CME Futures Pits To Close. 'It Was A Great Run,' Traders Say
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
OK, if I say StoryCorps, you're going to think it's Friday, which would actually be great, but this is a special Monday edition of StoryCorps that is marking the end of a 167-year-old way of doing business. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange is closing the Futures Pits at the Chicago Board of Trade. This is where traders in colorful jackets shout orders and use hand signals, calling deals for cattle, corn and pork bellies. But with the rise of electronic trading, action in the pits has been fading. Tom Howard and Bill O'Hara both worked there for decades, and they came to StoryCorps to remember how they got started.
TOM HOWARD: I remember when I first came down there. It was the wild, wild West. You felt that roar. The hair on your arms would stand up. You're on top of each other, shoulder to shoulder, his sweat's your sweat.
BILL O'HARA: You jump out of the bed in the morning to go down there and get more.
HOWARD: Couldn't wait.
O'HARA: It was a drug.
HOWARD: Stood in that pit for six hours and didn't even leave to go to the bathroom on some days.
O'HARA: What do you think, 8,000, 10,000 people used to be down there total?
O'HARA: And now...
HOWARD: The computer does what I do. I get an order, I fill it. What's the computer do? It gets an order, it fills it.
O'HARA: I was trading until '95 or so, and then I decided, you know, I'm missing something. My mom was a school teacher, and she would say to me, what do you bring back to the world? How's the world a better place...
HOWARD: Better place for what you do.
O'HARA: Right. I don't know, I just tried to come home with more money today than I started the day with. That was the goal. It was so like...
O'HARA: ...Self-centered, all about me. So tell me what you're going to be doing?
HOWARD: Something I always wanted to do - I opened up a car wash with a buddy.
O'HARA: You always wanted to be a trader...
O'HARA: ...Yet, you were a trader who always wanted a car wash.
HOWARD: I wanted to make enough money to build a car wash. Now I go to work with construction boots on and I'm cleaning cars. I'm good.
O'HARA: But the Board of Trade Building is, you know, where you wanted to be. I fell in love with the place, and fell in love with the majority of the people that I met. It was a great run, well, until this day.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GREENE: Bill O'Hara and Tom Howard. They worked as traders in the Futures Pits at the Chicago Board of Trade, which is closing today after more than 160 years. That StoryCorps conversation is archived at the Library of Congress, and you can find this StoryCorps podcast on iTunes and at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.