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Dying With Grace ~ by Maury Thompson
as featured in the Post-Star, October, 2006

Bombing of Pearl Harbor interrupted Ken Ball's soap-selling career

By MAURY THOMPSON [email protected]
Monday, October 16, 2006

Ken Ball was working with a crew that distributed product samples and coupons door-to-door for Procter & Gamble when World War II broke out.

"We had a crew of about six" working a territory that stretched from Albany to Buffalo, Syracuse, Utica and Rochester, he said.

Ken and his colleagues would direct housewives to displays of Duz and Oxidol set up at corner grocery stores.

"You know -- mom and pop stores," he said.

"They gave you a spiel to give to each housewife," he said. "The company used to send somebody out and they'd hide in the bushes to listen to you."

He could always spot the supervisor.

"You're supposed to open the box," Ken said. "That makes sure the housewife is going to use it and not stick it on the shelf somewhere. Procter & Gamble didn't grow to be a big company without thinking of everything."

Often, he said, housewives would ask for a second sample to give to a neighbor upstairs, but he realized that was just a ploy.

"Most housewives are pretty much the same," he said. "They'd always try to weasel a second sample out of you."

Ball's work ended abruptly when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The crew was in Buffalo at the time.

At breakfast on Dec. 8, the management told workers their jobs were over, and gave them train tickets home.

The bombing left an indelible impression on Ken.

"I hated the Japanese for what they did at Pearl Harbor," he said. "I hated the Nazis, too, but I realized the Germans were probably the best inventors in the world."

For the rest of his life, Ken would not own a Japanese car.

"It was kind of strange because some of the Japanese cars were pretty well built, like the Honda Civic and Subaru." ... "It's mellowed me some, because I have a TV at home that's a Sony. I can't think of any other Japanese thing that I've got."

This article has been reproduced with permission from the Post-Star and may not be copied or reproduced without permission.
© Copyright 2006 Lee Publications, Inc. DBA The Post-Star.

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