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Trivia columnist Boyd can't stay retired

Posted: Wednesday, August 01, 2001

SEATTLE (AP) -- Fact: A beloved, nationally syndicated newspaper trivia columnist will have trouble staying retired.

-- His phone will ring four or five times a week with editors asking him to start writing again.

-- He'll already have dozens of columns written in his head, because he just can't stop collecting trivia.

L.M. Boyd, 74, who educated millions of Americans in the trivial and arcane over the last 40 years, has decided to come out of retirement after just seven months.

''I was simply asked by my bosses to stop the nonsense and give them some copy, so I did what I was told,'' Boyd said on Tuesday.

Tuesday was the second day his new daily column, ''L.M. Boyd Revisited,'' ran in The Sun in Yuma, Ariz.

The column features factlets pulled from past columns, as well as new bits that Boyd has continued collecting -- despite his stated plans to do nothing but relax in his rocking chair -- since he retired in December.

''I enjoyed that time. I had no complaints,'' he said of his brief break after meeting newspaper deadlines six days a week.

''What it amounts to is, there were a lot of calls from editors. I was kind of surprised actually. I didn't expect them.''

Boyd said he's had firm requests for the column from two dozen newspapers, and he will offer it through Crown Features Syndicate, which he owns.

''His column is one of the most popular with readers,'' said Sun Editor Terry Ross.

''When he retired and we didn't run him in the paper anymore, we got many calls from people saying they missed him. It's continued over the time since he retired. Both people outside and people in the building said, 'We wish we had Boyd back. We used to look forward to reading him every day.''

Boyd, who is known to Seattle readers as ''Mike Mailway,'' and to readers in some cities as Lou Boyd, first began writing a trivia column in 1961 when he worked for the Houston Chronicle.

He started out responding to readers' questions and complaints but soon realized people were more interested in the tidbits of information he would toss in.

The idea was so popular, Boyd said he started going to newspapers around the country to help them set up similar columns. While doing this, he found a home at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1963. The column got its name from the telephone number for readers to call: M-A-I-L-W-A-Y.

His wife, Patricia, helped him research and edit the column.

In 1967 Boyd, who still lives in Seattle, left the P-I to syndicate the column, which was running in nearly 400 newspapers at the time of his retirement. Boyd estimates he has published more than 162,000 facts, all in a folksy, accessible style.

Some samples from a column published just before his retirement:

--A bat uses all of its fingers and feet for flying. Only its thumbs are free.

--According to historical footnotes, some children in Early America tamed flying squirrels and threw them around like self-correcting Frisbees.

--Any physics student will tell you there has never been a paint either perfectly black or perfectly white.

Boyd said Tuesday he wasn't sure how many newspapers ultimately will choose to run L.M. Boyd Revisited. But he'll be happy to have a place once more to share the knowledge he can't seem to stop collecting.

''I've kept writing items in my head,'' he said. ''Every time I see something that strikes me as an item I write it in there.''

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