Ask Mr. Know It All

Q. On Christmas Eve, I was sitting on the sofa with my wife enjoying the Christmas tree. I recalled that when I was a small child, my folks had the tree full of ornaments that bubbled. I assume it was not water in the tube, but I’m not sure. Are these ornaments still available?

B.L., Marblehead, Mass.

A. Bubble Christmas lights were introduced in the 1940s; the tubes were filled with a liquid with a low boiling point, such as a lightweight oil or methylene chloride. The strings of light are not expensive; do a Google search for “bubble Christmas lights,” and you’ll get many hits. Sure, there are modern bubble lights, but I don’t like them as well. Several years ago, I bought a bubble night-light that looks just like the Christmas lights from my childhood. I used to hate putting it away, so finally I decided, why should I?

Q. Who founded Best Buy? When?

W.L.C., Freeport, Maine

A. In 1966, Dick Schulze founded an audio component systems store he called Sound of Music in St. Paul, Minn. Later, inventory was expanded to include video products, computers and appliances. In 1983, the name was changed to Best Buy.

Q. Nolan Ryan became the first pitcher to throw 5,000 career strikeouts. Who was the hitter he struck out to reach that milestone?

R.T.U., Roseburg, Ore.

A. On Aug. 22, 1989, in a home game between Ryan’s Texas Rangers and the Oakland Athletics, he struck out Rickey Henderson in the fifth inning for strikeout No. 5,000. During that game, Ryan struck out 13 batters. He pitched the entire game, but the Rangers lost 2 to 0.

By the time Ryan ended his 27-year career in 1993, he had struck out 5,714 batters.

He had 324 wins and 292 losses.

Q. I’ll be traveling to New England this spring and would like to see the Lizzie Borden home. Where is it located?

B.B., Rover, Mo.

A. Lizzie Borden was accused of brutally killing her father and her stepmother Aug. 4, 1892. Borden was later acquitted of the murders, but speculation over her guilt continues to this day.

The house, located at 92 Second St. in Fall River, Mass., has been restored to the look at the time of the murders and is now a bed and breakfast.

For about $225 per night, you can sleep in Borden’s or her parents’ room. Guests have reported strange noises, flickering lights and apparitions of the murder victims.

Check out the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum website: I have never stayed, but it is on my list.

Q. Who invented the safety pin? When?

R.B., Fairfax, Va.

A. New York State-born Walter Hunt (1796-1859) received a patent for the modern safety pin in 1849. He sold his idea for $400, which is equivalent to about $10,000 today. Pins used for clothing were first used in the 14th century B.C.

Q. What is the name of an 11-sided polygon?

H.C., Wood River, Neb.

A. A “hendecagon” or “undecagon” is an 11-sided figure.

Q. Actor Anthony Hopkins portrayed Richard Nixon in the 1995 film “Nixon.” He portrayed a president in another movie, but I don’t know which one. Can you tell me?

T.L., Dover, Del.

A. He played John Quincy Adams in the 1997 film “Amistad.”

Q. What is the “pink gold” that’s associated with the Florida Keys?

E.B., Tampa, Fla.

A. It’s shrimp.

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

2014 Gary Clothier

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