I remember years ago when we'd receive these miniature replicas of your car's license plates in the mail. You'd put them on your key chain so that if you ever lost your keys, they could be returned to you. I'm trying to remember who issued those. And, why don't they do that anymore? -- R.B., of Belleville
Instead of burying us in note pads and return address labels, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) used to give car owners something really useful.
In 1941, the DAV purchased the Ident-O-Tag Co., which apparently had been making these tiny license plates for sale since about 1938. The DAV also convinced various state motor vehicle departments to send them their license plate registration lists.
Then, hoping for a contribution in return, they would annually send out what are now commonly called "DAV Tags" -- tiny license plates about an inch and a half long that not only matched the number on your car's real plate, but also mimicked the colors and design each year as well.
As you correctly remember, recipients would put one of these on their key chains. If the keys were ever lost, hopefully someone would drop them in a mailbox and they would be sent to the DAV in Cincinnati. The DAV then would match the state and number and return them to you.
I remember these like yesterday because my dad would wait for them every year as he would a Christmas gift. Funny thing was, though, he didn't put them on his key chain. No, he'd simply hang them on a pegboard on his workbench for decoration. So, in a cigar box somewhere around my house, I'm sure I have decades of miniature Illinois plates.
And, you know what? I hadn't thought about it before you called, but it appears I'm sitting on a small gold mine. On eBay, I see hundreds of these being offered for anywhere from a couple of bucks each to $35 for an unopened envelope from the DAV -- even $155 for a set of Illinois tags from 1950 to 1971.
But, sorry to say, the plates stopped coming after 1971, according to Dr. Ed Miles at www.davnews.com, where you can see an extensive collection of tags from Illinois and the rest of the country. Just as it's more difficult to find information on someone in the hospital, privacy laws also nixed the DAV tag largesse.
Of course, that was just about the time Illinois quit sending out new plates every year. That's right, those under 35 wouldn't remember, but we used to get new license plates for our cars every year until 1979. Now we simply add a new sticker until, like last year, my sticker would no longer stick. So, I've been driving around all year with it in my glove compartment in case I'm pulled over. I'm hoping for better glue next year.
In Illinois, by the way, license plates were first issued in 1907. For $2, they were supposed to last the life of the car, but you know politicians -- in 1909, it was changed to an annual fee. For more year-by-year plate history, go to www.cyberdriveillinois.com and search for "history."
And, yes, somewhere around my garage I also have an Eckert's fruit basket filled with my dad's old plates, too. Unfortunately, I inherited his pack-rat gene.
Your recent article on local soda bottlers of yore mentioned an Ernst Rogger. My dad made both homebrew (and root beer for the kids), so I'm wondering what more you might know about Ernst? -- Rodney Rogger, of Belleville
Alas, the fizz seems to have gone out of Ernst's history. I found nothing of note in the Belleville library's WPA files, and Kevin Kious' bible of local bottlers shows nothing more than what I printed in October.
In fact, the last mention I can find was when his widow, Louise, died. Her obituary on July 20, 1909, in the Daily Advocate said they had both emigrated from Germany and lived at 419 S. Church St. She left two daughters -- Mrs. Henry Siefert and Mrs. Al Meyer -- and 10 grandchildren.
Before Anthony Quinn took the role of Maurice Conchis in "The Magus" (1968), what unusual insurance policy did he reportedly buy?
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: Even years after he died, playwright Eugene Gladstone O'Neill managed to set a record for winning his fourth Pulitzer Prize. His first three were for "Beyond the Horizon" in 1920, "Anna Christie" in 1922 and "Strange Interlude" in 1928. But in about 1943, a Parkinson-like tremor in his hands ended his ability to write, and he died a decade later. ("I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room," were reportedly his last words when he died at the Sheraton in Boston on Nov. 27, 1953, at age 65.) But in 1956, his widow, Carlotta, arranged for "Long Day's Journey into Night," which he had finished in 1942, to be published. The autobiographical masterpiece, which O'Neill asked not to be published until 25 years after his death, was immediately produced on stage and earned him his fourth Pulitzer in 1957. Edward Albee has only three.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or email@example.com