Q. What can you tell me about the Rhein Piano Co. of Belleville that was said to have had a "lively talking machine department" on page 25 of the November 20, 1920, edition of Presto -- The American Music Trade Weekly
-- Bernie Kerr, of Belleville
A. What your sharp eyes spied was a two-line reference that didn't begin to scratch the surface of one of Belleville's human dynamos -- Walter L. Rhein.
Born Feb. 10, 1873, Rhein probably is best remembered for the music store and studios he ran in downtown Belleville for 60 years. But he was so much more. Before he died, he had started a drum and bugle corps, led cultural groups, traveled the world and still found time to keep his hand in a half-dozen other businesses.
He even survived a war to do it. At 25, he went marching off to Cuba with 100 other members of Belleville D Company, Fourth Illinois Regiment, of the U.S. Army to fight in the Spanish-American War. Years later, he would help organize the John Miley Camp of the United Spanish American War Veterans.
As a result, Rhein didn't get down to business, so to speak, until he was 30. In 1904, he teamed up with the Knapp Brothers to found Knapp Piano Co., which was added to the Knapps' jewelry business at 308 E. Main St.
By 1913, Rhein's business was so good that he sold his interest in Knapp to open his own store at 203 E. Main St. An announcement of the move in the Belleville Daily Advocate promised a full line of pianos, player pianos, music rolls, band instruments, sheet music -- and those newfangled "talking machines" along with the records they played.
Five years later, Rhein was on the move again, this time to his permanent home at 124 E. Main St. There for the next four decades, untold numbers of fledgling and veteran musicians would buy music and instruments and take lessons in the second-floor studio that Rhein opened in 1935. Never married, Rhein made his home in a third-floor apartment there.
He apparently had little rest. According to his obituary, he was one of the original directors of the Lincoln Theatre, an organizer of the Ideal Stencil Machine Co., a president of Commercial Foundry Co. and an officer at the Belleville Industrial Loan Co., among others.
When he opened his teaching studio, he also announced plans to start two choirs and a 35-member orchestra to accompany them. A year later, he sponsored the Bellenois Drum and Bugle Corps. A talented singer and musician, he helped organize the Liederkranz Society.
Among his adventures, he visited Alaska and the Arctic and spent five weeks in Mexico to study Spanish music. Even when he finally agreed in 1962 to lease his store to Ludwig Music House, of St. Louis, the 89-year-old Rhein stayed on as a consultant. But at 92, age finally forced him to move into the Meredith Memorial Home. He died three years later in 1968.
The final note in Rhein's musical legacy was played Jan. 31, 1982, when Ludwig closed its doors in Belleville in order to consolidate with its St. Clair Square store.
Q. Who was the person on the old TV program who said, "Will the real so-and-so please stand up?" Could it have been Bill Cullen?
-- L. Laux, of New Baden
A. To tell the truth, it could have been, depending on when you saw the popular game show that ran nearly 30 years. But it's not likely.
During its initial run from 1956 to 1968, the honor of using that dramatic line went to host Bud Collyer. Older viewers will remember that by 1960, the panel featured Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean and Kitty Carlisle, although earlier panelists included Johnny Carson, Don Ameche and Mr. Timex himself, John Cameron Swayze.
After CBS pulled the plug in May 1968, it popped up in syndication in 1969. This time, Garry Moore hosted with his longtime "I've Got a Secret" buddy Cullen serving as a panelist. But in late 1976, Moore developed throat cancer, and Cullen was asked to take over.
This, however, lasted only a very brief time because producers felt the arrangement hurt Cullen's chemistry with panelists Cass and Carlisle. So, they called in that great announcer from "Wrestling at the Chase" -- St. Louis' own Joe Garagiola -- to finish the 1977-78 season.
What followed was a string of hosts as the show struggled through brief resurrections in 1980, 1990 and 2000, including Lynn Swann, Alex Trebek and John O'Hurley. The final original episode of "Truth" aired in late 2001.
Who hosted the pilot episode of "To Tell the Truth" in 1956?
Answer to Tuesday's trivia: He couldn't have booted it more than a few feet, but Minnesota Vikings kicker Fred Cox scored big in 1972 when he dreamed up the idea for a Nerf football. Last year Cox said he was able to retire from everything at 50 because of the toy's popularity. He's now 73 with 13 grandkids.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org