STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON For 21st Century Media
Once upon a time, a young man spent his summers telling stories about Philadelphia’s most historic figures: Benjamin Franklin. Anyone wandering through Franklin Court can hear all about the icon who lived quite the life, one worthy of being remembered (and memorialized by having a bridge named after him).
That young man is Ed Stroud and he tells stories about Franklin all day long.
Stroud, who grew up on the Main Line, has worked with Historic Philadelphia — an organization that aims to make U.S. history relevant and real through interpretation, interaction and education — for five years. Every day, he sits on a bench at Franklin Court and tells stories to passersby.
“Did you know,” he’ll ask, “that Franklin, who grew up in Boston, wanted to construct a fishing pier as a young man? He stole stones to do so and, through that experience, learned not to be dishonest.”
Other stories tell how Franklin became an abolitionist after owning slaves and about his electricity experiments. The stories — about two to three minutes for kids and up to six minutes for adults — are written by historians who research the subjects thoroughly.
Ed Stroud. Submitted photo
Stroud studied history at Drexel University. He’s a John Adams fan, but enjoys talking about Franklin. He found the fact that Franklin owned slaves surprising.
“I thought he would have been above it,” he said, “That was a huge shock.”
The most interesting thing about Franklin, though, is that he wasn’t formally educated. Stroud, who recently graduated from Drexel and who lives in West Philadelphia, finds that fascinating.
“He didn’t go to college, but he was able to become this learned person by himself,” Stroud said. “I’ve had all this education and I don’t even feel like I compare to his intellect.”
Loving history makes the job interesting; enjoying speaking and acting makes the job fun.
“When I was little, I went to acting camps and thought maybe I want to be an actor, but that went by the wayside,” Stroud said. “I’m outgoing. Once you get me talking, I sort of run with it.”
His first year of storytelling was trying — he wanted to make sure he got everything right. But now he’s comfortable.
Generally, people stroll by him and ask for a story — he wears a uniform indicating who he works for and why he’s there. Other times, he’ll ring a bell to announce that he’s going to tell a story and people gather around.
“I yell, ‘Free story!’ and people come over,” he said.
He determines what to tell based on his audience — younger children might not understand the slavery story as much as adults, for example.
“It’s all based on what I think they might want to hear,” he said.
The weather sometimes puts a damper on his day — rain forces storytellers inside or under some sort of cover. The heat can do so, too.
“Really, that is the only downside of storytelling. You know in mid-July in Philadelphia when it feels like you’re wearing a hot wet blanket all day? That’s a challenge,” he said.
As long as he can do his job, he doesn’t care where he does it.
“I love what I’m doing,” he said.
He hopes that people enjoy listening as much as he enjoys the telling.
“It’s history in a fun way,” he said. “Teaching people and having them have fun with history —there’s nothing better than that.”
Franklin Court is on Market Street between 3rd and 4th streets. Other storytellers perch on benches throughout the historic sections of Philly. Information about Stroud and other storytellers, as well as July 4th activities by Historic Philadelphia, is available at www.historicphiladelphia.org.
The following is a sampling of venues in the region. Venues and performers are welcome to send information to firstname.lastname@example.org. MAIN LINE AREA
ARDMORE MUSIC HALL, 23 East Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, (610) 649-8389. West Philadelphia Orchestra, July 25; Splintered Sunlight- Grateful Dead Tribute, July 26.
BURLAP AND BEAN, 204 South Newtown Street Road, Newtown Square, (484) 427-4547. Open Mic Nights, Thursdays. Tom Whall and Emily Earle, July 26.
MELODIES CAFE, 2 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, (610) 645-5269. Jazz Open Mic Nights, Mondays; Melodies Open Mic Nights, Tuesdays.
NEW LEAF CLUB, 1225 Montrose Ave., Rosemont, (610) 525-1711. Youth Open Mic Nights, Tuesdays; Open Mic, Thursdays; Classical Open Mic, First Sunday of every month. BUCKS COUNTY
FREE WILL BREWING CO., 410 E. Walnut St. #10, Perkasie, (267) 354-0813. Beer events, festivals and beer on tap.
SELLERSVILLE THEATER, 24 W. Temple Ave., Sellersville, (215) 257-5808. Altan, July 26; Dick Dale, July 27; Leon Russell, July 29; Ed Palermo Big Band, July 31; Exile, Aug. 2.
NORTH PENN/ INDIAN VALLEY
BLUE DOG TAVERN, County Line Road and Route 202, New Britain, (215) 997-9988. Cover Band Band, July 26; poker, Sundays and Tuesdays; trivia, Wednesdays; open mic., Thursdays.
