Obscure knowledge from the Factoid File 2015.03.04

           By RICH FOLEY

Once again, it’s time to amaze your friends with more obscure knowledge from the Factoid File. Enjoy, if you can.

Most everyone past a certain age remembers the late actor Robert Stack. After a long career in motion pictures, Stack became even more famous for his roles in television, his two most successful series being his first and last.

 “The Untouchables” ran from 1959 until 1963 and “Unsolved Mysteries” from 1988 all the way to 2002. But Stack’s father also had a claim to fame.

 James Stack is virtually unknown today. But the longtime advertising executive is the person who created the long-running beer slogan “Schlitz: The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous.”

Names might not always be what they seem. The Arizona brand of teas, fruit drinks and other beverages, for instance, is actually headquartered in Woodbury, New York. You may have enjoyed various popcorn snacks made by the Popcorn, Indiana company. That company isn’t based in the mythical Hoosier town of Popcorn, but rather in Englewood, New Jersey. If you’ve recently purchased a set of china, however, the chances are good that it really came from China. 

According to insurance industry website, the Subaru WRX is the most ticketed car in the country with 33.6 percent of owners receiving a recent speeding ticket. Coming in second is the Pontiac GTO at 32.7 percent.

Many of the cars in the top twenty on the list are no longer manufactured, including, at number seven, the Mercury Topaz, which was last built in 1994. I’m surprised there are still some of these on the road, much less any fast enough to get a ticket.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some people still think that bears live on a diet of purloined picnic baskets, thanks to a childhood spent watching Yogi Bear and his pal, Boo Boo. But the folks at the real Yellowstone Park claim an even stranger component exists in the grizzly bear menu.

During the summer, moths by the million invade the high mountains in Yellowstone and researchers say that a hungry grizzly bear will eat as many as 40,000 moths a day. At about half a calorie each, that’s 20,000 calories a day in moths alone. One month of moths can supply a bear with half of its nutritional needs for the year.

If you share my opinion that eating moths seems like a lousy way to get your nutrition, at least one person disagrees. A man commenting about the story on Yellowstone’s website said he ate a few “to see what the bears found so good about them.”

He concluded the moths had a crunchy texture and a slight buttered popcorn flavor. That doesn’t sound too bad, but I think I’ll take his word for it. The bears obviously like whatever flavor they’re tasting, and that’s all that really matters.

Folks familiar with the classic holiday movie “A Christmas Story” might be surprised to learn that first choice for the part of “The Old Man” was Jack Nicholson. Pretty hard to believe, right? 

The part eventually went to Darren McGavin whose hurt pride over being second choice was probably eased by the $2 million salary he was paid, one of the highest amounts ever earned by an actor at that time. With the movie’s entire budget estimated at $4 to $5 million (Wikipedia says it was only $3.2 million), McGavin took home between 40 and 60 percent of the total.

They haven’t mined coal in Ohio’s Hocking Valley for many decades, but a reminder of the area’s 19th century history refuses to go away. During the Hocking Valley coal strike of 1884, striking miners used burning mine cars to set the mines near New Straitsville on fire.

All attempts to extinguish the fire at the time failed. Schools and homes had to be abandoned as mine gases seeped into them. Roads and buildings collapsed as the ground under them gave way. Soil that didn’t collapse was so warm that potatoes cooked in the ground and roses bloomed during the winter.

A report on the fire by Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” nearly a century ago turned the area into a tourist attraction. Most of the underground fire is now part of the Wayne National Forest where visitors still come to learn about the fire, burning for over 130 years.

That’s all for now. Until next time, don’t get between a grizzly and his moths.