Question: In the movie "Titanic," an elderly couple are seen holding and kissing each other while in bed as water floods their room. Were they fictional characters, or were they from real life? -- G.N., Manhattan, Kan.

Answer: The couple seen embracing in bed were real -- Ida and Isidor Straus, the owners of Macy's department store in New York City. Eyewitnesses, including Ida's maid, said Isidor refused seating in a lifeboat, saying he would not leave as long as there were women and children on board the sinking ship. Ida refused the safety of a lifeboat, preferring to remain with her husband. She said to him, "Where you go, I go." Ida and Isidor Straus were last seen holding each other on deck.

When the ship sank, the Strauses' love story ended, but a legend began. The couple were depicted in two earlier films of the famous sinking, "Titanic" (1953) and "A Night to Remember" (1958), as well as the 1997 blockbuster. Ida's body was never found. Isidor's body was recovered and rests in a mausoleum in the Bronx, N.Y. A cenotaph at the mausoleum reads: "Many waters cannot quench love -- neither can the floods drown it."

Q: What type of ciga rettes does James Bond smoke? -- L.F., Roches ter, N.Y.

A: James Bond acquired his smoking habit from creator Ian Fleming, who was said to be a heavy smoker. Bond and Fleming smoked custom-made cigarettes from Morlands of Grosvenor Street, with a special blend of tobacco and three gold rings on the filter. Bond carried his cigarettes in a gunmetal case, and at one point smoked 60 per day.


James Bond is seen smoking in 11 of the films, though Daniel Craig refuses to smoke on screen, saying his physical performance can't handle it.

Q: How long has ply wood been around? -- R.H., Richland, Wash.

A: The Egyptians used a type of plywood about 5,500 years ago. According to the American Plywood Association, John K. Mayo of New York City invented modern plywood. Mayo was issued a patent for the material on Dec. 26, 1868. At the 1905 World's Fair in Portland, Ore., plywood was used for display construction, which created considerable interest among fairgoers. The industry took off from there, with skyrocketing sales.

Q: How long was the Burma Road? Which cities did it connect? -- L.L.R., Media, Pa.

A: More than 200,000 Burmese and Chinese laborers undertook construction of the 717-mile-long Burma Road after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, and it was completed in 1938. The road connected Lashio, Burma (now Myanmar), to Kunming, China. In April 1942, Japanese forces overran Burma, effectively closing down the supply route. In 1944, allied forces from India built an alternate route from Ledo, India, that connected to the Burma Road. It opened in January 1945.

Q: Quite some time ago, I read a Western novel about two former Civil War soldiers who wanted to strike it rich in gold prospecting. They headed to a place called Last Chance Gulch. When they got there the town had a new name, some thing about pumpkins. I thought the author had a limited imagination, and I lost interest in the book. Now I'm wondering, was there really a town named Last Chance Gulch? Did I overreact? -- P.L., Stuart, Fla.

A: You may have overreacted -- there really was a town named Last Chance Gulch. On the night of July 14, 1864, four men, known as the Four Georgians, were in Montana, prospecting for gold. They were ready to give up on gold and move on to something else, but they decided to try panning one more time in the nearby creek. As luck would have it, they found gold. The Four Georgians named the creek Last Chance Gulch.

Word spread of the discovery, and prospectors and merchants moved to the area. The town was called Crabtown, Pumpkinville and Squashtown. These were not very inviting names, and many of the miners from Minnesota began calling their new home St. Helena, after their hometown. The name was shortened to Helena, and in time it became the capital of Montana. The city's main street is Last Chance Gulch, and it is close to the winding path of the original creek.

Q: I love the Christmas holidays, and I love Christmas cookies. Cook ies in July don't taste nearly as good as they do during the holidays. Where did the word "cookie" originate? -- O.L., Columbus, Ind.

A: The word "cookie" comes from the Dutch word "koekje," which means "little cake." "Cookie" was introduced to English in the early 18th century. The term caught on in the U.S. due to the strong Dutch presence in early America. The British prefer to call cookies small cakes, biscuits or tea cakes.

Q: I recall hearing or reading that there has been an English pope. I looked at a list of popes and did not see an Eng lishman listed. Was I wrong? -- O.P., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

A: No, you are not wrong, but I suspect you didn't look back far enough on the list. Nicholas Breakspear (1100-1159) ruled as Adrian IV from 1154 to 1159.

Q: Which National Bas ketball Association player holds the record for most games played? -- K.L., Tulsa, Okla.

A: The record goes to 7-foot center Robert Lee Parish. Parish was born in 1953 in Shreveport, La., and graduated from Centenary College of Louisiana in 1976. He played on four NBA teams, but it was his years as a Boston Celtic that established him as one of the 50 best players in NBA history.

Parish played in 1,611 games over 21 seasons. He scored 23,334 points and had 14,715 rebounds during his career. The Celtics retired his famous No. 00 jersey in 1998, and he was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Q: I know what that thing is to measure blood pressure, but I don't know how to spell it. Can you spell it out for me? -- K.F.L., Palm Coast, Fla.

A: I'd be happy to -- it's sphygmomanometer.

Q: When I think of country music, I think of one singer: Loretta Lynn. Is that her real name? I know she was born in an unusual town. What was it? How old was she when she got married? How long did her marriage last? -- U.D., Odessa, Texas

A: Loretta Webb was born April 14, 1932, in Butcher Hollow, Ky. She was given her first name in honor of actress Loretta Young.

She married Oliver Vanetta Lynn when she was barely 14. By the time she turned 19 she had four children. Her marriage, which she described as "rocky," lasted until 1996, when Oliver died at age 69.

Q: I've heard that Hugh Beaumont, who was famous for his role as Ward Cleaver, the patri arch on "Leave It to Beaver," was an ordained minister. Is this true? -- R.L.C., Fremont, Calif.

A: Yes, it is. Beaumont was an ordained Methodist minister.

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