BLUE DOG PUB, Allen Forge Shopping Center, Valley Forge and Allentown roads, Towamencin, (215) 368-6620. Matt Martinez, July 26; Josh Klein, Aug. 2; trivia, Tuesdays.
BOYD’S CARDINAL HOLLOW WINERY, 1830 West Point Pike, Upper Gwynedd, (215) 801-2227. Happy hour, first Friday of the month; Comedy Night, second Saturday of the month.
BRASSERIE 73, 4024 Skippack Pike, Skippack, (610) 584-7880. “Kinky Quizzo,” second Thursday of the month.
BUCKS COUNTY COMEDY CABARET atop Poco’s, 625 N. Main St., Doylestown, (215) 345-JOKE. Jay Black, Dom Lepore, July 26; Todd Glass, Aug. 2.
COUNTRY CREEK WINERY, 133 Cressman Road, Salford Township, (215) 723-6516.
FARM HOUSE RESTAURANT, 1146 Stump Hall Road, Skippack, (610) 584-5170. Carl Gandolf, July 25; Voice In The Mirror Band, Aug. 1.
HOTEL FIESOLE, 4046 Skippack Pike, Skippack, (610) 222-8009. Ken Battista Band, July 25; DJ Gerry Kelly, July 26.
J.T. BANKER’S, 309 S. Main St., Sellersville, (215) 257-9300. DJ, July 25.
JUSTIN’S CARRIAGE HOUSE, 3911 Skippack Pike, Skippack, (610) 584-5005. Live music, Fridays.
MAIN STREET JAVA, 117 Main St., Souderton, (215) 723-4141. Live music, first Friday of the month
MAINLAND GRILLE, 2250 Rittenhouse Road, Lower Salford, (215) 256-6192. Trivia, Wednesdays; live music, Fridays and Saturdays.
MARIANO’S, 1031 N. Broad St., Hatfield Township, (215) 362-9752. Mondays: Free pool and darts (after 9 p.m.); Wednesdays: Texas Hold ‘Em with prizes; Thursdays: Trivia with prizes; Fridays: Bingo, “open jukebox” (after 6 p.m.); Saturdays: Karaoke with Larry the Weasel.
MOLLY MAGUIRE’S IRISH RESTAURANT AND PUB, 329 W. Main St., Lansdale, (267) 263-2109. Hot Mess Too, July 25; Ken Battista Band, July 26; “Irish Sessions,” second Sunday of the month; trivia, Wednesdays; open mic., beer pong, Thursdays; Kevin the Magician, Thursdays and Sundays; live piano entertainment on the patio, weekends.
PIZZA TIME SALOON SPORTS BAR & GRILL, 1900 West Point Pike, Upper Gwynedd, (215) 699-7529. Mike Greer and Company, July 26; A Day Without Love, Aug. 2.
PRISM BREWING CO., 810 Dickerson Road, Upper Gwynedd, (267) 613-8572. Trivia, Tuesdays; “Free Bacon Wednesdays,” Wednesdays; live music, Thursdays: International Bitterness Units, July 31, Aug. 7; “Floyd Fridays,” Fridays.
PUCK LIVE, 1 Printers Alley, Doylestown, (215) 348-9000. John Beacher, Find Vienna, July 25; Ten Foot Tall, July 26; Lawnboys Comedy Open Mic., July 29; open mic., July 30; Lawnboys Comedy Showcase with Doogie Horner, Big Mike Brooks, Dr. Tony Cheslock and Matt Lips, July 31; Kenny Ferrier, Ryan Tennis and the Clubhouse Band, Aug. 1; The Rips, Brother Eye, Aug. 2.
RRAZZ ROOM, The Ramada New Hope, 6426 Lower York Road, New Hope, (888) 596-1027. Leslie Jordan, July 25-26; Christine Andreas, Aug. 2.
REVIVAL’S RESTAURANT, 4 S. Ridge Road, Perkasie, (215) 258-DINE. Live music Fridays and Saturdays: Arianne, July 25; Jamie Stem, Aug. 1; Todd Horn, Aug. 8.
RISING SUN INN, 898 Allentown Road, Franconia, (215) 721-6350. New Pony, July 25; Hank Brown & Jeff Lohan, July 26; Mighty Manatees. July 31; Christopher Dean Band, Aug. 1.
ROUND GUYS BREWING CO., 324 W. Main St., Lansdale, (215) 368-2640. Jazz jam, Wednesdays.
SAXBY’S COFFEE, 401 S. Broad St., Lansdale, (267) 436-3140. Open mic., every second Friday.
