The quiz is popular in the Glenview retirement community

National Trivia Day, a symbolic celebration, was marked earlier this month by those who relish the challenge of recalling random facts, trifles and obscurities on demand.

And as has become their habit, the residents of Vi at the Glen don’t let anyone else tell them when it’s party time.

Four afternoons a year for the past seven years, the enthusiastic residents of Glenview’s retirement community have teamed up to test their memories in a quiz that’s collegiate, fun and brain-twisting.

“It’s a great brain exercise,” said exuberant 96-and-a-half-year-old Rosaleah Goland, one of 48 seniors among 13 teams who answered 55 questions in the specially designed holiday-themed competition the month last. “It’s really good for older people to think a little bit. It brings back some of our old memories, things that we knew years ago.”

They all couldn’t remember which company first used Santa Claus in advertising (Coca-Cola). Or that the Mouse King was the iconic ballet from The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky’s main enemy. Or that “Jingle Bells” was written for Thanksgiving. But most teams identified the kind of Christmas Elvis was going to have (blue) and this “Gift of the Magi” was written by William S. Porter, better known by his pen name, O. Henry.

As the contest stirs up participants’ memories, it also engages their minds.

“I love competing and I love winning,” Lynd Corley said with a smile. Corley has performed in every contest and finished near the top in this one.

The quarterly contests are designed and run by Henry Schwenk who, at 98, can tell you in a flash that John Agar was Shirley Temple’s first husband, Asta was the name of the wire-haired fox terrier in all six “Thin Man” from the 30s and 40s, and “Four Corners” is where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet.

“Everyone loves these contests,” said Schwenk, who enlisted the help of six other residents to create the Christian-Jewish themed holiday event. “I’m walking down the hall, and they’re like, ‘Henry, when’s the next quiz.'”

The secret to their popularity, he revealed, is their accessibility. “I direct my questions to residents,” Schwenk said, adding that he’s created nearly 2,000 trivia contest questions. “I’m trying to design a fun quiz. I don’t want to surprise anyone. The perfect question is one where 50% of people know the answer and 50% think they know it.”

A particular point of pride for Schwenk is that he never used a trivial question in a book. “I read newspapers, I have ideas during discussions with friends. I see or I hear something and I write it down in my notebook before I forget it.”

“That’s how I keep my mind sharp,” said Schwenk, a retired engineer who helped develop the country’s first nuclear power plant, developed a rocket engine test cell and wrote the revolutionary book “Nuclear Power Engineering” in 1955 which is still in progress. to print.

Winners of Schwenk’s quiz receive a bottle of wine. Finalists receive small prizes. And of course, there’s a trophy, which appears in the Vi mailroom for a week, with the names of the winners. Winners can also take it home to display for a brief period if they wish. “You would think the trophy was the holy grail,” Schwenk said with a laugh.

For contestant Louise Reighard, however, everyone feels like a winner.

“It’s more fun (after the contest) to see what the answers are because a lot of us can’t remember a particular question,” she said. “You feel more rewarded than when you walked in.

About Jefferey G. Cannon

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