Question: I am wondering about one of the strangest-looking cars that I have ever seen on the road. Several people had them on my college campus in the late 1950s. I'm not sure of the name. It sounded like "I-Said-Ah." How much did they cost? -- C.B., Shillington, Pa.
Answer: You are remembering the Isetta. After World War II, BMW's manufacturing plants were mostly in ruin. To keep the company afloat, BMW purchased the manufacturing rights for the small car, nicknamed the "rolling egg" from Iso, an Italian motor scooter company.
BMW began production of the Isetta in 1955. The tiny bubble-shaped car had only one door, which was the entire front of the car. Its 9.2-horsepower motorcycle engine reached 30 mph in about 30 seconds. Its top speed was around 50 mph. But, at a time when money and gasoline were scarce, getting 60 miles to a gallon made the peculiar little car very attractive.
The last Isetta rolled off the manufacturing line in 1964; around 200,000 vehicles were been produced. As for the price tag, I saw an ad from 1958 listing the car at a bit above $1,000.
Q: In the Bible's book of 1 Kings, the Queen of Sheba meets with Israel's King Solomon to test his legendary wisdom. Where is Sheba? -- Q.D., Huntersville, N.C.
A: Biblical historians are not in agreement on exactly where Sheba was. Some believe it was in Southern Saudi Arabia and Yemen, while others claim it is in the vicinity of Ethiopia. Ethiopian Christians claim to be descended from Menelik, the son of Solomon and Sheba.
Q: In 1888, a patent was issued for a "storm door structure." I have gone to many historic homes and have never have seen one with a storm door. Can you help? -- W.C., New Milford, Conn.
A: Theophilus Van Kannel of Philadelphia received the patent for a specialized door, but it was for a revolving door, not a storm door.
Q: How did Cajuns get their name? -- A.Z., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
A: "Cajun" is a corruption of "Acadia." Nova Scotia was once known as Acadia when the French controlled the area; inhabitants were known as Acadians. After Great Britian purchased Nova Scotia, it forced the independent-minded Acadians from their homes. By the mid-1700s, Acadians began to migrate, some finding their way to Louisiana, where they were welcomed.
Q: The name Evangeline St. Clare has been on my mind. I don't think this is a person I know; I suspect it's from a literary work. Can you please help solve this annoyance? -- E.S., New Roads, La.
A: You apparently read Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" at some time in your life. Evangeline St. Clare is Little Eva.
Q: On the side of the Pittsburgh Steelers football helmet are three four-pointed stars. The stars are a unique shape in that the sides are slightly concave. Is there a name for this design? -- J.L., Lake Placid, N.Y.
A: The Steelers' helmets are solid black on the left side, with the team logo appearing on the right side. The stars in the logo are called "hypocycloids."
Q: In Steven Spielberg's film "Jaws," what was the name of Captain Quint's (Robert Shaw) boat? -- G.L.M., Fort Smith, Ark.
A: The boat was named Orca. In the real ocean, the orca whale, also known as the "killer whale" or the "wolf of the sea," is a natural enemy of the shark.
Q: When and where was one of my favorite actors, Kevin Bacon, born? -- W.M., Salt Lake City
A: Kevin Norwood Bacon was born in Philadelphia on July 8, 1958.
Q: What is the full name of the Prado, the national museum in Madrid? What does Prado mean? -- M.J., Corpus Christi, Texas
A: The Museo Nacional del Prado was opened in 1819, making it one of the world's first public art galleries. "Prado" is Spanish for "meadow."
The museum is located on the Paseo del Prado, in one of Madrid's most elegant areas. The museum is now touted as the largest art gallery in the world.
Q: I was touring a farming museum. There were some small barrels used to store butter and lard. The barrel had an odd name, but I can't remember what it was. Can you help me? -- R.C., Lancaster, Pa.
A: I suspect it was a firkin. The word probably comes from Middle Dutch, meaning "one-fourth barrel."
Q: What was the first labor strike in the American colonies? -- E.M.C., Fleetwood, Pa.
A: Most sources say the first labor strike occurred in the Jamestown settlement in Virginia on July 30, 1619. Polish craftsman were not given voting rights in the colony, so they stopped making glassware, pitch and tar. Due to the need of these products, their strike attempt was successful.
Q: When did the baseball team the Philadelphia Athletics move to Oakland? -- E.U., Princeton, N.J.
A: The team was organized in Philadelphia in 1901. After the 1954 season, the organization moved to Kansas City, and then on to Oakland in 1968.
Q: What do the initials SPEBSQSA mean? -- R.S., Colorado Springs, Colo.
A: The initials stand for "Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America," now known as the Barbershop Harmony Society. The group was founded in 1938, in Tulsa, Okla. The women's equivalent is the Sweet Adelines.
Q: When and where was Walt Disney born? Did he have a middle name? -- I.J., Fort Landing, N.C.
A: Walter Elias Disney was born Dec. 5, 1901, in Chicago. He died Dec. 15, 1966.
Q: President Lyndon Johnson and the Soviet premier met at a college in New Jersey. What was the name of the college? -- E.W. State College, Pa.
A: Premier Aleksei Kosygin and President Johnson met at Glassboro State College, which was halfway between New York City, where Kosygin was making a speech to the United Nations, and Washington, D.C., on June 23 and 25, 1967. In 1992, the school was renamed Rowan College of New Jersey after Henry and Betty Rowan, who pledged a $100 million gift to the institution. Rowan College achieved university status in 1997.
Q: What is the first name of F. Murray Abraham? When and where was he born? -- R.C.W., Salem, Ore.
A: Murray Abraham was born in Pittsburgh on Oct. 24, 1939. He added the F in honor of his father, Frederick.
Q: Whatever happened to radio D.J. Wolfman Jack? What was his real name? -- R.F., Scranton, Pa.
A: His real name was Robert Smith. Wolfman died on July 1, 1995, of a heart attack. He was 57.
Q: When was the premiere of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"? -- S.P., Mesa, Ariz.
A: "Rhapsody in Blue," one of the most beloved pieces of music ever written, was performed in the Aeloian Concert Hall on 43rd Street in New York City on Feb. 12, 1924. Gershwin was at the piano during the presentation.
Q: I saw an oil painting in which the word "impasto" was used to describe the painting technique. What is impasto? -- E.J., Hastings, Neb.
A: It's a technique in which the paint is thickly applied, usually thick enough to see brush or painting knife strokes.
Q: What can you tell me about French singer Edith Piaf? -- C.V., Cape May, N.J.
A: Edith Giovanna Gassion was born Dec. 19, 1915, in Paris and abandoned by her mother, a street singer. She joined her father, a street performer, before she was 10.
While in her early teens, she began working as a street singer, living in alleys or a cheap hotel. Before she was 20, she was discovered by a nightclub owner who gave her the nickname "Little Sparrow" and the stage name Edith Piaf. Before she died of cancer in 1963, she achieved cult status and international fame.
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