Mt. Vernon Register-News


November 1, 2013

Mr. Know-It-All carries a torch for knowledge

Q: Why do we “carry a torch” for someone? — L.L., Twentynine Palms, Calif.

A: One of the best explanations I read claims the term came about in the 19th century, and it has political origins. During this time, politics utilized parades, speeches and bands.

Q: Who was the first U.S. president to wear contact lenses? — R.C.R., Glenwood, Iowa

A: Lyndon B. Johnson started wearing contacts in 1964.

Q: Harry Houdini was born Ehrich Weiss. How did he come up with his stage name? — M.K., Jim Thorpe, Pa.

A: Actually, he was born Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary, on March 24, 1874. Immigration officials changed the spelling of his name when his family came to America around 1878. He took his stage name after French magician Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic. He died on Oct. 31, 1926, at age 52.

Q: Were the Mills Brothers really brothers? Wasn’t the father in the group? — G.L.T., Binghamton, N.Y.

A: They were, indeed, brothers. The four, all born in Piqua, Ohio, were John Jr. (1910-1936), Herbert (1912-1989), Harry (1913-1982) and Donald (1915-1999). Their father formed a barbershop quartet called the Four Kings of Harmony, where the brothers learned their close harmonies.

The Mills Brothers performed and later moved to New York City.

The group hit it big in 1931 and signed a three-year radio contract. In 1936, tragedy struck when group leader John Jr. died of a lung ailment. His father, John Sr., replaced his son and the group continued their rise to stardom.

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Q: What are the names of Popeye’s nephews? I recall Olive Oyl’s relatives were mentioned. Do you know their names? -- B.K., Waco, Texas

A: The names of Popeye’s nephews are Peepeye, Poopeye, Pipeye and Pupeye. Olive Oyl’s parents are Cole and Nana Oyl, her brother is Castor Oyl, her cousin is Sutra Oyl, her Uncles are Lubry Kent Oyl and Otto Oyl, and her niece is Deezil Oyl.

(Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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