My Icelandic Girls on Wall Street

In 1972, when I had my own brokerage firm on Wall Street, the World Chess Championship match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky took place in Reykjavik, Iceland. Because my firm was a sole proprietorship and I made all the trades and wrote all the checks, I could not take a day off from work, but twice on weekends I went over to Iceland to watch the match.

The result was that I became completely enthralled with Iceland, which has the largest number of chess players per capita of any country in the world. An Icelandic girl at the Icelandic Airlines ticket counter named Gulla gave me her telephone number. I called her and told her that I wanted to hire an Icelandic girl to work for me.
Gurra, Felix, Beggo and Sam. The full name of Beggo is Bergliot Palmidottir. The photo was taken in O'Reilly's Pub on 31st and Broadway in New York City in 1973.

Gulla introduced me to her apartment-mate, Heidi, who I hired immediately. A month or so later Heidi told me her friend, Johanna, needed a job so I hired her too.

I can remember the dates almost exactly because only three days after Heidi started working for me, I received a call from Mayor Lindsay's Office giving me a special invitation to City Hall for a ceremony where Bobby Fischer would receive the Key to the City. I took Heidi to the ceremony and introduced her to Bobby himself and to Bobby's bodyguard Simonar Paulson (who was Icelandic) plus Mayor Lindsay and numerous chess personalities. This occurred in September, 1972.

Heidi told me about two bars where the Icelandic girls would go to meet and drink, so I started going there too. Both bars were next to Harold Square in Midtown Manhattan. One was called the Executive Lounge and was on 33rd Street directly across from the McAlpin Hotel. The address was 30 West 33rd Street. However, that closed down and turned into a strip club, so the Icelandic girls moved over to O'Reilly's Pub on 54 West 31st Street.

The girls there were often asking me for a job, because Heidi and Johanna were making more working for me than they could make anywhere else. I paid them $120 cash per week off the books. Nowadays this is not much but that was good money at that time.

The real name of Heidi was Hafdis Einarsdottir. Heidi was a nickname. However, her father had immigrated to America, so she used his last name, calling herself Heidi Simonarson. Her father's name was Einar Simonarson.

Johanna's full name was Johanna Baldursdóttir. She was from Thorlakshofn, a small village on the south coast of Iceland. Heidi was 21 and Johanna was 23.

Heidi and Johanna plus Gulla and several other Icelandic persons lived with Jerry Bannon in Kew Gardens, Queens. Jerry was a aircraft maintenance man for Icelandic Airlines at Kennedy Airport.

Eventually, in June 1973, about nine months later, Heidi and Johanna started feuding. Eventually, they both simultaneously quit, which caused me serious difficulties because they were my only two employees. At that time, all security transactions between brokers were settled by hand delivery of the securities. The stocks had to be delivered to the other broker by 11:00 AM and then the checks were ready for pickup after 2:00 PM.

Every day, I made about $50,000 in securities transactions. Heidi's job was that she was my runner. She would deliver the securities in the morning and pick up the checks in the afternoon. I would then endorse the checks and she would take them to the bank for deposit.

I was the only broker in Wall Street who had girl runners. Mostly elderly men on pensions were used as runners.

Heidi liked being a runner because she liked to go out and meet people. Also, the elderly men always let her go to the front of the line, so she got my deliveries done faster than the other brokers.

Johanna did not like to do deliveries, so she became the bookkeeper. She rarely went out of the office.

This situation eventually led to tension and arguments between the girls.

Only a few weeks after the girls both quit, I wrote an account about what had happened. This was not intended for publication: I just wanted to be able to remember myself what had happened. I did later give a copy of this to a small weekly newspaper in Iceland and they told me that they had translated it into Icelandic and published it, but I never saw it in publication.

Anyway, here is the story.

This, however, was only the beginning of the story. Long before Heidi and Johanna worked for me, the SEC had sued me for failure to maintain adequate books and records. The case went to trial in December 1974 and the names of both Heidi and Johanna are mentioned in the lawbooks: SEC vs. Samuel H. Sloan, 369 F. Supp 996 (SDNY 1974).

The ledgers done by Johanna, my bookkeeper, wound up as exhibits in the federal court case and are now in storage in the federal court depository in New Jersey.

Jerry Bannon got run over by an Icelandic Airlines DC-8 Airplane while it was taxiing to the runway and was squashed as flat as a bug in May, 1974.

After she stopping working for me, Johanna never found another job, so she went back to Iceland in about August, 1973 and nobody has reported hearing from her since.

The tragedy was that this all could have been avoided. Heidi and Johanna did not really want to quit and I desperately did not want them to leave. Yet, little things kept escalating into bigger and bigger things, starting with an extremely minor dispute and eventually resulting in my losing my stock brokerage firm, Johanna being shipped back to Iceland and Jerry being run over by an airplane and killed.

Here is the story, exactly as I wrote it in 1973. I have not changed even one word: It all started when:

Sam Sloan

UPDATE: I have just found out that Hafdis is now a bigshot with Icelandair. She is the Station Manager of the Orlando Office.

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