By Elaine Rohse • Columnist • 

Things you might not know

‘Tis said that learning should never stop. One should forever seek knowledge.

With that in mind, here is another in the series of “Things you may not have known.” This information will undoubtedly, immeasurably increase your learning.

Did you know that the Linfield College campus (then McMinnville College) was designed by Samuel Christopher Lancaster? He was the eminent highway engineer who built the famed Columbia River Highway in 1915. When he came to Oregon in 1908, the state had no paved highways outside of cities.

Before designing the McMinnville College campus, he had earlier been a “guiding hand” in building a network of Tennessee highways. Before that, for two years he had been helpless with infantile paralysis.

Did you know that canaries, those fetching little yellow birds that sing sweet songs, sometimes receive instruction in that talent? At times, they may be trained for that singing by listening to musical instruments or records, or to fellow canaries.

And do you know why cowboys wear snap-front western shirts? Those knowledgeable about Western attire say it is because snaps are better around animals. If you get gouged or horned, a snap shirt will break away, resulting in less chance of a mishap for cowboy and/or shirt.

Did you know that an elephant carries its young for 21 months? Now, that’s a long time. A mama opossum, on the other hand, carries her young for only 13 days before birthing. But who wants to be an opossum?

Do you know how much the cost of postage stamps has gone up? On Feb. 18, 1908, the first rolls of U.S. postage stamps were issued. For that roll you would have paid a penny.

Did you know that Oregon is one of only two states in the U.S. to have symbols on both sides of its state flag? The other state is Massachusetts. On the face of the Oregon flag is a shield from the state seal, and 33 stars — Oregon being the 33rd state admitted to the Union. Below the stars is 1859 — the year Oregon became a state. And as you may note, the next time you pass that flag proudly waving adjacent McMinnville City Hall, on the other side is a beaver. Now — can you identify the third flag that’s there? It’s the Tree City USA flag.

This next bit of learning undoubtedly will be most useful: Do you know why donkeys in Egypt wear blindfolds? I didn’t either until I asked our tour guide when our bus went by a blindfolded donkey working a water wheel. Said our tour guide: “He’s blindfolded so he won’t get dizzy,”

And did you know that if you were an electric catfish, you might never have to pack along a lunch? All you need do is sidle alongside another fish and fire one of your electric charges broadside. The attack is said to cause the victim to disgorge some of its already predigested food. You, as an electric catfish, will then have lunch. How handy.

What did we look at before bikinis came on the scene? The first bikini appeared on June 3, 1946, when it was previewed in Paris. What did we ogle before that?

And have you decided what you want done with your ashes? Gene Roddenberry, creator of “Star Trek” requested that his be launched into space. That they were, on March 11, 1997.

Did you know that paper money was first authorized by Congress on July 17, 1861 — and it would sometimes seem that Congress ever since has been trying to resolve how that money should be equitably spent.

Did you know that shrewd shoppers check first the top and bottom shelves for such items as cereal, cheese, tea, macaroni? Stores put their most profitable items at eye level on the shelf, right in front of you — surmising perhaps that shoppers are too inactive to squat or stretch tall.

Did you know that the majestic river that borders us a bit to the north before flowing into the Pacific at Astoria might well have been the Gray River instead of the Columbia? That river was discovered, when yet unnamed, by Capt. Robert Gray. At that time, it was the practice of many navigators who discovered rivers to name the discovery for themselves. Had Capt. Gray opted to name it for himself, we would have had the Gray River. Instead he named it for his ship — and Columbia is indeed a fine name.

Did you know that moles bite off the front end of earthworms that they plan to store underground? Earthworms with “heads” removed will not crawl away if kept in the dark — but if you store earthworms in the light without heads removed, they will take off.

Did you know that gas rationing with coupons started during World War II? How nice that we no longer have to worry about coupons. Our only concern now is about having sufficient currency on hand to pay for it.

Did you know that toilet paper was invented in China around 580? What we don’t know is the name of the inventor — and he, by all rights, should be acclaimed.

This will make you mourn for yesteryear: Did you know that for $850 you could have bought a Ford Model T? It was called the “Tin Lizzie.” How proud you would have been there behind the wheel, driving it down the street.

Do you know what Maya Angelou, noted poet, author and teacher, has to say about knowledge? She says, “One cannot be finally educated. Education is a process that goes on till death.”

And, finally, one more thing to add to your knowledge: Did you know, “Life loves the liver of it?”

Elaine Rohse can be reached at

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