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Columns

Reflections: Junk mail remains a constant of a passing summer

A postcard of the historic Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo, California, designed by Arthur Heineman.
A postcard of the historic Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo, California, designed by Arthur Heineman.

Summer is about half over. Folks are going on and returning from vacations. Farmers are anxiously watching the weather to determine whether the crops they managed to plant will be good or bad this year. And they’re watching politics even more anxiously to determine whether there will be a market for whatever corn, soybeans and livestock they’re managing to grow.

The first of the local summer festivals that started in June with Oswego’s PrairieFest and continued into this month with Fourth of July celebrations have wrapped up, with more coming as we move on into what is traditionally the hottest time of the year.

Here in the old Village of Troy along the banks of the Fox River just north of Oswego, we’re watching the water levels rise and fall as summer rainstorms pass through. There’s plenty of action on the Fox River Trail that goes right in front of the Matile Manse, too. This time of year, the trail is used steadily from dawn to dusk by walkers, runners, cyclists and Segway pilots looking to get some exercise and enjoy the taste of nature found along the banks of the Fox.

And as we ease into mid-July, the one constant, the thing we can always count on, is the arrival six days a week of the U.S. Mail bringing us communications, good and bad, from everywhere, including packages containing everything from books on arcane bits of history to gourmet cooking tools. Among the stuff we’re either expecting or are resigned to get, is the occasional bit of junk mail that contains this or that nugget of interesting trivia. I opened the junk mail vault the other day and managed to fish out a few likely looking bits that I probably never would have thought about had our faithful mail carrier not dropped them off in front of the Matile Manse. Here’s what I found this month:

The Motel Inn in San Luis Obispo, California, was designed by Arthur Heineman, who coined the word “motel” in 1924. The Motel Inn opened in December 1925 and closed in 1991. But you still can see the historic old building. It now houses the administrative offices for the Apple Farm hotel next door.

July is National Ice Cream Month, so consider it your patriotic duty to enjoy the cold creamy stuff to your heart’s content.

The word “comedy” comes from the ancient Greed word for “village song.” I’m wondering if Greek village songs are intrinsically funny, or what … .

Says here that pot holders stay cleaner longer if you give them a heavy treatment of spray starch before you use them.

In old Russia, it was believed that a skein of red wool wound around the arms and legs would ward off fevers. Or maybe it would just keep you hot enough that you wouldn’t know you had a fever in the first place.

The word “commando” is of South African origin, and was used by the Boers at the end of the 19th century to refer to a mobile body of armed men.

In ancient Roman times, July was the fifth month of the year and so was known as “Quintilis,” but now is known as July, so named because it is the birth month of Julius Caesar.

The Pilgrims were introduced to popcorn during the first Thanksgiving dinner. It was offered by Quadequina, brother of Massasoit.

The world’s oldest known map is a small clay tablet from Babylonia that dates to about 2300 B.C. It is believed to depict an estate in a mountain-lined valley.

From the Finders Keepers Department: In 1983, a Florida kid was looking for his missing bicycle along a railroad track when he stumbled across a bag of diamonds. An honest youngster, he turned them over to the cops, who looked for the owner, but they remained unclaimed for more than a year. They were then auctioned off for $350,000 (almost $900,000 in today’s dollars), which went to the kid. The moral: Stay alert, watch where you’re going and be honest.

During his career, author L. Frank Baum wrote 14 books about the Land of Oz, the most famous being “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in 1900.

The year was half over on July 3.

Theodore Roosevelt was the first sitting president to ride in an automobile. He toured Hartford, Connecticut, on Aug. 22, 1901, in a Columbia Victoria electric car, manufactured right there in Hartford.

Tea wasn’t introduced in Japan until the ninth century, and the stuff didn’t become popular there until the 12th century.

Besides being a monarch and ruler of the British Empire, Queen Victoria also was the proud mother of nine children and filled 110 albums with family photos.

Pretzels were first made by monks in southern Europe as a reward for children who learned their prayers. Pretzels are shaped to represent the crossed arms of a child praying. Not entirely sure about that, but it makes a nice story.

The words to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” were written by Julia Ward Howe in 1861 after visiting Union Army camps around Washington, D.C.

Today, July 11, is World Population Day. It is also Cheer the Lonely Day.

The name “Catherine” can be traced back to the Greek word “katharos,” which means pure and unsullied.

Talk about your great names in history: Arabella Babb Mansfield was the first woman admitted to the practice of law in the United States. She was admitted to the Iowa bar in 1869. At the time, the bar exam was limited to men, but Arabella took it anyway, and scored extremely high. She took Iowa to court to force them to allow women to practice law, and was successful. Iowa thereby became the first state to allow women to practice law.

Finally, batting helmets were introduced in major league baseball by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1941. Thought you wanted to know.

• Looking for more local history? Visit http://historyonthefox.wordpress.com.

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