Always Remember: Half of the American Population Is Below Average

First posted here eight years ago today.


You can fool some of the people all of the time

In 1938, wallet manufacturer the E. H. Ferree company in Lockport, New York decided to promote its product by showing how a Social Security card would fit into its wallets. A sample card, used for display purposes, was inserted in each wallet. Company Vice President and Treasurer Douglas Patterson thought it would be a clever idea to use the actual SSN of his secretary, Mrs. Hilda Schrader Whitcher. The wallet was sold by Woolworth stores and other department stores all over the country. Even though the card was only half the size of a real card, was printed all in red, and had the word “specimen” written across the face, many purchasers of the wallet adopted the SSN as their own. In the peak year of 1943, 5,755 people were using Hilda’s number. SSA acted to eliminate the problem by voiding the number and publicizing that it was incorrect to use it. (Mrs. Whitcher was given a new number.) However, the number continued to be used for many years. In all, over 40,000 people reported this as their SSN. As late as 1977, 12 people were found to still be using the SSN “issued by Woolworth.”

Interesting Facts About Social Security Numbers at Money, Matter, and More Musings

The 40,000 are the same sort of people that some politicians would have manage their own social security investments.

Last Year’s Photos

Click either image for much larger (and prettier) versions. Photos taken with iPhone 5s, Sunday, March 23, 2014.

Looking upriver from about a mile north of Alameda. It's called the Río Bravo del Norte in Mexico, but Rio Grande seems better to fit the usually  placid river as it flows through Albuquerque. iPhone 5s photo.
Looking upriver from about a mile north of Alameda. It’s called the Río Bravo del Norte in Mexico, but Rio Grande seems better to fit the usually placid river as it flows through Albuquerque.
Not sure what the x-shaped vegetation is in our "we must preserve our natural Bosque" but they haven't bloomed at all yet.
Not sure what the x-shaped vegetation is in our “we must preserve the natural Bosque” but they haven’t bloomed at all yet.

‘We never exceeded 175 mph’

First posted here seven years ago.


A particular favorite article of mine from the years I subscribed to Sports Illustrated was Brock Yates’s 1972 “From Sea to Speeding Sea.” “The Cannonball was an out law auto race—unsanctioned and definitely unwise—but off they went, roaring their way toward L.A.” Yates drove the winning Ferrari with racer Dan Gurney from NYC to LA in 35 hours and 54 minutes.

A couple of excerpts:

Determined to find a car to race in the Cannonball, the three men had looked in the Times classifieds in search of a “driveaway” deal—an arrangement where one drives another’s car to a destination for nominal expenses. This is a common tactic used to transport personal cars by people who don’t like to drive long distances. The Long Island gentleman wanted his new Cadillac Coupe deVille driven to California. Opert & Co. obliged, nodding hazily at his firm orders that his prized machine not be driven after nine o’clock at night, not before eight o’clock in the morning and not run faster than 75 miles an hour. Naturally, all the regulations would be violated before the car left Manhattan.

. . . . .

A yellow 4-4-2 Oldsmobile Cutlass appeared in the rearview mirror. It was running fast, coming up on me at an impressive rate. Two guys were on board and I sensed that they were looking for a race. They drew even and we ran along for a way nose to nose. I looked over to catch eager grins on their faces. I smiled back and slipped the Ferrari from fifth to fourth gear. We were running a steady 100 mph when the Olds leaped ahead. I let him have a car-length lead before opening the Ferrari’s tap. The big car burst forward, its pipes whooping that lovely siren song, and rocketed past the startled pair in the Oldsmobile. I glanced over at them to see their faces covered with amazement. Like most of the populace, they had no comprehension of an automobile that would accelerate from 100 mph that quickly. The Ferrari yowled up to 150 mph without effort, leaving the Olds as a minuscule speck of yellow in the mirror.

I slowed again and turned up the volume on the stereo. Buck Owens and his Buckaroos were sonorously singing I’ve Got a Tiger by the Tail. I laughed all the way to Las Cruces.

Speaking of Books

Family Life by Akhil Sharma won the Folio Prize for fiction last night. According to a New York Times report, Family Life, a “semiautobiographical second novel, tracks the Mishra family, who migrate to Queens from Delhi in the 1970s, but whose life slowly unravels when one son suffers a freakish accident.”

George Saunders’s short-story collection Tenth of December won last year.