Questions, Anyone?

Why men walk next to the curb

Q. Readers Bill and Nancy Wedge ask, “Why is the man supposed to walk on the street side of the sidewalk when walking with a woman?”

A. “In 16th-century England, the habit of emptying chamber pots out of upper-story windows into the gutter made a city stroll so hazardous that gentlemen gallantly took side nearest the curb when walking with their ladies – a position they have assumed ever since, without quite knowing why.”

This explanation is from the Internet’s quote in “The People’s Almanac” series. Judith Martin, of Miss Manners’ etiquette fame, says, “When they are walking outdoors, American ladies take the side away from the curb. Never mind the old stories about that being so that gentlemen can take upon themselves the mud from the streets or garbage from upper-story windows without splashing a lady’s skirt.”

Herman Besser

Q. What do we know about Jesse Besser’s father, the man who co-founded the Besser Company?

A. A brief history of Herman Besser is on the wrapper of the chocolate bars currently being sold by the Jesse Besser Museum as a fundraiser. The wrapper also features a copy of a 1904 Alpena County Savings Bank stock certificate, one of 15 purchased by Herman Besser. The history reads, “Around 1885, Herman Besser, wife Hattie, and young son Jesse Herman Besser came to Northeast Michigan. Herman Besser purchased and farmed 240 acres of land in Hillman. Herman trapped otter, beaver and muskrat during the winters. Herman also worked as a professional timber cruiser.

“In 1897, Herman established the Besser-Churchill company. This sawmill was located on the banks of the Thunder Bay River. The mill manufactured wooden shingles and three types of barrel staves: nail keg, large barrel for holding flour and sugar and tight cooperage for holding liquids.

“In 1899, Herman Besser teamed up with Alpena’s great lumber barons and organized Alpena Portland Cement. Competition from Huron Portland Cement forced Alpena Portland Cement to close in 1909. “In 1902 Herman and Jesse Besser purchased a crude block-making machine to produce block for local construction. Unhappy with the machine’s performance, they worked diligently to redesign it over the next two years. In 1904, they revealed a much improved hand-tamp block machine.

“In 1904, Herman and Jesse purchased a foundry and machine shop on the corner of Merchant and Oldfield Streets, and Besser Manufacturing Company was born. In 1913, Besser Manufacturing Company purchased the Alpena Motor Car Company building on Johnson Street, serving as the Besser Company World Headquarters to date. From 1909 until 1926, Herman served as the President of Besser Manufacturing. Herman passed away on March 12, 1926, at which time Jesse Besser took full control of the company.”

Please send questions and comments to or to “Questions, Anyone?” The Alpena News, 130 Park Place, Alpena, MI 49707.