It's falling-leaf time again, and one of our seasonal tests is at hand. So, scratch your head, furl your brow and try these:

1. Which came first? A) The American Civil War; B) invention of the electric light; C) California's statehood; D) completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

2. Somalia is located next to A) Sudan; B) Angola; C) Ethiopia; D) Egypt.

3. The following had what activity in common? John C. Fremont, Charles E. Hughes, Eugene Debs, Wendell Wilkie: A) Were explorers; B) Were inventors; C) Were military leaders; D) Ran for president and lost.

4. Hall of Fame baseball great Willie Stargell played his entire big league career with which team? A) Yankees; B) Cardinals; C) Dodgers; D) Pirates.

5. You can dip your toes in the Pacific if you are at the beach in A) Columbia; B) Bolivia; C) Argentina; D) Venezuela.

6. The plot of the movie and book, "The Informer," took place in A) France; B) Ireland; C) England; D) Italy.

7. San Francisco Bay was dredged for the landfill that created Alameda's South Shore A) in the 1930s; B) shortly after 1900; C) while Eisenhower was president; D while Richard Nixon was president.

(Answers further down)

If you're reading this, you are probably part of America's middle class. Not as close to the top as you'd like, but you're there. Take pride. The middle class built this country.

Have you ever wondered why this nation is so much better off than our neighbors to the south? People even risk their lives to get here. Why? Two histories are part of the answer.

We were lucky enough to have been settled by Puritans and others from Britain who were part of a developing middle class. Huguenots from France and craftsmen from Germany, Switzerland and other parts of Europe added to its development here.

Those who settled Central and South America were usually lesser nobility of Spain or Portugal's upper class. They became royal governors and overseers of peasant farmers and laborers. The colonists there were either wealthy or poor with but a thin middle class between them.

So which way has the traffic been going since those early days? To the place where one can develop the farm he owns, sell merchandise for a profit, get a loan from a bank and receive a public education? Or to a place of working mainly for others with few banks willing to lend money to the lowly, peasant class?

But things are changing. Our middle class is shrinking as manufacturing and white-collar jobs have been increasingly shipped overseas. No jobs mean fewer taxpayers. Add this problem to the wealthy unwilling to fairly support the country that made their moneymaking possible and our insurmountable debt will become ... well ... impossibly insurmountable.

It's not the American way!

Answers to questions 1-C, 2-C, 3-D, 4-D, 5-A, 6-B, 7-D.

Contact Joe King at alamedanews@bayareanewsgroup.com.