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A mysterious chap is the Billikin . . .

Whoever believes that "there is nothing new under the sun" doesn't keep up with Reader Exchange, where all kinds of oddities can appear and regularly do. Of course, newness is a matter of perspective; what is unheard of to one person may be boringly old hat to another, which raises the pertinent question this column asks: What do you know about Billikins?

At least, that is the question asked by Tarpon Springs' Belva Green, who is doing research on that very topic and is hoping to pick the brains of our readers. We must confess that Belva's query brought a unanimous "duh?" from our staff, by which she can conclude that they will be of little help.

But our readers are another matter, and, just in case the topic of Billikins is new to them, Belva sketches in the details of what she needs, but first she takes a load off our minds by admitting that not many people have even heard of this little guy, who turns out to be "the god of things as they ought to be" and is found on many items dating up to the 1920s.

The Billikin is also involved in the Royal Order of the Jesters, a spinoff from the Shrine Club. Any information Belva gets will be used in a book, so, if you have any anecdotes or photos of these chaps, Belva would like to have them, or, if you are lucky enough to own one, she would love to photograph it. Belva may be reached by phone at (727) 942-7354 or e-mail at combergte.net.

The garage-sale afterglow continues as buyers burn to find instructions that once accompanied their purchases. Ethelmae Gregory of Palm Harbor was lucky enough to snag a cappuccino maker (Mr. Coffee, model ECM3) at a garage sale, but her good fortune didn't carry over to the instructions. If she may copy the instructions that came with your machine, she will be even more delighted with her bargain than ever. Please call (727) 785-7247.

"Help! Help! Help!" begins the letter from Dorothe Hession of Holiday. "I am in desperate need of the manual for this Royal 170 Professional Electronic typewriter. This machine does everything but heat up the dinner . . . but . . ." This typewriter, which was donated to Dorothe, would be ever so much cleverer had it come with an instruction manual, however.

"The Royal people tell me the manual is no longer available," continues Dorothe, who is the editor of a local newsletter, "but I know the power of the Reader's Exchange." If you call her at (727) 934-1802 and leave a message on the answering machine, Dorothe will call back and make arrangements to pick up, copy and return your manual.

Ernestine Loving of New Port Richey, on a similar quest, hopes to find the instruction book for a portable Singer sewing machine, model 401A. Please give Ernestine a ringy-dingy at (727) 376-0894 and leave a message.

Frances Profumo of Port Richey is trying to find cookie cutters in the shape of spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs, in short, the shapes found on playing cards. She has been checking out garage sales (hear those gentle strains of the garage-sale motif?) as well as many stores, with no luck. If you can deal her info on this quest, please call (727) 863-6236.

Elisa of Crystal Beach asks the searching question: Do you have an outdoors umbrella-type clothes line you no longer use? Elisa promises it a nice, sunny backyard location and sheets and towels flapping from it in the early morning breeze. Elisa's phone number is (727) 785-9970.

Warren Draeger of Crystal River years ago, sometime in the 1970s, purchased The Enjoyment of Music/The Norton Scores, third edition, edited by J. Machlis. Somebody borrowed them and when they were returned, one of the records, sides seven and eight, was missing. Unfortunately, a performance by soprano Bidu Sayao, a favorite of Warren's, was on that record. Warren has written to W.W. Norton, only to learn that this record is no longer available. He has little hope of finding another, but he would like to borrow, if he may, recordings by this famous singer to tape. If you can help, please answer in care of this column.

Card senders, start your pens! We have received a long letter from Tami Cowdrey of Fort Wayne, Ind., who has seen this column while visiting her parents in Brooksville. Her mother's birthday is Aug. 18, and Tami says that birthday cards from our readers would surely help make it a special day.

Send questions, answers and tips to Reader Exchange, Home & Garden, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg 33731. Only questions of general interest will be answered. Requests will be accepted only by mail; no phoned requests, please. Except in unusual circumstances, readers must agree to publication of phone numbers (please include the area code) to be considered for the column.

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