STADIUM NORTH, 1903 Bethlehem Pike, Hatfield, (215) 822-9420. Open mic., Thursdays; DJ/live music, Fridays.
TEX MEX CONNECTION, 201 E. Walnut St., North Wales, (215) 699-9552. Karaoke, Tuesdays; trivia, Wednesdays; DJ Nate, Thursdays; tiki parties, Aug. 8, Sept. 12.
THE STILL BAR & GRILL, 3509 Skippack Pike, Worcester, (610) 222-4444.
TIKI BAR AT SPRING MOUNTAIN, 757 Spring Mount Road, Upper Salford, (610) 287-3233. Open seven days a week until Oct. 5.
VIA MARCONI’S SMOKEHOUSE TAVERN, 155 Pennbrook Parkway, Upper Gwynedd, (215) 362-7663. River Chasers Texas hold ‘em, Tuesdays and Thursdays; karaoke, Saturdays.
THE WATER TOWER IN OAKS, 2200 West Drive, Upper Providence, (610) 666-0100. Velvet Sky, Aug. 2; open mic., Sundays; Singles Going Steady, Wednesdays. EASTERN MONTCO
AUGUST MOON, 300 E. Main St., Norristown, (610) 277-4008.
BLUE COMET BAR & GRILL, 106 S. Easton Road, Glenside, (215) 572-9780. Acoustic sessions, every Saturday. Rocakbilly, every Sunday.
FOREST & MAIN BREWING CO., 61 N. Main St., Ambler, (215) 542-1776. Every Tuesday, play GO. Every Wednesday, bring your own vinyl and play your music. Quizzo Thursdays.
HALLIGAN’S PUB, 1619 Bethlehem Pike, Flourtown, (215) 836-9597. Every Thursday, trivia night. Teacher appreciation Fridays.
HARRIGAN’S PUB, 1051 W. County Line Road, Warminster, (215) 674-3377. Free pool, Mondays. Karaoke, Tuesdays. DJ Dance Party with Chris Evans, Thursdays. Live band, Saturdays. Sunday-Fundays with pool tournaments.
KC’s ALLEY, 10 W. Butler Pike, Ambler, (215) 628-3300. Live music, Wednesdays and Fridays. Trivia Thursdays. Alley Roulette, Saturdays.
KESWICK THEATRE, 291 N. Keswick Ave, Glenside, (215) 572-7650. Winery Dogs, July 30.
MAGERKS PUB AND GRILL, 582 S. Bethlehem Pike, Fort Washington, (215) 948-3329. Trivia night, Tuesdays. Karaoke DJ, Thursdays. Velvet Tones, July 25; Alice’s Garage, July 26; Musician’s Impossible, Aug. 1; Red Ex, Aug. 2.
NEW VALLEY TAVERN, 1013 Germantown Pike, Plymouth Meeting, (610) 277-8181. DJ on Saturday nights.
WET WHISTLE BAR & GRILL, 300 Meetinghouse Road, Jenkintown, (215) 884-5705. Trivia Mondays. Open Mic Night, Tuesdays. Mom’s Night Out, Aug. 15; Parent’s Night Out, Aug. 1.
31 MAIN, 31 Main St., Ambler, (215) 646-0440. WESTERN MONTCO
CHAPLIN’S, 66 N. Main St., Spring City, (610) 792-4110. Live music. Open Mic night, Sundays. Bluegrass Jam, the first Thursday of every month. Open Mic, July 27.
CRAFT ALE HOUSE, 708 W. Ridge Pike, Limerick, (484) 932-8180. Live music every Friday and Saturday night.
THE COLONIAL THEATRE, 227 Bridge St., Phoenixville, (610) 917-1228. Asleep at the Wheel, Sept. 19, 8 p.m.
ACT II PLAYHOUSE, 56 E Butler Ave., Ambler, (215) 654-0200. “Didn’t Your Father Have This Talk With You,” through Aug. 3
BRITTINGHAM’S IRISH PUB, 640 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill, (610) 828-7351. Pub quiz night every Monday.
MIKE’S YORK STREET BAR & GRILL, 544 York Road, Warminster, (215) 672-3300. Trivia Tuesdays. Acoustic Wednesdays. Karaoke Night with Lou, Saturdays.
PENGUIN’S PUB, 355 York Road, Warminster, (215) 672-4458. Texas Hold’em big cash poker & salsa dancing, Sundays. Karaoke Star Search contest, Tuesdays. Open min night, Wednesdays.
TONY’S PLACE BAR & GRILL, 1297 Greeley Ave., Warminster, (215) 675-7275. Karaoke, Thursdays.