His life is like a history book, having spanned 17 presidents, the sinking of the Titanic and the first radio broadcast.
And yet C. Howard Wilkins Sr., a 91-year-old Prudential Securities rep in Wichita, Kan., continues to work five days a week.
In sports terms, Wilkins' life stretches from before Babe Ruth hit his 60th home run to Roger Maris hitting his 61st and Mark McGwire bashing his 62nd.
And in the investment world, Wilkins has seen the stock market rise from double digits to more than 11,000. He became a stockbroker after graduating from Yale, just a few months before the 1929 crash.
"My first day on the job was July 7, 1929. I didn't know what I was in for," he says, with a laugh.
Wilkins, considered by some to be the oldest broker in America, was marking the board at Sternberg McGreevy & Co. in Kansas City, Mo., during October 1929 when the market hit bottom.
"It was a selling frenzy," Wilkins recalls. "Customers wanted to know if their stocks were sold, but because communication was so poor back then--orders were done by Morse code--you couldn't get reports back for days. And no one even knew what their stocks were sold for. It was quite hairy."
Despite having experienced firsthand America's worst economic nightmare, Wilkins never considered jumping into another profession.
"I stuck with it because I didn't know any better," he says. "Even though the market went down, everyone said, 'Oh, it'll come back up. Just watch.'"
On the day of the crash, Wilkins recalls that General Motors and General Electric could have been purchased for 5 dollars a share. "Problem was, no one had any money to buy," he says. "It was a very difficult period. People were losing their jobs left and right. It was a very tough time for families."
After Wilkins had been at Sternberg McGreevy & Co. for five years, Harris Upham & Co. purchased the firm. Then Smith Barney bought Harris Upham. Later, Prudential-Bache bought his office. That means Wilkins has remained in place for an astounding 70 years.
He still can't get over how the market has risen, how the world has changed and progressed during the century. "I'm truly amazed how high the Dow has gone," he says. "Eleven thousand!"
Wilkins is often asked why he hasn't retired. His usual response is, "Why? I'm having too much fun."
He drives to work every day in his 1957 red and white Ford Fairlane retractable hardtop convertible and exercises regularly in an attempt to return to the game he loves--squash. Wilkins is a former national squash champion in the 80-and-older division. He travels three out of four weekends a month to squash tournaments.
"He's still a kid," says Wilkins' 57-year-old son Robert, who has been at Prudential working side by side with his father for 33 years. "He's a shining light for me and for everyone he knows. He's a calm head who's seen it all, done it all, and has a very mature outlook and perspective."
Wilkins believes in buying individual stocks--there was just one mutual fund when he began in '29--but he says he accepts change and attempts to adapt whenever he can.
"I use the Internet, but not as much as I could," he says. "See, I'm still a little backward in my ways."