In the winter of 1970, my dad, a career stockbroker, took me on a tour of the Toronto Stock Exchange, then housed in a fabulous art deco building just south of King on Bay Street. Hundreds of men in close circumstances were yelling, chanting a strange mantra of acronyms, numbers and fractions. I don't remember much else, except that we walked from the public gallery down to the floor of the exchange, where I witnessed a trade. Twenty-seven years later, I walked onto the trading floor again as the significant of that previous moment was about to fade forever. On April 18, after nearly 145 years, the TSE fell silent for the last time, passing quietly into cyberspace.In a business wherein it was considered something of an innovation to provide paper receipts for buyers and sellers of stock, this final step into the ether represents a literal dehumanizing of the marketplace. On my recent visit, I made my way over to one of the three remaining trading posts to meet Jimmy and Matt Taugher, a father-and-son team with a combined sixty-odd years of experience as floor traders. Father Jimmy had been on the floor for forty-four years.
"His last job," said Matt, "was as a waiter at the Last Supper."
"His first investment," a fellow trader chimed in, "was the wheel. When he started, IBM was a penny stock."
"You ask me what I'm going to miss the most in here," said Jimmy. "It's that stuff - the joking, the camaraderies."
"It's true," Matt added. "With today's technology, you can sit out there in your boathouse talking to yourself all day while making trades."
Less than a week later, Jimmy and Matt and five other partners moved into rented space to join the rest of the world trading stocks online. In place of the trading floor and its public galleries, the TSE plans to split the room into two floors of office space.
As I made my way out of the building, it occurred to me that there would never again be an "out there" and "in here". The trading will be nowhere and everywhere. "On the day of the crash in '87," recalled Jimmy Taugher, "they say you could hear us all the way out on the street." Today, the sound of boom and bust is silence.
- This article was written by Douglas Bell, special to Toronto Life, May 1997