Anthony Bradwell spent the weekend before Black Monday probing the lakes of his native Louisiana for speckled trout. He returned home on Oct. 19, 1987, to find he had lost more than bait.
The Dow Jones industrial average, which slipped more than 100 points the previous Friday, slid another astonishing 508 points on Monday.Bradwell was rolling in redfish but his portfolio was suddenly poorer by $12,000 - money he and his wife were counting on for their retirement.
"It kind of put me in shock. I couldn't believe it," said Bradwell, 46, the postmaster of Gonzales, La. "I was just completely in the dark."
Black Monday was a day that stunned even professional investors.
Charles Schwab, founder and chairman of the nation's largest discount brokerage, calls it the day Darth Vader, the malevolent master of "Star Wars" fame, came out of the closet.
"Nobody knew the enormous negative leverage that would come about," said Schwab. "Nobody anticipated that we had that much volatility built into stock prices."
The stock market collapse sent individual investors scurrying to their telephones only to find snarled switchboards, harried stockbrokers and computer breakdowns that made it nearly impossible to sell or buy stock.
Orders at San Francisco-based Schwab & Co. tripled to 60,000 on Black Monday. Quick & Reilly Inc. of New York, and Fidelity Brokerage Services of Boston, both discount brokerages, were also flooded with calls.
Jim Staudenraus, 33, a San Francisco salesman, was among those frantically dialing his broker.
He and his wife, parents of an infant daughter, had about $7,000 in stocks when the market crashed.
"Every dime of that represented a house down payment," said Staudenraus. After unsuccessfully trying to contact their broker for two days, the couple reluctantly pulled out of the market after a loss of "several thousand" dollars.
"We were so shellshocked," he said. "We were really hammered."
Many investors stayed put on Black Monday and in the confusing weeks that ensued, hoping stock prices would rebound and the market would regain its balance.
Some investors even gritted their teeth and bought into the market during its darkest days, tempted by across-the-board bargains.
Bradwell called his broker two days after Black Monday and began buying $15,000 in stocks, selling them several months later for a $5,000 profit.
"I've never really been rich, so I figured . . . I might make a few bucks," said Bradwell. "And if I lost it, so what?"
Most investors, however, were "changed" by Black Monday, said John Markese, research director of the American Association of Individual Investors in Chicago.
Confidence is low, despite market reforms to limit stock slides and speculative trading, and an investigation by the presidentially appointed Brady Commission.
Only one in five investors polled in a Sept. 16 survey pronounced themselves "bullish" on the stock market, according to the association. Another 27 percent said they were "bearish" and 57 percent were neutral.
In a pre-crash poll taken in August of last year, 65 percent of investors said they were bullish on stocks.
"It may take two to three years" for confidence to climb back," said Markese. "Investors may not come back to buying stocks for another year or two."
Fidelity's Lynn Conant, a regional vice president in Chicago, sees a change in the "objectives" of investors.
"The general public is not interested in risk right now," Conant said. "I see more investors interested in buying quality."