January 2, 2013

Sepia Saturday: #158: Trivial Pursuit and a Taste of Freedom

#4: Trivial Pursuit (Continuing along with my countdown of top Christmas gifts. Although this piece is not about Christmas, it speaks to my introduction to the game which, thanks to "Santa", I received myself the following Christmas. I also think it lends itself to the prompt in a few different ways.)

In 1982, the summer after my second year of university, a number of interesting events took place: Italy won the The World Cup of Soccer , Canadians, Chris Haney and Scott Abbott released the game of Trivial Pursuit, and I had my first real taste of freedom.

After finishing a year of ponderous 19th-century fiction and theoretical Sociology texts, summer was a welcome respite. One of my friends, Gail MacDonald was from our nation’s capital, Ottawa and was staying in Mississauga over the season to take some extra courses at Erindale College (now University of Toronto at Mississauga). She and another student-friend from home had been placed in an on-campus house that had been on the property since long before the college was constructed in the 1970s. It was a cute little log and stone cabin with hardwood floorboards, a quaint, tiny kitchen and a few small bedrooms.

Gail advised me one day that her brother and a few of his friends were coming down from Ottawa to stay with them and visit some friends at the University of Waterloo. She wondered if I’d like to come over and meet them, and being the social butterfly that I was—never one to miss an opportunity to meet new members of the opposite sex—I told her I most assuredly would.

My mid-life brain does not permit me to recall the names of everybody who was present for those few days that summer. Gail’s brother was Tom, I believe, her girlfriend’s last name was Summerhill or something like that and the others completely escape me, although I did develop quite a crush on one of the friends and it was reciprocated, but for the fact that he had a girlfriend back home (naturally).

My parents were always the souls of generosity when it came to my friends. My mother would prepare meals for anyone I wanted to invite and my dad was the perfect host – always foisting more of my mom’s good cooking onto anyone with an empty plate or glass. So, it wasn’t long before the gang was at my house having lunch, or a bar-b-que or even breakfast.

On one of those afternoons, I recall one of the guys went out to the car and brought back a fairly large teal-blue box with fancy gold script on the lid and plonked it down on our bench-style picnic table in the backyard. What was emptied out of that box was to prove an ongoing pleasure to me for years to come. Out came a playing board that unfolded like Japanese origami, a small plastic bag filled with dice, muticoloured 3 dimensional triangles and little round receptacles that looked like carved pies. As well, there were two magic boxes, chock full of cards loaded with categorized trivia questions.

This was Trivial Pursuit. Hot off the presses, the guys (who were a little on the “geeky” side) had been waiting for it to arrive and had snatched a copy up as soon as it hit the shelves. We were one of the first groups ever to lay out that board and play the game.

I had been raised on an eclectic mix of movies and television courtesy of my film-buff family, so my favourite category was Entertainment. As well, my dad had a mind like a steel-trap and my mother was a big reader. I had inherited their senses of curiosity and possessed a sharp memory myself, so I was pretty darn good at this new game.

On one of the days, we all piled in Gail’s brother’s car—some beat up late 70′s model, probably with no seat belts, and headed across the 401 and up to Kitchener-Waterloo to visit the university. I had never been further west than Burlington without my parents and the exhilaration of cruising in a car with relative strangers, who were my peers, was intoxicating.

At UW, we hung out in a residence in a tower block of apartment buildings, drinking coffee and playing the game until all hours. We were all Catholic, by coincidence, not design and we took some time out to go to Mass on campus at St. Jerome’s, which was a really strange thing for me—spending time with a group of individuals who seemed to be like-minded on just about every front.

The best night I remember however, was back at the cabin at Erindale in Mississauga. We feasted on a simple dinner of spaghetti and salad (I had a hand in the cooking and somehow, preparing food away from home was one of the most singularly liberating experiences up to that point in my life). We were all lounging around, chatting, goofing about, draped across various pieces of furniture and Gail’s brother pulled out a guitar. He was quite good on the instrument and I think I had a glass of wine left over from dinner because I was feeling pretty mellow and free. It was one of those epiphany moments where you think to yourself, “I wish it could be this way forever; I’m so happy right now”, because somehow, on some level, you recognize how it most likely will never be the same again, and this often proves true.

Tom played Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done” and I found myself singing the whole song as he played and the others just listened. To this day, whenever I hear that song, I’m transported back to 1982, the cottage on Erindale’s grounds and the summer friends I made that year. It was bliss.


Kat Mortensen©2009Creative Commons Licence

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  1. Happy New Year Kat !!

    Great post, and I hope it won't make you too jealous to know that I have just got tickets to see Neil Young in London this summer ... Keep on Rockin' in the Free World :-)

  2. Happy New Year Kat. Ah Neil Young is still The Business. Great Memories!

  3. I loved your memories, and of course they triggered mine about Trivial Pursuit's beginnings. What fun!

  4. Luckily I never played Trivial Pursuit. From what I heard about it, the trivia was mainly from categories I knew little about.

  5. I remember when Trivial Pursuit came out. It was an expensive game. My sister and her husband went in with us to buy it. So much fun!

  6. For "using old images as prompts for new memories", read "using old games as prompts for new memories". Great post Kat.

  7. I enjoy reading your posts, Kat; they bring back such memories of when I lived in Ontario. During spring break in Grade 13, so many years ago, friends and I drove from Timmins to southern Ontario and visited various universities to see which ones we'd like to attend. I particularly remember the quiet campus at UW and thinking it would be a great place to study. (I eventually went to Ottawa U, though, lol.)

  8. We still have Trivial Pursuit in the top of our hall cupboard. It's so old I suspect that there must be a new set of Trivia cards now. It was always good fun.

  9. Oh my - I adore Neil Young- although he's a bit not so vibrant in his looks these days- but his voice still knocks me over- I listen to him all the time. Love the game Trivial Pursuit too, but sometimes people (that I know) won't play because they are afraid they won't know enough- but really the game helps teach and remind us about things we have forgotten, right!

  10. Wonderful memories and it does sound like a perfect summer. My parents never have agreed to me going out of town. I just knew such perfect days were out there waiting for me to find them. Glad you got to have them!

  11. A fine post. The power of music to bring up those memories of joy or sadness is amazing, but I don't think trivia questions trigger happy thoughts very often.

  12. What a wonderful story, Kat. I love these autobiographical posts of yours.

    Happy New Year,

    Kathy M.

  13. Oh my, it's been so long since I played this game. It sets in the closet collecting dust. I recently found my old Password game and was astounded by the complexity of the words chosen. I'm guessing the vocabulary level of the game would go right over the heads of most kids today. I base this judgement on how I have seen textbooks continually dumbed down over the past several decades.

  14. I used to love playing Trivial Pursuit! I can't remember people's names but I've always been good at coming up with nonsensical pieces of information and bits of movie, TV and book tidbits.

  15. That song - or the Harvest album, really - holds special memories for me too. It was the first gift I received from my future husband when we were in college and had just started dating. It takes me right back in time! Thanks for the memories - yours and mine!