Ear: Astorian

A few nuggets from the Saturday, May 20, 1882 edition of The Daily Astorian:

• "Shall a hotel furnish quill toothpicks?" is the latest question.

Note: For centuries, many considered wooden toothpicks not up to the task of removing trapped food for two very good reasons: One, they get soggy and wear out, and two, they splinter.

Early civilizations made toothpicks out of metals, such as bronze and silver. The ancient Romans came up with a clever and much more inexpensive idea: Pulling bird feathers, and sharpening the quill.

This idea made its way to Europe, and then to this country via colonization. Those already here had their own take on the toothpick dilemma: Native Americans carved toothpicks out of deer bone, and Eskimos found walrus whiskers were handy for the task. (bit.ly/quillpick)

• One hundred feet of a Seattle wharf fell a few days ago. The piles having been completely eaten through by the teredo.

Note: The teredo navalis, or shipworm, isn't really a worm at all. Instead, it is a repulsive and voraciously hungry tunneling clam who devours wood.

Perhaps the pilings in Astoria were safe from these critters, though, because they require water that is very high in salinity to survive, and the water here is only brackish (seawater mixed with freshwater).

Besides, Astoria's pilings' primary enemy was fire. Both major blazes in the city, in 1883 and 1922, destroyed the waterfront pilings on which many of the city's businesses were built. (bit.ly/teredos)

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.