Hector Boiardi transfers into Chef Boyardee

Sunday, December 23, 2012

By Gary Clothier

Question: Is it true that Chef Boyardee is a fictional name created from the names Boyd, Art and Dennis -- the men who created the company?

J.G.L., Roseburg, Ore.

Answer: This is a popular urban legend that has been circulating for several years. It is not true.

Ettore "Hector" Boiardi was born in northern Italy in 1898. He worked in restaurants as a young boy and then immigrated to New York City at age 17, joining his brother. His brother worked at the Plaza Hotel, and he gave Boiardi a job in the kitchen, where he developed his culinary skills.

In 1929, Boiardi moved to Cleveland and opened his own restaurant. The chef and his spaghetti sauce became so popular that people began to ask for extra portions to take home. He expanded his production to an adjacent lot and sold his sauce, dry pasta and special cheeses in area stores. Boiardi Americanized his name to Boyardee, making it easier to spell and pronounce.

By 1938, he outgrew the Cleveland facility and moved to Pennsylvania. During World War II, the company prepared food rations for troops. American Home Products bought Chef Boyardee in 1946; ConAgra Foods purchased it in 2000. Hector Boiardi remained with the company as an adviser until his death in 1985. And, yes, that is his picture on the label.

Question: Who was the first female telephone operator?

K.N.T., Denton, Texas

Answer: Emma M. Nutt was the first female telephone operator.

Prior to Sept. 1, 1878, telephone companies hired young boys as operators, but many were unreliable in getting to work, and when they did show up, they were often rude to customers. In 1878, Nutt and her sister were hired by the New England Bell Co. in Boston (or the Telephone Dispatch Co. of Boston), and a women-only trend began. Nutt remained at her post for 33 years.

Question: Which former Beatle was the first to have a No. 1 single after the group's split?

J.L., Dover, Md.

Answer: George Harrison was the first to have a post-Beatle No. 1 with "My Sweet Lord" in 1970.

Question: What can you tell me about Q-Tips? Who invented them? When? What does the "Q" stand for?

M.L., Youngstown, Ohio

Answer: In 1923, Poland-born American Leo Gerstenzang watched his wife wrap bits of cotton around the end of a toothpick to use on their newborn. Leo thought he could come up with a better idea. He spent several years working on his creation. When it was perfected, he opened the Leo Gerstenzang Infant Novelty Co. -- not a very imaginative company name. The name he chose for his product was even worse -- Baby Gays. Apparently the public didn't like it very much either, and the product didn't sell.

In 1926, Gerstenzang changed the name to Q-Tips Baby Gays. That was an improvement, but it still needed some work. In time, "Baby Gays" was dropped, and the rest is cotton swab history.

What does the "Q" stand for? According to the company, quality.

Question: If I had a spanner in my toolbox, what would I have?

E.N., Milford, Pa.

Answer: You'd have a wrench. That's what the British call it.

Question: I still enjoy watching Abbott and Costello. Which of these funny men died first? At what age did he die?

B.L.R., Panama City, Fla.

Answer: Louis Francis Costello died March 3, 1959, at age 52. His comedy partner, William Alexander "Bud" Abbott, died April 24, 1974, at age 78.

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

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