Dow Plunge Leaves Executives Bewildered
Oct. 19, 1987
NEW YORK (AP) _ Young Wall Street execs in three-piece suits were as wide-eyed in bewilderment Monday as the tourists were in awe.
As the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 500 points in what was to become the New York Stock Exchange's heaviest trading day in history, both groups, the regulars and the tourists, crowded the storied street at noontime, apparently to see what it looked like to lose money the old fashioned way, in the stock market.
''The old guys have seen things like this before but it's new to us,'' said Nick Khakee, an employee of a mutual-fund investment house who is a year and a half out of college.
''To us young guys,'' he said, ''the market goes up. Just up.''
Not this day.
He sat down to a street-vendor lunch on the steps of Federal Hall, where America's first president took his oath of office, and gestured to the crowd across the street in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
''It's a beautiful day and all, a good day to get out of the office, but I've never seen so many people just standing around looking. What do they expect to see?''
A messenger, the name ''Dominic'' stitched on his blazer pocket, darted through the crowd with a cardboard box of carryout lunches, bound for one of the offices upstairs in the exchange. He suggested an answer.
''They're wanting to see the stock market crash,'' he said. ''I wonder what it looks like when it does.''
The line of people waiting for a turn in the exchange's visitors' gallery, overlooking the trading floor, stretched a half block on Broad, turned the corner and wound another half block on Wall. This was hours before anyone in line knew that the events of the day would rival the great crash of 1929.
''I guess we picked a lousy day to visit the exchange,'' said Lars Rusins, of Orlando, Fla., standing in line with his wife, Karen. ''They said it would be about a two-hour wait. We had planned to go to the South Street Seaport after this, but I don't know whether we'll make it.''
Tourists, after all, have a schedule.
Tony Smith, whose job is to shepherd tourists to the visitors' gallery, said the wait in line on any other Monday was about 20 minutes. ''I guess you could call this a special day,'' he said. ''We take 'em as they come.''
Harry's was nearly empty.
Harry's is the restaurant in the American Stock Exchange Building. It offers exquisite white table cloths, glistening china and waiters wearing tuxes.
''Any noon,'' said Oreste Paccosi, the maitre d', ''we are jam packed. Look at the dining room. Dead.
''Normally we send about 30 lunches upstairs for people too busy to come down. We send the silverware, the crystal, everything, and we charge the same price. About 30 customers is all.
''So today we sent 145 lunches upstairs. What can I tell you?''