In 1998, or perhaps it was as early as 1997, a Columbia neighborhood bar called the Night Cafe instituted a weekly team-trivia competition modeled after the pub quizzes long popular in Ireland. Co-owner Brian Flanagan (number seven in this series of profiles) would generally prepare the questions and host the event, which took place on otherwise-quiet Sunday evenings; I'd proctor, then grade answer sheets by the light of the idle pool table while Brian reviewed the questions with the crowd, in call-and-response fashion, and reminded everyone that they should buy another drink already.
Sometimes we'd switch roles. For my categories, such as "number, please," I often used props; in the case at hand, at first I displayed just the topside of the foot ruler. The seemingly self-evident answer, which was supplied by most if not all of the teams, was that Wonder Bread helps build strong bodies 12 ways.
But not always, Dave, a few of the more senior contestants noted aloud. Though 12 held true for kids who grew up in the 1970s and '60s, for children of the '50s the magic number was 8. Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody would back this up, I was told. Not that the "right" answer was ever in doubt; this was simply an instance of the continual verbal footnoting by the Columbia crowd that made hosting trivia nights so much fun.
A recent visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an exhibition of dye-transfer prints by William Eggleston — one photograph in particular — brought all this back to mind.
For your amusement, the final photo below shows another prop from that same evening's "number, please" category. I held it up and asked the crowd, With what number is this item most closely associated? Contestants of a certain age bent to their answer sheets immediately, but several bright grad students furrowed their brows and asked to see it up close. Though they turned it back and forth in their hands, the small blind figures on the flip side were unreadable by bar light, and the youngsters still drew a blank. The rest of us reached for our drinks and stifled old jukebox stories.