It was in the mid ’50’s, and I was working under the guidance of an elderly man named ‘Joe”, whom I respected very much. In some years past he had an accident in a coal mine, where he was run over by a string of coal cars. As a result of the accident, and the subsequent treatment in hospitals, he had one stiff leg and a built up shoe, about three inches! He was in charge of a major part of the oil refinery. When he was interviewed for the job, the Superintendent asked, “And having that stiff leg, what would you be able to do in case of an emergency?” Joe replied, “When I run a plant, there are no emergencies!” And, there were none!
As the days rolled on, we had time to discuss many things when I was ‘on shift’. The equipment and machinery only required periodic care and attention. So we discussed the Stock Market. Joe took advantage of his unemployment due to injuries learning about the workings of companies and stocks and shares. In Calgary he spent days watching the “Big Board”, and learned a lot about how companies plan and prepare.
“The Market is like a traffic light! The stocks may be divided into three categories, green, yellow, and red. If you invest your money in a very safe stock, which yields only a small but safe gain, that is a ‘green light stock’. Stocks which we may call ‘yellow light stocks’, are quite venturesome, but more risky. Certainly money may be made with them, but it takes care and some knowledge of the company, to be on the safe side. You must look at their past records, as well as projected plans for the future. If you do invest in one of these stocks, you must watch its progress constantly, and if any ‘blips’ of uncertainty appear, it’s time to sell and get out! But the red light means stop! An old man once told me, Red stands for danger, boy! Those stocks are followed by daring investors, who feel they have some facts about the stock which may lead to an upsurge in the market. They may or may not be right! they just may be the daring investors, who wind up on the street, with no shirts!”
Joe pointed out that if you really did plan to invest, it might be wise to watch the market carefully if it is falling. “Watch, and wait, until the only persons watching the board, are a group of elderly men, from the Orient! If they are buying, now’s your chance!”
So, a few years later I sometimes got up to Edmonton and would go into the James Richardson & Sons building. I’d survey those in the public seats, watching the action. I would watch the girls up on the stage at the “Big Board’, as they chalked in the ongoing results obtained from the Toronto Stock Market, by teletype. Long yellow strips of paper rolled out of the machines, bringing the latest results from the financial world. Every chalk mark the girls made meant gain or loss for someone. Brokers hovered around, attempting to obtain a commitment from a potential investor, which I might have been. Well, the day came, a few years later, when I had a little money to invest! I had saved $1500, a princely sum, I thought. I appeared one morning in the City, and approached an acceptable looking broker, on the trading floor. I said I had some money to invest.
He scratched his head, and asked, “What have you been watching?”
“Oh no!” he said, “It’s been at $6 1/8 for two years and doesn’t trade much! You put your money into…” and he named two well known diversified companies. So, I did! Half of my $1500 went into each of the ones he recommended. And I did do alright. I made double the bank interest. In the meantime, Husky Oils went form $6 1/8 to $29 in three months!
I appeared at my broker, and said, “Here! Move in another desk and chair – for me! I can do better in the market than you can, – see!”
But the stock market is different now. There’s no more big board, no more open desks and market watchers! Everything is electronic and instant now. When you instruct your broker to buy or sell a stock, it takes place in seconds! Brokers have hands on information now. You don’t just rely on their opinion as we used to. And if you do buy some stock, be prepared to receive a veritable blizzard of information, about your new purchase. You get proxy forms to sign, yearly reports, and up to the minute reports, about how rich (or poor!) you are becoming! I wonder what Joe would think.