Question: Was the original Howdy Doody puppet replaced by a different one? -- R.T.L., Saint Cloud, Minn.
Answer: He was. Puppeteer Frank Paris created the first Howdy Doody in 1947, but he walked off the show -- with the doll -- in 1948, after a dispute over royalties. That puppet version is now known as "Ugly Doody." NBC, in a frantic search for a replacement, hired puppeteer Velma Dawson to create the more famous version of Howdy Doody in just over a week. Dawson received $300 for her puppet and no residuals. There have been a few duplicate Howdy Doody puppets: One was called "Double Doody" and the other "Photo Doody," a puppet without strings that was used for photographs.
Q: Was Rudolph Valentino the birth name of the silent film star? -- S.B., Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
A: No. Rudolph Valentino was born Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina D'Antonguolla in Castellaneta, Italy, on May 6, 1895. He was the second of three children. Valentino died in New York City on Aug. 23, 1926 at age 31. Approximately 100,000 mourners lined the streets on the day of his funeral.
Q: What was the first name of former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop? -- J.K., Atlantic City, N.J.
Q: How long have bananas been around? Is the banana most commonly seen in a grocery store a special variety? -- N.D., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
A: Banana experts say the fruit has been around for more than a million years and originated in the jungles of Southeast Asia. It wasn't until the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition that the banana was introduced to the Americas. At the exhibition the fruit was wrapped in foil and sold for 10 cents each. That doesn't sound like a lot of money now, but it would be equivalent to nearly $2 per banana today. Although there are many types of bananas in the world (about 300), Dole Food Company tells me the most popular in this country is the cavendish variety.
Q: When was "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau born? -- F.L.H., Marblehead, Mass.
A: Garretson Beekman Trudeau was born July 21, 1948, in New York City. He developed the comic strip "Doonesbury" while attending Yale University in the late 1960s.
Q: Where is the "Cathedral of Commerce"? -- D.R., Gloucester City, N.J.
A: The Cathedral of Commerce, located at 233 Broadway in New York City, is better known as the Woolworth Building. Frank W. Woolworth originally intended the building to be home for a bank and offices for his company; however, as the project went on, so did the size. It became a 60-story, 792-foot neo-gothic high-rise that was, at one point, the tallest building in the world. It opened in 1913. The land on which the skyscraper was built cost half of the $13.5 million he paid -- in cash -- for the entire project.
The opening ceremony was held on April 24, 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson threw a switch in the White House, and 80,000 light bulbs came to life, illuminating the building; there was a banquet on the 27th floor attended by 900 guests.
The name "Cathedral of Commerce" first appeared in The New York Times on April 27, 1913, when an English visitor was quoted about his impression of the new building.
The Woolworth Building was sold in 1998 for $155 million.
Q: What is Brunswick Stew? How it is made? Why the name? -- F.D.L., Dover, Del.
A: According to Brunswick County, Va., historians, "Uncle Jimmy" Matthews created the stew in 1828 while on a hunting trip. He used a mixture of butter, onions, stale bread and seasoning, along with squirrel meat. The stew was an instant hit. Brunswick stew is now most commonly made with chicken, or a combination of several meats, which might include rabbit, beef and pork. Onions, corn and tomatoes are usually included, and many recipes call for lima beans, peas, and okra. "Virginia ambrosia" is popular for church functions, local fundraisers or wherever large groups of people are gathering and eating.
Brunswick, Ga., also lays claim to the stew recipe. There are often Brunswick stew cook-offs, called "stew wars," between the two states.
Q: What was the address in Amsterdam where Anne Frank and her family went into hiding to avoid the Nazis? When was she born? -- K.I.T., Newburgh, N.Y.
A: Annelies "Anne" Marie Frank was a Jewish girl born June 12, 1929. On July 6, 1942, she and her family went into hiding in the annex at No. 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.
At approximately 10 a.m. on Aug. 4, 1944, Frank and her family were discovered and taken to concentration camps. About a month before the camps were liberated, Frank died, possibly of typhus. The house is now a museum dedicated to Anne Frank and her family.
Q: Does former talk-show host Oprah Winfrey have a middle name? Where was she born? -- G.L., Mesa, Ariz.
A: She does have a middle name -- Gail. She was born Jan. 29, 1954, in Kosciusko, Miss.
Q: Is there a word that describes the star that is created when light strikes a stone such as sapphire? -- G.T., Springfield, Ohio
A: There is; it's asterism. "Asterism" comes from the Greek word for "star," "aster."
Q: Why are covered bridges covered? -- U.L., Birdsboro, Pa.
A: There are many explanations, mostly romantic. Personally, I think our ancestors were far too practical to spend additional resources of money and time on non-practical construction.
There are two simple explanations, though. One explanation is merely that a cover keeps the trusses dry. Bridge engineers have told me that keeping bridge trusses out of harsh weather will extend their usefulness for three times as many years. Another explanation is that a covered bridge is much stronger than one that is not covered.
According to one reference, the first covered bridges were built more than 2,000 years ago in China, and maybe even earlier, in ancient Babylon (780 B.C.). Theodore Burr constructed the first covered bridge built in America in 1804. This bridge spanned the Hudson River in New York and was called the Waterford Bridge; it lasted for 105 years.
Q: Which American League baseball team was handed the first shutout in the league's history? -- A.S., Salisbury, Md.
A: American League teams began playing during April 1901. On May 15, the Washington Senators beat the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox) 4 to 0, the first shutout in American League history.
Q: I don't travel like I used to, but I have fond memories of the DC-3 from the 1940s. What does the DC stand for? -- E.D., Orangeburg, S.C.
A: The DC stands for "Douglas Commercial." American Airlines became the first airline to use the DC-3 when it was put into service in 1936. Many pilots consider the DC-3 the greatest plane ever built.
Q: What was Michelangelo's full name? -- D.K.M., Salt Lake City
A: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was born in a small village in Caprese, Italy, on March 6, 1475. He was an influential sculptor, painter, architect and poet. He died Feb. 18, 1564, in Rome.
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