Thursday, November 27, 2008

Some Interesting People I have Known, Part 1.

Now that the general election is over (the Super Bowl for political junkies like me) and the high school football season is winding down, I find it's time to turn my attention to other subjects. Since I've begun rereading Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, I am inspired to do a little memoir work myself. Although Powell's work is fiction (he has been called the English language Proust), it is generally thought that the Dance was a bit of a roman-a-clef, despite his denials. There are some who would say that all fiction is autobiographical in some way. But since I'm too lazy to construct fiction, and since I've always wanted to write my memoirs, this might be as good a time as any to start.

I first met Toby Crabel in the winter of 1981, shortly after I had begun work at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I had recently been "brought down" to the Merc by my high school friend, Mike Moore. After a whole week-and-a-half working for Rosenthal & Co. as a runner, Mike secured for me a similar position with his cousin's firm, RB&H. Since I was learning the futures business from scratch, I had a lot to absorb in a short time. I was always asking Mike questions, and one day he introduced me to Toby. "Tobes, here, is a real student," Mike might have said, in his typical fashion. Toby laughed a little, as he didn't think of himself as much of a student. He was actually a college dropout, not unusual for the Merc, and worked as a tennis pro immediately before he came down to the Exchange. He had been instructing Mike's cousin, Tim Brennan, at a club out in Aurora where Tim lived, when the conversation turned to trading one day. Toby had been interested in the markets for a long time and showed Tim a chart he'd kept of a particular stock. Tim was much impressed by the amount of work Toby had put into it, and the conversation ultimately led to Tim's hiring of him.

Toby's role at RB&H was not clearly defined. He actually worked for Tim directly, and this made for some resentments among other people at the company. The most notable of whom was Allan Ross, the floor manager. Allan was an old friend of Glenn Bromagen's, the "B" in RB&H. Bromagen was a good ol' boy from Kentucky who, like Allan Ross, was primarily interested in horses and drinking. Like a lot of people at the Merc, Bromagen had had an up-and-down career and had to sell his portion of RB&H to a group of floor traders including Tim Brennan and Jack Sandner. Everyone assumed that keeping Allan on had been one of the conditions of the sale, as no one could figure out why else they would keep him in that job. He was an irritable old bachelor that got along poorly with people, and one of his primary responsibilities was to hire and manage the floor personnel. And like a lot of other people at the Merc, Allan was a frustrated trader who had to work for a living and watch others get rich in the markets. Although he had come from a well-to-do background in Kenilworth, one of Chicago's most exclusive suburbs, he resented rich kids and anyone else who

To be continued...

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