They Didn't Do a Bang-Up Job

--For 46 years, a Soviet family dutifully dusted the object embedded in their ceiling--a live German artillery shell. The newspaper Trud reported that the ordnance became lodged in the ceiling of Anna Serdyukov's house in 1942 during the German army's assault on and capture of Kaluga, a city of about 260,000 people 100 miles southeast of Moscow. After the Red Army recaptured the town later that year, Trud said, Serdyukov asked a young soldier about the shell. He told her: "Don't touch it, and it won't touch you." So she did nothing. The shell blackened with age. Friends and neighbors knew about it, and the Serdyukovs "dusted it off with a rag when they cleaned. In 1981, they taped white paper around it," the paper said. But grandson Andre Tokarev's wife, Tatyana, grew uneasy about the shell after she moved in with the family. So regional military officials sent out a team that simply lifted the eaves of the house with crowbars and pulled out the shell. Trud said the operation was over in 15 minutes.

--A hitchhiker's generosity aroused suspicion and led to his arrest for bank robbery. The hitchhiker asked his driver to stop at the Barnett Bank in New Port Richey, Fla., said Pasco County Sheriff's spokesman Bob Loeffler. At the bank, the hitchhiker gave a teller a note demanding money and told the teller he was armed, Loeffler said. After receiving an undisclosed sum, Loeffler said, the robber left three $100 bills for the teller and took off, tossing his cap gun into bushes. The hitchhiker then asked the driver to take him to Cars Galore. Upon arrival, the grateful hitchhiker handed over a $100 tip, Loeffler said. But when the unidentified driver heard about the robbery, he became suspicious and contacted police. The car dealership provided the suspect's address. He was arrested at home and jailed on bank robbery charges, Loeffler said.

--Four men signed up, but no women were interested. So this year's Miss Bloomingdale contest has been canceled. For the second time in the 21-year history of the Michigan town's beauty pageant, no local women were willing to compete for the title. Under current rules, the contest is open only to women between the ages of 17 and 21 who have never been married and have no children. The cancellation means the current queen, Marie Eifler, 18, will reign for another year. But, pondering the interest shown by men, Penny VanHorn, pageant chairwoman, said she may consider a Mr. Bloomingdale pageant.

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