CBOE Memories: ‘I Remember When…’

Early OEX Activity

April marks the 40th anniversary of CBOE and the options industry.  As part of our month-long anniversary celebration, we’ve invited the CBOE community to share their memories of CBOE and four decades of options trading.  These are their stories…

Everyone at Post 6 Jump When I Tell You

The year was 1980. I had no idea what the Chicago Board Options Exchange was about when I saw the hiring ad in the Tribune – but what the heck – all I needed to do was take a fractions test.  I took the test, had the interview and started soon after.  Wow! What a place it was.

Seven floors above the art-deco lobby was the most boisterous and rollicking place I’d ever been. People yelled, ran and swore. They smoked like chimneys in the small lobby that leads to the floor.  At the end of the day, the tiny elevators were packed like cans of sardines.  The floor was full of high spirits, but it was the CBOE staff lounge where one could hear all the floor news.

The opening bell rang at 9:00 at that time and it was off to the races.  Work was fast-paced, loud, intense; no pity for the faint of heart.  The quote reporters gloried in their ability to move quotes up 3 teenies or back down 1/8 at a record-setting pace.  Clerks could match trades at the opening with incredible ease.  Market makers could figure out a spread quote in no time, and brokers could divvy up a trade among a dozen people at the bat of an eye.  At the final bell on Friday afternoon, up went all the paper and it was off to the “the Sign” for drinks.  Work hard, play hard – it all started there.

I’ve learned a lot about options since then. I also learned that just like the Dow, tempers go up quickly and down even faster.  I learned to take whatever got dished out.  I’ve watched some of the funniest, wittiest and silliest people hone their wit right on the trading floor to the world’s most appreciative, and similarly gifted, audience.

Like the time a trader at post 3 station 3 called the crowd at post 6 station 1 pretending to be one of the electricians in the interstitial.  “Listen, we’re trying to get to an electric cable.  When I count to 3 ask everyone in the crowd to jump at the same time.  1, 2, 3…jump.”  And, sure enough, they listened to the electrician and jumped – twice!  It didn’t take long for them to find themselves the laughing stock of the trading floor.  Everyone was on their guard on the floor.  Make no mistakes and don’t set yourself up for the jokesters.

A lot has happened since the early days on the 7th floor:  As markets grew, the “brown room” was added, then CBOE got a building all its own. Still, aisles teamed with traders and runners where manners didn’t exist and printers spat out reams and reams of orders. It wasn’t all fun, but it was always memorable.

We’ve had fantastic leadership, we’ve worked with wonderful members, now TPHs, clerks, and all the staff that kept the trading floor going and evolving.  People here are tough, dedicated, supportive, smart, and funny.  It’s the can-do spirit and stick-to-it-tive-ness that continues to make CBOE what it was, is and will be in the future – and a great place to be a part of.

MWT, employee since 1980


A Cold Day in the Homestake Pit

Back in the early 90’s I joined CBOE as a price reporter.  It was exciting to be a part of such a dynamic trading environment — the fast markets…the OEX pit…the mounds of trading tickets…the noise….the people.  Much has changed over the years but it is the great people and the fun times – amidst the chaos, that I remember most.

One such memory is from my early Quote Reporter days in my “home” in the Homestake Mining crowd.  On one particular day the CBOE was preparing to upgrade the green CRT monitors in our area, with new high tech (for the 90s) color monitors.  And with every new monitor there was a set of white Styrofoam encasements — which expediently became the cleverly crafted walls of an “igloo” built clear around the HM pit area — of course with a custom slot for runners to submit order tickets.  It was an oasis on the trading floor for a couple of hours until it was deemed “out of code” by a floor official.  As is the risk with any snow built structure like an igloo, it melted away before the closing bell.



