Ask Mr. Know-It-All An old toy is eyed for communication

Sunday July 22, 2012

United Feature Syndicate

Q: A couple of deaf ladies live in a retirement home where I volunteer. To communicate, they write messages on paper.

I remember a toy from when I was a youngster that was something like black wax paper affixed to cardboard with a removable clear plastic page attached. Using a stylus, you wrote on the plastic. When you were finished, you lifted the plastic page and your message disappeared, making it ready to write again.

What is the name of the toy, and is it still available?

J.E.M., Statesville, N.C.

A: The toy is called Magic Slate. It was created in the 1920s.

You can find it on eBay or What a great idea for communicating!

Q: I really enjoy the reruns of the TV series "Bonanza," and I like Pernell Roberts especially. I believe he was the last living member of the Cartwright clan. Is he still alive?

Shelbyville, Tenn.

A: Pernell Roberts was born May 18, 1928, and died Jan. 24, 2010, at age 81. Before going to Hollywood, Roberts honed his acting skills on stage.

"Bonanza" enjoyed a long run, from 1959 to 1973. Roberts played the eldest son, Adam, from 1959 to 1965. At that point, he didn’t renew his contract, citing creative differences.

From 1979 to 1986, Roberts played the main character on "Trapper John, M.D." He made many guest appearances on various shows, and he returned to the stage, his true love. In addition to acting, Roberts sang and narrated many documentaries. You are right: He was the last living Cartwright family member.

Roberts was a passionate champion of civil rights. He marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and protested NBC’s usage of all white crews on "Bonanza."

Q: Could you give me an update on Annette Funicello? I know she has a really severe case of MS, and I was just wondering how she was doing. I haven’t read anything about her in a long time, and I am concerned.


A: Annette Joanne Funicello was born Oct. 22, 1942, in Utica, N.Y. She achieved immense popularity beginning in October 1955, when she debuted as a Mouseketeer on "The Mickey Mouse Club."

While she was a Mouseketeer, she had many hit singles on the Hot 100 charts. She starred in many beach movies, usually with Frankie Avalon as the love interest. In 1965, Funicello married Jack Gilardi. They had three children: The couple divorced in 1983. In 1986, she married Glen Holt. They are still married.

In 1992, Funicello announced that she had been battling multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disease, since 1987. She founded the Annette Funicello Collectable Bear Company to help fund neurological research. The last bear in the series was made in 2004.


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