Trivia and More

Balls to the wall, the whole nine yards, George W. Bush, and Social Security…

As you are most likely aware by now, I love trivia, figuring out how things work, and where things come from. Things like: how does a fax machine work (still a miracle in my mind), who was the 13th vice president of the United States, where in the world is Slovetzia, and where did the expression “mind your Ps and Qs” come from? Recently I have come across some interesting things from various sources. They intrigued me and maybe you will find them interesting as well.

For example, there are some expressions or phrases that we hear, like “balls to the wall,” “the whole 9 yards,” and “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” Balls to the wall has nothing to do with racquetball and is not a reference to male body parts that reside below the waist. Remember, this is a family friendly site. The whole 9 yards has no relation to anything in football. The creek don’t rise has nothing to do with water.

So just what do they mean? Balls to the wall – Early aircraft throttles had a ball on the end of it (like the ball on the end of my car’s stick shift). In order to go full throttle (full speed), the pilot had to push the throttle all the way forward to the wall of the instrument panel. Therefore, “balls to the wall” meant going very fast.

During WWII, US airplanes were armed with belts of bullets which they would shoot during dog fights and on strafing runs (flying by, shooting at the enemy’s plane). You get the visual image from old WWII movies in which this big gun is sticking out the window of the plane and bullet casings are flying in the air as the gun was fired. These belts were folded into the wing compartments. They each were 27 feet long and were loaded with hundreds of bullets. Frequently, at the end of the mission all of the bullets would be spent. The gunner would report, “I gave them the whole 9 yards.” Meaning all 27 feet (with a little math, 9 yards) of ammunition had been used.

I have often heard people use the expression “God willing and the creek don’t rise”, in response to a farewell and when will I see you again situation. Inferring that barring any unforeseen events and if it is in God’s plan, these people will meet again somewhere down the road. Creek in the original expression was capitalized because the author of this phrase who was referring to the tribe of Creek Indians. This expression was first used by Benjamin Hawkins, who was a politician and an Indian diplomat, late in the 18th century. Hawkins was in the south at the time and the President of the US wanted him to return to Washington. In his response to the president, Benjamin Hawkins was said to have written, “God willing and the Creek don’t rise.”

Now that these mysteries have been solved, shall we move on to some interesting trivia?

  • On March 1, 1941, a Saturday Evening Post article brought attention to the work of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have to honestly say that I didn’t know that AA was around in 1941.
  • On March 11, 1937 the first one-time, lump sum Social Security benefit was paid. Can you guess how much? I’ll give you a moment to think about it… The sum was 17 cents! Not even enough for chicken feed in our day, but 17 cents in the Depression Era was actually a boon.
  • Were you aware that Ernest Hemingway of Old Man and the Sea fame was actually involved in government espionage? From 1935 to 1961 to be in fact. (The year 1961 flabbergasted me as I thought Hemingway died shortly after WWII. I learn something new every day. Actually, he killed himself on 7/2/1961 in his Ketchum, Idaho home.)
  • How many of you remember watching Lassie on black and white TV? In later years, the show was in color. The show ran for 17 seasons! Another thing I never knew. That lasted long than Friends and almost as long as Law & Order (which I love to watch in re-reuns). Lassie was a collie. In 17 years I wonder how many collies they had to use to play Lassie. An added tidbit, the average lifetime cost of a medium-sized dog is $10,000. I am pretty sure our rodent Chihuahua (who is much less than medium-sized at 5.4 pounds) has already cost that much. He has doggy insurance which is a monthly cost, had a $400 plus ultrasound to diagnose the cause of his diabolical squirts of the blowhole, and a 17.6 pound bag of his special diet food costs $74. Can you imagine? (PS – Cat owners can expect a lifetime cost of greater than $12,000 clams in maintaining Puss in Boot’s lifestyle.)
  • And last, but not least, former US President, George W. Bush, is an artist! Bet you didn’t know that. He took painting lessons from 2 instructors. He started out painting flowers and the usual. Now, though, his focus is on painting military veterans, especially those who served in the war while he was president. He has just published a book with his paintings in honor of these heroes. These are actual veterans and along with their portrait is a vignette about who they are and what they are doing now. Actually, his paintings were pretty impressive. Thought you’d like to know.

If you have any interesting tips and information, please share with us. Inquiring minds want to know.

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