A real love story of the Titanic

Sunday, January 6, 2013

By Gary Clothier

Question: In the movie "Titanic," an elderly couple are seen holding and kissing each other while in bed as water floods their room. Were they fictional characters, or were they from real life?

G.N., Manhattan, Kan.

Answer: The couple seen embracing in bed were real -- Ida and Isidor Straus, the owners of Macy's department store in New York City. Eyewitnesses, including Ida's maid, said Isidor refused seating in a lifeboat, saying he would not leave as long as there were women and children on board the sinking ship. Ida refused the safety of a lifeboat, preferring to remain with her husband. She said to him, "Where you go, I go." Ida and Isidor Straus were last seen holding each other on deck.

When the ship sank, the Strauses' love story ended, but a legend began. The couple were depicted in two earlier films of the famous sinking, "Titanic" (1953) and "A Night to Remember" (1958), as well as the 1997 blockbuster. Ida's body was never found. Isidor's body was recovered and rests in a mausoleum in the Bronx, N.Y. A cenotaph at the mausoleum reads: "Many waters cannot quench love -- neither can the floods drown it."

Question: I was fascinated by your response to the origin of the term "charley horse" to describe muscle cramps. You said that possibly it was named after Charley "Old Hoss" Radbourn. You also said he died in Bloomington, Ill. -- this is my hometown. I tracked down his burial site to the Evergreen Cemetery. You made a mistake. You spelled his last name "Radbourn," while the marker spells his name "Radbourne." I suppose it's no big deal, but still.

J.L.M., Bloomington, Ill.

Answer: You are right: His last name on his headstone is spelled with an "e" at the end -- as is the plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Those are incorrect. I have not been able to find out why his name is misspelled on those markers.

Question: Dad never talked about his activities during World War II. I know he served in the U.S. Navy, but that's about all I know. He has since passed away. I came across his service records and was impressed. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Cowpens, a ship I have never heard of. How did it get its unusual name?

B.H., Mansfield, Ohio

Answer: The ship was named after the Battle of Cowpens, a Revolutionary War battle that took place in South Carolina on Jan. 17, 1781. The battle was a turning point in the war's southern campaign.

As for the carrier, it was commissioned in May 1943. It had hull number CV-25 and was sent to the Pacific, where the men onboard served with distinction. Cowpens was decommissioned Jan. 13, 1947, and spent the rest of its Navy service in the reserve fleet. The USS Cowpens was sold and scrapped in May 1959. The ship was also known as "the Mighty Moo," and the crew called themselves "the herd."

Question: I know that a Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return. The returns are generated from new investors. What does "Ponzi" mean?

K.I.O., Aston, Pa.

Answer: Such a scheme is named after Charles Ponzi (1882-1949). Ponzi was an Italian businessman who became a con artist in the U.S. and Canada. Although he did not invent the scheme, he is the one who made it famous. He was convicted and sentenced to prison several times before being deported.

Question: How long was the Burma Road? Which cities did it connect?

L.L.R., Media, Pa.

Answer: More than 200,000 Burmese and Chinese laborers undertook construction of the 717-mile-long Burma Road after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, and it was completed in 1938. The road connected Lashio, Burma (now Myanmar), to Kunming, China. In April 1942, Japanese forces overran Burma, effectively closing down the supply route. In 1944, allied forces from India built an alternate route from Ledo, India, that connected to the Burma Road. It opened in January 1945.

Question: I love the Christmas holidays, and I love Christmas cookies. Cookies in July don't taste nearly as good as they do during the holidays. Where did the word "cookie" originate?

O.L., Columbus, Ind.

Answer: The word "cookie" comes from the Dutch word "koekje," which means "little cake." "Cookie" was introduced to English in the early 18th century. The term caught on in the U.S. due to the strong Dutch presence in early America. The British prefer to call cookies small cakes, biscuits or tea cakes.

Question: I know what that thing is to measure blood pressure, but I don't know how to spell it. Can you spell it out for me?

K.F.L., Palm Coast, Fla.

Answer: I'd be happy to -- it's sphygmomanometer.

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

Question: When I think of country music, I think of one singer: Loretta Lynn. Is that her real name? I know she was born in an unusual town. What was it? How old was she when she got married? How long did her marriage last?

U.D., Odessa, Texas

Answer: Loretta Webb was born April 14, 1932, in Butcher Hollow, Ky. She was given her first name in honor of actress Loretta Young.

She married Oliver Vanetta Lynn when she was barely 14. By the time she turned 19 she had four children. Her marriage, which she described as "rocky," lasted until 1996, when Oliver died at age 69.

Question: I've heard that Hugh Beaumont, who was famous for his role as Ward Cleaver, the patriarch on "Leave It to Beaver," was an ordained minister. Is this true?

R.L.C., Fremont, Calif.

Answer: Yes, it is. Beaumont was an ordained Methodist minister.

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