Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. White Castle hamburgers remind me of my childhood. My dad would come home with a bag full of burgers once or twice a month. I loved them. When and where was the first White Castle restaurant opened? The miniburgers had five holes in them. What was up with that?

M.F., Zanesville, Ohio

A. Edgar Waldo “Billy” Ingram opened his first White Castle restaurant in Wichita, Kan., in 1921. Ingram partnered with short-order cook Walter Anderson, who invented the hamburger bun in 1916, to start the business.

The holes came in 1942 — not to save meat as is often thought, but to make sure the patty is evenly cooked. In time, the small, greasy burger with onions became known as a slider, and the fries were known as spikes.

Q. I have a question about evangelist Oral Roberts. Is Oral his real name?

E.N., Annapolis, Md.

A. Oral Roberts was born Granville Oral Roberts in Ada, Okla., in 1918. A cousin gave him his unusual middle name. She attached no particular significance to the name — several family names started with “O.”


Marilyn Monroe was originally cast as Holly Golightly in the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), but her drama coach felt that playing a call girl was not good for her image. Audrey Hepburn was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Golightly.

Q. I know “payola” is a slang term for bribery, especially to radio disc jockeys to play certain music. What is the origin of the word?

J.K., Mustang, Okla.

A. “Payola” is a contraction of words “pay” and the last three letters of “Victrola,” a popular LP record player. However, some sources claim the -ola comes from “pianola,” another word for a player piano.

Q. While touring a chamber of horrors, I was fascinated by a device that was placed on a woman’s head to punish her for nagging. I think it was called a banks, but I’m not sure.

K.N.M., McPherson, Kan.

A. I think you mean a branks, or a scold’s bridle. The device was used in 17th- and 18th-century Britain to punish nagging women. There was no standard design for the branks. Most towns in England and Scotland had a device made by the local blacksmith who designed it himself. Some were merely a cage that was locked around the woman’s head while she was paraded through the town’s streets by a halter to be humiliated. Some branks had a tongue plate with sharp spikes to prevent the woman from speaking.

Q. Have you ever heard of an imaginary animal that has longer legs on one side of its body so it can easily walk on steep slopes?

K.K.J., Malvern, Ark.

A. In some areas of North America, the legendary creature is known as a sidehill gouger. In Vermont, you’d be talking about the wampahoofus. The first mention of these creatures in America dates to the mid-1800s. In parts of Europe, there are legends of the gyascutus and the dahu. The creature is known as a wowser, gudaphro, hunkus, prock and gwinter.

Q. When a person is drugged by putting something in his drink, why is it called a “Mickey Finn”?

J.W.J., Minersville, Pa.

A. No one knows for sure, but one popular explanation involves a former bartender. The term “Mickey Finn” originated at a Chicago bar called the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden Restaurant, where a man named Mickey Finn worked. He had a practice of drugging his patrons with chloral hydrate and robbing them. Before becoming a manager of the Lone Star Saloon, Finn was a known pickpocket who usually victimized drunks coming out of bars and saloons. The Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden Restaurant was open from 1896 to 1903.

Q. Who was the first athlete to appear on a box of Wheaties?

K.R., Indianola, Iowa

A. New York Yankees slugger Lou Gehrig was the first athlete on a Wheaties box, appearing in 1934. The first image on the box was that of fictional character Jack Armstrong, “All-American Boy,” who appeared earlier in 1934. Later that year, the first female depicted was aviator Elinor Smith.

For the next 24 years, the pictures were on the side of the box. It wasn’t until 1958 that pictures were featured on the front — Olympic pole vaulter Rob Richards had that honor. Basketball star Michael Jordan has been on the Wheaties box a record 18 times; golfer Tiger Woods has appeared 14.

Q. Is there a time frame for the Old West?

C.L., Bennington, Vt.

A. No. The time period of the Old West is vague, though it’s generally thought to be the latter part of the 1800s, possibly after the Civil War to the turn of the century.

Q. Is singer Tony Bennett married? Any children?

H.B., Alturas, Ga.

A. Anthony Dominick Benedetto was born Aug. 3, 1926, in Astoria, N.Y.

In 1952, Bennett married Patricia Beech. Thousands of women dressed in black and gathered outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in mock mourning of his marriage. The couple had two sons, D’Andrea (Danny) and Daegal. They separated in 1965 and divorced in 1971. Bennett married Sandra Grant in 1971. They had two daughters, Joanna and Antonia. They separated in 1979 and divorced in 2007. In 2007, Bennett married Susan Crow.

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

2012 Gary Clothier

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