The weekly collection of random and sometimes useless fun facts. In this week’s edition: An Unknown Boston Concert Hall, UK Speeding Cyclists, The Dedicated Honeybee, An Overweight World, and Wilson From Cast Away.
Sometimes things are found right where you would never expect, and there’s a structure in Boston that many Bostonians didn’t even know existed. In the middle of the city, there is a 120-year old abandoned concert hall known as Steinert Hall that is 40 feet underground, buried beneath a piano store. It was constructed over 100 years ago in 1896 beneath Boylston Street and some of the world’s best musicians played there. It closed 70 years ago and had once been one of the cities finest performing arts sites. It was almost acoustically perfect since it was deep underground and away from street noise. A fire in 1942 in a nightclub called the Cocoanut Grove caused the eventual shutdown of the hall. The fire caused 492 deaths and fire codes became stricter in the city. Those buildings that couldn’t afford the upgrades to stay compliant were closed down. Steinert Hall was one of them.
It stay shuttered underneath the street that was known as piano row, and the piano dealer, M. Steinert & Sons sits above it. It has become a storage area for piano parts, but some musicians have stopped by the old venue to record or to take a look. It’s difficult to get in since the basement area is deemed a safety concern, and the only elevator to it has been closed down. Sprinkler pipes had been added in later years, and there have been flooding problems that have damaged the ironwork in the old hall since it had been built below the water table. There were 650 seats at one time in the hall, but they had been donated long ago to a local high school, and it was once designated as a public bomb shelter. There are no real plans to resurrect the building since the costs of doing so could exceed $6 million dollars. Source
In the United Kingdom cyclists can’t be cited for speeding since there are no speed limits for bicycles, but they could be charged for ‘cycling furiously’ or ‘riding furiously’, an offense under an 1847 law called the Town Police Clauses Act. The act states that, “Every person who rides or drives furiously any horse or carriage, or drives furiously any cattle,” can break the law. While a cyclist can be cited for this offense, they can also be convicted of “wanton and furious driving” while on a bicycle. One such case was of a supermarket worker who was convicted of “wanton and furious driving” after he struck and killed an 84-year old pedestrian. He received a jail sentence of seven years and was banned for a year, not from riding a bike, but from driving a car. The courts are only able to use this particular statute when there has been an injury. So the take home lesson is, if you ride a bike in the United Kingdom, don’t ride or drive it furiously, and definitely don’t drive cattle while doing it. Source
Honey bees are amazing creatures, and now I feel bad that we take so much of their hard work away from them. The reason why is that it takes about 12 honey bees their entire lives (which is about 6-7 weeks) to make one teaspoon of honey. That’s 1/12 of a teaspoon for each bee before their work lives are done.
Worker bees store nectar from flowers in “honey sacks” in the abdomen. When they get back to the hive, they deposit it into the honeycombs and then evaporate any excess water by fanning their wings over the nectar. Honey production by bees is definitely a collective affair because producing honey takes a lot of teamwork. To make a pound of honey, bees must fly the equivalent of 3 times around the earth, and they also have to visit over 2 million flowers to supply enough nectar. Now that is true dedication to the job. Source
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “While over 900 million people in the world suffer from hunger, even more, about 1.5 billion, are overweight or obese,” and both of these groups were found to have micronutrient malnutrition from such things as vitamin A, iron, or iodine deficiency. The numbers calculated for hunger are based on the number of people who don’t consume the daily minimum energy requirement. According to the FAO that number is 1,800 kilocalories a day. The number of people living in hunger has shrunk from 26% in 1968 to 13% in 2008, but there is an increasing number of overweight and obese people whose body mass index is 25 or higher in the world. Source
Screenwriter Bill Broyles has an impressive resume. He was a founding editor of Texas Monthly, an editor at Newsweek, he created the show China Beach, and was nominated for an Academy Award as a screenwriter for Apollo 13. In addition, he was the screenwriter for the movie Cast Away, where he came up with one of film’s most famous icons. Broyles stranded himself alone on an island near the Sea of Cortez in Mexico for days to research what it was like to truly be stranded. He learned how to open coconuts and drink the juice, he caught stingray and ate them raw, and made himself a shelter made of palm leaves and bamboo. It just so happened one day that he found a volleyball on the beach. He began to talk to it and called it “Wilson”, after the brand name. The movie icon “Wilson” was born. It took Broyles a total of six years to finish the screenplay for Cast Away, and that chance encounter with a volleyball on a beach in Mexico made “Wilson” a star.
That’s it for another edition. Until next time, and as always, use these facts to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge. Everyone will appreciate you for it. Have anything to add? Do it up below.
Past Issues of the Completely Random Facts of the Week