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  Joe Ball | CNBNews Contributor


I’m a newspaper guy.

I read them cover to cover. Screen Shot 2020-08-30 at 20.13.09

I’ve worked on them.

I’ve owned them- -and still do.

Early in my news career I learned that everyone has a story.

To hear it, you have to ask questions.

Standard questions to open conversations could be…

…Where did you grow up and go to school?

…How did you meet your spouse?

…What do you do (re: daily activities)?

Typically, one answer leads to a series of follow-ups.

And- -important…be a good listener.

In line with this essay… without too much thinking…I’m noting a few stories I’ve heard from strangers.

                                         A Chance Meeting

 At a recent wedding anniversary party, where seating was optional, I put myself down in front of a stranger.

He was a tall, white-haired, senior citizen.

We had never met.

He asked me my name. It meant nothing to him.

I asked his name.

It was Lou Grayboyes.

Sounded familiar.

My spontaneous follow-up question was, “What do you do?”

He said he was retired, but had been a partner for 30 years with Jerry Wolman. Now that’s a well-known name to a certain age group (mine).

Wolman was an owner of the Philadelphia Eagles. He also built the Spectrum, and was the key person in all that took place there.

In just moments, Grayboyes and I were in conversation. Mostly his stories.

They included his purchase and ownership of Shibe Park, 20th and Lehigh, which became Connie Mack Stadium.

He had inside stories about the early days of The Flyers.

He was a star basketball player at Overbrook High, Temple University and in the Pro’s.

He even was a member of the Washington Capitols, the “team” that plays- -and loses!- -to the Harlem Globetrotters.

     And another

 Years ago, my wife, Sandy and I were in London.

Over dinner at a meeting of The London Advertising Club an advertising agency owner, Peter

Barrow, sat next to us. We talked. We hit it off. He invited us to dinner at his home.

We went.

We have now been friends for over 40 years.

Peter would tell us stories of living in London under the nightly German bombings during World War II.

“When the sirens went off telling that the Luftwaffe was soon to be overhead, we went into the underground (subways).

“We were kids. After the fire raids, we would come back to the surface and play (and “PLAY,” my word repeated) in the rubble.”

 Years Later

 Years later, on a cruise ship, I went to breakfast where there was open seating.

I sat across from two senior-in-age ladies.

They were from Germany.

After the superficial amenities I asked what it was like living in Germany during the war.

They told me of living under repeated bombings- -by British and American planes.

Two peoples, English and German. Civilians. Same life-threatening experiences.

I remember they also said, that where they lived, there were few German men. “They were all in the war.”

Two conversations. Two different warring sides. Same harrowing experiences.


Everyone has a story.

 Casual Meetings

 On another cruise, this on a Mississippi River paddleboat, again at open seating, my breakfast with two strangers brought two more interesting stories.

One of the men said the river trip was to bring life to how his parent’s met.

His dad worked on the levees.

His mom was a waitress at a coffee house near the river. That’s where his mom and dad met.

Married. And created a life: His! A very personal river story.

The other breakfast stranger spoke about his sister.

She lived along the Potomac River across from the Pentagon.

On the morning of 9/11, she watched a low-flying passenger plane head toward the sprawling Pentagon.

She saw it impact.

She saw history.


Everyone has a story.

Just listen.

Published on June 8, 2011.

Joe Ball, Philadelphia-area publisher, advertising agency owner, and radio show producer, has been named chairman of the U.S. International Film & Video Festival judges committee in the Business-to-Business category. The subject materials are videos submitted by businesses, production firms, and advertising agencies from throughout the U.S. and internationally. Ball continues to lead American Advertising Services, 29 Bala Ave., Ste. 117, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004, a firm he founded 55 years ago.

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