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On the Light Side

October 7, 1985

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) _ Punxsutawney, Pa., may have Phil, the groundhog with a nose for predicting the weather, but Hagerstown will have Alma and Hairy Hager for its climatological prognostications.

The Hagers-Town Almanack is collecting woolly bear caterpillars for the third year in a row, trying to build the crawling critters’ reputation as weather forecasters.

The cutest caterpillar will be dubbed Alma and the biggest and wooliest will be Hairy Hager, said Gerald Spessard, general manager of the 188-year-old almanac.

Folklore suggests that the wider the woolly bear’s middle band, the milder will be the winter. If the black band in front is larger than the rear part, the first part of the winter will be more severe and if the reverse is the case, winter will be more severe as spring approaches.

During the past two years, the caterpillars predicted the winters would be severe at the outset, followed by milder weather, said Spessard. They were close the first year, but last year the early part of the winter was mild.

″We are trying to associate (woolly bears) with Hagerstown very much like Punxsutawney Phil,″ is linked to that Pennsylvania community, Spessard said.

Folklore has it that Phil predicts that winter will continue for six weeks if he sees his shadow Feb. 2.


DALLAS (AP) - Restaurant owner John Dayton shelled out $2,600 for 45 bottles of wine at an auction, but he won’t be stocking his cellar with a fine French vintage.

The owner of the critically acclaimed Routh Street Cafe bought a 1982 Lubbock County Cabernet Sauvignon, the first collection of Texas wine offered at public auction.

″Routh Street Cafe prides itself on Southwest cuisine, so it just makes sense for us to showcase quality Texas wines,″ Dayton said.

He was one of more than 250 wine merchants and connoisseurs from across the country who paid more than $477,000 Saturday for the 642 lots of wine offered at the third annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction.

The wine, produced by Lubbock County’s Pheasant Ridge Winery, will be added to the cafe’s wine list next week.


NEW YORK (AP) - A 200-pound air hammer. Three artificial legs. One hundred white spats. Dozens of left sneakers.

In a city known for unusual shopping opportunities, the items offered by the Transit Authority’s Lost Property Unit perhaps make up the most bizarre collection of merchandise.

Many of the items were to be put up for auction today and Tuesday, but some of them won’t be available.

Lawrence Woods, supervisor of the Brooklyn-based unit, is not parting with the three artificial legs, one wearing a scuffed shoe and half a pair of blue corduroy trousers.

″We keep them around as conversation pieces,″ he said.

And the 200-pound air hammer, found on a subway platform, is already gone.

″You wonder how someone could lose that, yet somebody came in and claimed it,″ he said.

His office once received a sample case of dozens of sneakers, left foot only. ″There was nothing else to do but dispose of those.″

″It’s amazing what people leave behind. I’ve seen a lot, but there are always a few surprises,″ says Woods. After all, he said, ″We’re probably one of the largest lost-and-founds in the country.″

Skis, wedding dresses, baby carriages, diamond rings, thousands of eyeglasses, keys, wallets and single gloves have been turned in. Once, someone found 100 pairs of white spats.

″Maybe we’ll get a marching band interested in those,″ Woods said, doubting the spats would generate much bidding.

″Sotheby’s is going to get no competition from us,″ he said, although he noted that there would be expensive-looking gold chains, rings and watches for sale, plus a few watercolors, lithographs and oil paintings.

The 700 lots that were to hit the auction block today and Tuesday include an 18-karat gold Cartier watch, a telescope, a fur coat, a food processor, several folding cots and boxes of dressmaker’s shoulder pads.

The office’s most recent auction in 1980 raised $29,000 for the transit system’s operating fund. One diamond ring brought $700.

″It’s the perfect garage sale,″ said Cornelius Heaney, a professional auctioneer who conducted the last sale and will do it again this year. ″It’s possible to find unexpected treasure.″

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