Just in time for Christmas, the Answer Santa's sack is starting to overflow with helpful tips and funny stories from his many reader-elves. I'm hoping some of these might brighten up your holiday season:
THANKS FOR THE THOUGHT: I've had a couple readers this week wanting to volunteer to work at the 36th annual Christmas Day dinner sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Belleville. Unfortunately, while your offers are most appreciated, I'm told they have all of the help they need for the meal at St. Henry's, which is held for those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone. (Reservations are also closed.) However, you might want to remember to call the diocese earlier next year to see if they could use you.
HONEY OF A FIND: Just when I find an expert to say you can't buy white honey here, the friendly folks at Fezziwig's Marketplace tell me they have such a treat on their shelves at 218 W. St. Louis St. in Lebanon (537-8422). Winter White Honey is produced by the Savannah Bee Co. and comes from the "frosty wildflower fields" in the Idaho Rocky Mountains. I can't guarantee it will taste the same as what your son-in-law brought home from Eastern Europe, but several customers at savannahbee.com say it is the most delicious honey they've ever eaten. And, I suppose you couldn't go too wrong shopping at a place called Fezziwig's this time of year ...
THIS TAKES THE CAKE: As soon as I suggested ordering a fruitcake by mail, I received a raft of alternate suggestions from aficionados of the holiday treat. Among them were D. Kemp, of Shiloh, who found 2-pound and muffin-size cakes at Wood Bakery at 115 W. First in O'Fallon while Terri Weiss recommended Peacock Bakery at 817 Ninth St. in Highland. And, if you do resort to the Internet, Vicki Martin, of Fairview Heights, would give a lip-smacking 10 to Collin Street Bakery at www.collinstreet.com. It might be too late for the holiday this year, so you might want to save this for 2013.
A REEL REPAIRMAN: He hasn't done much advertising, but the next time someone needs a reel-to-reel tape deck repaired, they might want to look up Gene Kim. About six months ago, he set up shop at 7303 Old St. Louis Road in Belleville -- the former Ambassador Animal Clinic building across from the Kmart center -- where he repairs stereo equipment of all types. But he's certainly no newcomer to his trade. He tells me he's been fixing things for 40 years, including as a service tech at The Sound Room, a high-end St. Louis electronics retailer. You can reach him at 213-6667; perhaps the best time is the afternoon right now. Many thanks to Steve Bowles for the helpful tip because I'll need Kim if my own dinosaurs die again.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK: My apologies to owner Ronald Bayer for not at least suggesting Harter's Hobby House in Belleville as an information source for Lionel trains. It's particularly embarrassing because he bought the store in 1959, just about the time that I, growing up on 16th Street, would have started heading there for railroad trains and accessories and model ships and cars. After 53 years, he's probably a fountain of information, so stop in at 1101 W. Main St. or call 233-3891.
SCORING MACHINE: When Grinnell's Jack Taylor recently poured in 138 points to shatter the NCAA single-game basketball scoring record, it had Bill Santanello, of Millstadt, reliving his own once-in-a-lifetime night. On Feb. 7, 1958, he was featured in the News-Democrat for having scored 135 points the night before -- all but seven points of his team's (the Pros) 142-29 burial of the Warriors in an old Belleville TAC League game. He popped in 61 field goals and 13 free throws, going out in a blaze of glory with 49 points in the final quarter. Fed by such teammates as former Belleville East wrestling coach Urban Baum and weightlifting trainer Ted Frank, Santanello topped the old TAC mark of 110. Now after 54 years, Santanello jokes, somebody finally beat his record.
What beloved movie actor got his first taste of the professional stage by playing an accordion for a magician?
Answer to Thursday's trivia: It almost goes without saying that supermodel Cindy Crawford has been named to countless sexiest-woman lists, from Men's Health and People to VH1 and Shape. But there's a ton of brains inside that dynamite exterior. She was valedictorian of her 1984 graduating class at DeKalb High School and earned a full scholarship to study chemical engineering at Northwestern University in Evanston. She, however, found a better formula in the modeling world, dropping out of college after just one quarter to eventually become the world's highest paid model, according to Forbes in 1995.
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