Proposal in The 4th Floor Visitor Gallery

When I met the man I married, I was unaware he worked here at the CBOE. I started working here during the summer of 1987 and found out he and his buddy, Miami Vice-wanna-be’s, also worked here…  Forward onto December 1991 – the day of the CBOE Holiday Party, I get a call from Marva, the 4th Floor Receptionist that I had a package. When I got to her desk, there was a bouquet of red roses along with a card saying “Go to the Visitor’s Gallery.” At the entrance, I could swear I was hearing Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” (our favorite piece from the movie “Somewhere in Time”). Walking in, I see him by the glass windows. He had a small cassette recorder, playing the tune. As I approached him, he dropped down on his knee, pulled out a small box and asked me to marry him! All I could hear is the OEX Crowd in front of us, down on the trading floor yelling, “NO! Don’t do it!” All I could do was nod YES!  Shortly after, Tom Brady comes running in to see the commotion and says, “Oh, it’s only you. I thought there was a stripper over here!”



Hey My Legs Are Cold!

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, should have the opportunity to work in Public Relations, where there is never a dull moment!  Here is one of my favorite memories:  A reporter visited the CBOE to cover a major VIP event on the trading floor back in the day (early 90s).  He got stopped in his tracks at the lobby security post because he was wearing blue jeans, which were a no-no on our trading floor during that era.  The PR escort and the reporter scurried up the elevator to the department to figure out how to resolve the problem.  Well, one of my colleagues took one for the team by making the ultimate sacrifice:  He went into his office, removed his pants, and gave them to the reporter!  The reporter then high-tailed it to the trading floor for the event while my colleague crouched in waiting behind his desk with the door locked!



No Floor for Me

As we celebrate the 40th year Anniversary of CBOE, my thoughts go back to the day I was hired, April 26, 1976.  That day is imbedded in my mind because I still remember Elaine Williams saying to me “CBOE” is celebrating three years today.  I said, “That’s great.”  I was told that I would be working in the Mailroom.  I will never forget that day.  I went home and said, “I got married today to the Chicago Board Options Exchange; will I celebrate my one year anniversary with them?”  Here it is 37 years later.

I had the opportunity to work on the trading floor for one day to see if I would like it. I could not rest that night. I closed my eyes trying to get to sleep — all I could see were a lot of people, and all I could hear was the noise of the trading floor.  I was too glad to get back to Office Services.



Not Seen on the North Side Since 1908

I remember standing in line on the CBOE trading floor, waiting to view the White Sox World Series trophy in 2005.   There were so many employees waiting to see the trophy.  When I finally made it to the front of the line, I had another employee take my picture with the trophy.  It was a wonderful memory.



A Camping Trip – to the CBOE Lobby

In the late 90’s, during the heightened frenzy of the dot.com boom when numerous Internet companies had their stock valuations pushed through the roof, I remember arriving at work certain mornings before the opening bell and I’d notice a few floor traders sprawled out on the CBOE lobby floor, looking wrinkled, tired and in definite need of that first cup of morning Joe.  As the days and weeks passed, this early morning sprawl of traders grew to a decent size.  Then, one day as I was leaving work for the day, I noticed this same AM crowd turning into a PM crowd.  These traders were setting up camp and had all the necessary rations including decks of cards, pizza, and even hand held black & white TVs.

I had never bothered to stop and chat with this crowd of traders as they seemed a pretty tight-knit bunch, and if CBOE was giving away something for free, or a party was about to breakout, I wanted in!  Determined to get the scoop, or at the very least a piece of pizza, I asked the assembled crowd about their camp out.  Their explanation was very logical and similar to actions my girlfriends and I take each year to prepare for Black Friday — the busiest shopping day of the year.

What I was told was that while a trader could be assigned to trade in a specific crowd, there was no guarantee there would be enough space to stand in and trade.  To get a spot, the rule was first come, first served and every man for himself!  These traders were simply vying for a primo spot to trade, and if luck was on their side, they’d be positioned next the floor broker in their crowd.  For this opportunity they were willing to miss dinners with their families, movie nights with girlfriends and to throw personal hygiene out the window!


Be sure to visit the CBOE 40 hub daily as new CBOE Memories stories will be added throughout the month.