trader worked for. In Denis's case with the ABX, he was working for Daly at that time. That meant that his boss was none other than Don Bainbridge...Bainey. On a partictular day when the stock was going crazy, Denis was going even crazier. I am not sure of the amount of stock that Denis was positioning, but it was huge. When he was already holding a large position in the stock, Denis kept comming in and buying, and buying, and buying and buying. I'm sure you get the idea. At one point late in the day, Don Bainbridge was informed about Denis's trading and almost blew a gasket. With the trading square absolutely filled with frantic screaming trader and the stock trading going nuts, Bainey ran into the square and tried to get Denis's attention. Failing to get Denis's FULL attention, Bainey grabbed Denis and litteralt and figuratively dragged Denis out of the square and basically forced him to limit his exposure. As it turned out Denis was absolutely right about the stock but was so far over his $100,000 trading limit funds that he had to dump stock and what would have been a ton of additional profit. Denis was looking to relocate shortly after that for what we will call 'mutual' satisfaction.

Denis was one of the fastest talkers I ever came across. He was an absolute wealth of information and his charting skills were superior. Whenever we talked stocks, I could barely keep up and process the information that spilled from Denis's lips. I really like Denis. He always treated people well and paid his lost bets promptly. We once had over $600 in bets on a playoff series. He lost...with grace. Montreal Canadians Denis...You know you should've known better! You gotta love a good loser. Denis was good, but I would never consider him a loser.

Stay Tuned For 'The Young Turks' of the TSE (3)

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