Myth Trivia: The tie between presidents and gangsters

What does President Roosevelt, Al Capone, Mother Good and Golden Arches have in common? They are today's Myth Trivia subjects.

Image: Screen Capture from FDR's Gangster Car on You Tube -

CHARLOTTE, NC, June 8, 2016 – Sometimes the simplest things are the best. Today we have just good old basic trivia.

1 – A pox be upon you: Urban legends say the children’s nursery rhyme “Ring Around the Rosie” was a reference to the Black Plague that devastated western Europe in the middle of the 14th century.

The rumor goes that the “ring around the rosie” has to do with the red rash that was sometimes a symptom of the disease.

“Pocket full of posies” had to do with the custom of placing flowers around an infected person for protection.

Carriers of the illness often sneezed or made similar sounds which are best translated into words using “ashes” as a description.

Finally, “we all fall down” supposedly references the numerous deaths resulting from the plague.

While the explanation may sound plausible at first, the rebuttal is equally convincing. Snopes says the first printed version of the poem did not appear until 1881 when Kate Greenway published the Mother Goose rhymes.

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To be true, the poem would have been recited for nearly 500 years before coming into print and, as Snopes points out, that means “Ring Around the Rosie” as a poem would pre-date Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” meaning the poem should have found its way somewhere into Middle English long before it appeared in 1881.

Further evidence points to the fact that other variations of the poem make no references to the plague, which would not be logical if the original verse was some type of secret code.

The true explanation has almost as many variations as the poem itself, but Folklorist Philip Hiscock prefers the idea referring to “the religious ban on dancing among many Protestants in the nineteenth century.

Adolescents found a way around the dancing ban with what was called in the United States the ‘play-party.’ Play-parties consisted of ring games which differed from square dances only in their name and their lack of musical accompaniment. They were hugely popular, and younger children got into the act, too.

Some modern nursery games, particularly those which involve rings of children, derive from these play-party games. ‘Little Sally Saucer’ (or ‘Sally Waters’) is one of them, and ‘Ring Around the Rosie’ seems to be another.”

2 – “Arch enemies”: The whole world recognizes the iconic “Golden Arches” that are the logo for McDonald’s. But in Sedona, Arizona the arches are not bright yellow. Instead they are turquoise.

It seems that back in 1988 when Sedona was incorporated as a city, Development Services Manager Nicholas Giollo said that local officials wanted all businesses to blend into the red rock and natural landscape. It was decided that the traditional yellow color would clash so it was decided that turquoise would be a better choice.

Though the media did not latch on to the story until 2014, the restaurant had been operating for more than 20 years with its bluish-green arches.

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As far as anyone knows, Sedona is the only city in the world with turquoise “Golden Arches”, however Monterey, California has a McDonald’s with black arches and one McDonald’s in Bruges, Belgium sports arches that are white.

Elsewhere, in Paris along the Champs-Elysees there is a neon McDonald’s sign which also has white arches.
In Taupo, New Zealand you will find the only McDonald’s restaurant in the world set in a decommissioned DC-3 airliner that was built in 1943.

And, it wasn’t too many years ago that the Swiss National Railways had a couple of McDonald’s cars in regular service on their trains.

This might just be the greatest case of “fallen arches” in history.

3 – FDR and Al Capone: Since this week marked the 72nd anniversary of the D-Day invasion, we will conclude with another e-rumor dealing with World War II.

The story goes that following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was driven from the White House to Capitol Hill to deliver a speech in a car formerly owned by gangster Al Capone because it was bulletproof.

According to Michael F. Reilly in his book “Reilly of the White House,” on the day FDR gave his famous “Day in Infamy” speech the Treasury Department loaned the president the car until an armor-plated Ford could be built for security during the war.

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Apparently some confusion arose when a retired Secret Service man who was once assigned to Roosevelt wrote about a 1928 bullet-proof Cadillac Town Sedan that once belonged to Capone.

The true story is that Capone’s car was sold to a couple traveling with a carnival. That couple later sold it to a Canadian man who shipped the Caddy to England in 1933 as a display at an amusement park in London.

Oddly enough, not only is it unlikely that President Roosevelt rode in Capone’s Cadillac, it is said that he was rarely seen in a car that was not a convertible.

Though we do not know for sure about the FDR/Capone connection, you now know why we call this column “Myth Trivia.”

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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