My father - a born and bred midwesterner - had come east via Chicago when the brokerage he traded for transferred him during WWII. In the next ten years he developed a personal trading system for understanding the next day movements of S&P futures. He left the brokerage to trade his own account. His system allowed him to place trades shortly before the close, and the next day they almost always opened directionally favourable to his positions, long or short. He was methodical but also creative, driven to discover and also to win. In these ways he was quite brilliant, but also an erratic and very unpredictable night owl.
Although I was small at the time, in the late 50's he offset his days on Wall Street with weekend family camping adventures. We would pile into the maroon and faux wood Falcon Ford station wagon from our woodsy Connecticut home and set out either for local destinations, or points in New York - places like Buttermilk, Carogo Lake, Chenango, Four Mile Creek, Glen Island. If the destination was upstate we would fly in a small plane from White Plains, NY.
He amassed significant amounts of money, using the market as if it were an ATM.
By 1959 he seems to have had his fill, and I heard the word "Galapagos" for the first time. One of his clients that he traded S&P's for was west-coast based. He had mentioned to my father that a colony was forming in the Galapagos islands, the place that Darwin made famous, and that he would be absent for some time. I recall my mother running me about town getting me fit with new rounds of outdoor clothes...something we had never done before. I'm not sure if this represented the ultimate escape to him or just a higher level of adventure.
What I do know is that I was pulled out of school in the winter, and soon found myself on board a small cargo vessel - the Western Trader - and headed for the Galapagos to join the colony. The steamer was packed with small pleasure style craft stored on the upper deck, wooden crates of supplies, and 66 men, women, and children bound for near prehistoric bliss. As we passed under the Aurora Bridge leaving Seattle, the March air and mist never seemed so real, the grinding and creaking of bolted rusted metals and smell of oil and diesel never so intense. Journeying forth out of the dedicated commerce lining the river made me think that somehow this had become the transformed embodiment of my father, and the seeming conclusion of his piles of stock charts and books, numeric notations of opening and closing stock prices and moving averages, confused off-colour wires of various trading phone lines, and world maps, with Ecuador figuring prominently. He was nowhere to be found.