LINCOLN – As Assistant Director of the Lincoln Senior Center, Michelle Lemire is often faced with scheduling activities to entertain and interest those who frequent it.
She admitted Tuesday afternoon she had worried how popular the “How Smart Are You Now? Senior Trivia” event would be.
Turns out, there was no need for concern.
As host/emcee Mark Bloomstein posed question after thought-provoking question at the approximate 40 folks who sat inside The Center's cafeteria, Janet McIntosh, Eileen Boudreau and Sina Bacchiocchi seemed a bit frustrated at their ability to manufacture the correct responses.
Bloomstein: “How many U.S. presidents have never been to college?”
McIntosh: “Some of them seem like they've never been.”
Bloomstein: “How many millions of ostriches are there in the world?”
Boudreau looked at her “teammates” and offered, “Seven. Does seven million sound good?” That's when McIntosh piped up, “Who cares?”
Bloomstein: “In a standard playing card deck, which king does not have a mustache?”
Boudreau answered, “What do you think? The King of Hearts?” to which McIntosh replied, “It's gotta be. Who wants to kiss a man with a mustache?”
Bloomstein: “How many bullets were in Barney Fife's gun?”
The trio, simultaneously, stated “One.”
(When told the answer should be none, as Mayberry Sheriff Andy Griffith constantly told his deputy to keep his bullet in his shirt pocket, the women laughed, but stuck with their initial response. In the end, they were deemed correct).
Seven teams of seniors – some with only two aside, others with three or four – battled for nearly 75 minutes for the top prize of a free lunch at The Center.
Not so surprisingly, Saylesville resident Paul Brunell – whom his wife Sandy calls a “trivia expert” – copped the “championship” with 131 points, 17 more than the “Lincoln Lovelies.” That contingent consisted of Joan Savastano of Pawtucket, Priscilla Stevenin of Manville and Louise Gibson and Esther Reuter of Lincoln.
“We had seen the informational flier last week about this contest; I told Paul, 'You love trivia, so why don't you sign up?'” Sandy said.
Stated Paul: “We had to become members before we could enter, so it cost us $20 for the two of us to join for the whole year. We came in at about five to 1 (p.m.), and they were already on Question 4. (Bloomstein) ran over and gave us the first three questions, so I thought that was pretty nice of him.
“I started having fun with trivia when I was in my 20s; I used to work at a boys' camp in New Hampshire, and a friend of mine and I used to toss back and forth questions about baseball,” he added. “I got a lot of them right, so that's where it started with me.”
Sandy Brunell indicated she wanted to participate in the line-dancing event in another room, as “trivia isn't for me.” Because she wore rubber-soled shoes, her feet kept sticking to the floor, so she thought, “The heck with it! I came back to watch my champion.”
Thanks to Brunell's savvy, he and his wife won't be the only ones to enjoy a free lunch at a future date. Because John and Kathleen Corbett of Lonsdale sat at the same table, Bloomstein invited them to join in.
Lemire explained she had received a letter from Party Makers USA of East Providence about three months ago informing her of a senior-oriented trivia contest. Intrigued, she researched it more on-line; when she discovered she could offer it to her group, she jumped at the chance.
“I thought it would be a lot of fun,” she grinned as Bloomstein rattled off queries. “We've never done this before, but I'm sure, based on this turnout, we'll do it again. They seem to be having a good time.
“The thing I like most, it's brain power; it's the best thing they could possibly do, exercise their minds,” she noted. When asked if she thought it a mix of “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” she chuckled, “I think it's more like 'Jeopardy!'
“They can all be a part of this, as these questions have a lot to do with their era,” she continued. “If we have something physical planned, some seniors may not want to exercise, but with this, it's so easy to participate.”
Bloomstein provided questions in several areas – sports, the movies, U.S. and world geography, even dentistry – and posted those questions on a screen so all could see them clearly; the seniors, in turn, were to write their answers on paper specially designed for the contest.
One such segment happened to be “True or False.”
“Dalmatians were born without spots; true or false?” Bloomstein asked, then moved to others, such as “You cannot melt a diamond” and “Months that start with a Sunday always have a Friday the 13th.”
Another category invited answers to “Name the European country by its capital,” and Bloomstein flashed on the screen a.) Stockholm; b.) Budapest; c.) Vilnius; d.) Ankara; and e.) Warsaw.
He also requested of the seniors to “Name the Year” that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated, the New York Giants captured the World Series, Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio and Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize.
Bloomstein insisted all took place in the same year, and Stevenin “the Answer-Writer” told her teammates, “I think it's 1939.” Savastano quickly offered, “I think that's right, because it must have been after World War I and before World War II.”
When six photos of actors and actresses hit the screen, and Bloomstein explained two points each would be awarded for naming the stars and their movies, Savastano rattled off the answers like a pro.
Well, sort of.
“That top one is Jimmy Stewart; the next is Kathryn Hepburn and Cary Grant in 'Bringing Up Baby,'” she said firmly. “That's Montgomery Cliff and Shelley Winters, but I can't think of the name of the movie! The next is John Wayne in 'The Green Beret,' and that one is Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in … I don't know it. They were in two or three. The last one is Mary Astor and Bogie in 'The Maltese Falcon.'
With pride she added, “I know my movie stars. I've followed them since I was a kid.”
Savastano, Reuter and Stevenin admitted they had a terrible time trying to figure out a series of license plates and to which state each belonged. The same held true for placing the year the fire ladder, Teflon, Velcro, ether and the crossword puzzle were invented.
Bloomstein provided 1879, 1938, 1842, 1913 and 1978, and contestants had to match them with the corresponding invention.
“Those were tough,” Savastano said, “but the one that asked 'How many eyes does a normal spider have?' I thought that was kind of stupid. Who cares?”
Once the contest ended, the seniors shared their thoughts while Bloomstein tallied the teams' scores.
“I don't think we did that well,” Stevenin said. “Some were so hard. I also really couldn't read the screen.”
Someone asked why she didn't wear her glasses. Her retort: “I had them on!
“I love this,” she added. “I do 'Trivial Pursuit' on my computer every day, and it's because it helps keep my brain working and healthy. It's a fun way of learning – or re-learning. You remember some things you've forgotten.”
When Bloomstein ran through the answers to each, and called “the one-man show” in Brunell the champion, Stevenin asked where they finished. She was told, “Runner up,” and she exclaimed, “I think that's darn good! I'm not disappointed at all. In fact, we did better than I thought.”
Claimed Reuter: “We wouldn't have done as well without Joan's help in the movies.”
Corbett had his own take on “Senior Trivia.
“I thought it was fantastic,” he gushed. “This really challenges you to think. With the old-time movies, I knew who most of the actors were, but naming the films was tough. I'd do this again in a minute.”
He and the others will have their chance, as Lemire promised a repeat performance.
“They raved about it,” she smiled. “I'm so glad.”