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Trivia night at Barley House a fun, family affair

  • Barbara Barbour whispers a suggestion for an answer to Marcia King in the first round of questions during Trivia night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. Barbour and King were a part of the team "Show me your wits."<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Barbara Barbour whispers a suggestion for an answer to Marcia King in the first round of questions during Trivia night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. Barbour and King were a part of the team "Show me your wits."

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Chris Corbin, left, searches his memory for the answer to the question about the English meaning of the Russian word "perestroika" during Trivia Night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. "I'm taking a political science class," Corbin explained. "I should know this."<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Chris Corbin, left, searches his memory for the answer to the question about the English meaning of the Russian word "perestroika" during Trivia Night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. "I'm taking a political science class," Corbin explained. "I should know this."

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Deb Shea, who owns the restaurant with her husband Brian, reads the questions during Trivia Night at Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. Shea is often the one at the microphone reading the questions and will direct them at some of her regulars when she knows it might be a topic of their interest. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Deb Shea, who owns the restaurant with her husband Brian, reads the questions during Trivia Night at Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. Shea is often the one at the microphone reading the questions and will direct them at some of her regulars when she knows it might be a topic of their interest.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Darby VanAmburg, left, and Lynn Casey, right, go over the halftime sheet during Trivia Night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. VanAmburg and Casey are coworkers and friends that have been attending the event since its inception about seven years ago. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Darby VanAmburg, left, and Lynn Casey, right, go over the halftime sheet during Trivia Night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. VanAmburg and Casey are coworkers and friends that have been attending the event since its inception about seven years ago.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • The stamp that "The Red Pencils" team uses to sign their answer slips sits on their table ready to be used during the Trivia Night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    The stamp that "The Red Pencils" team uses to sign their answer slips sits on their table ready to be used during the Trivia Night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Barbara Barbour whispers a suggestion for an answer to Marcia King in the first round of questions during Trivia night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. Barbour and King were a part of the team "Show me your wits."<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Chris Corbin, left, searches his memory for the answer to the question about the English meaning of the Russian word "perestroika" during Trivia Night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. "I'm taking a political science class," Corbin explained. "I should know this."<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Deb Shea, who owns the restaurant with her husband Brian, reads the questions during Trivia Night at Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. Shea is often the one at the microphone reading the questions and will direct them at some of her regulars when she knows it might be a topic of their interest. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Darby VanAmburg, left, and Lynn Casey, right, go over the halftime sheet during Trivia Night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. VanAmburg and Casey are coworkers and friends that have been attending the event since its inception about seven years ago. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • The stamp that "The Red Pencils" team uses to sign their answer slips sits on their table ready to be used during the Trivia Night at the Barley House on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Barbara Barbour and two other women sat at a table in the Barley House on Wednesday night trying to recall which musical group is known for the 1980s hit singles “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” and “Look Away.” Barbour, a petite 76-year-old wearing dark jeans and a decorative black T-shirt, sat up in her seat.

“Do you know the answer?” she asked, turning to a reporter. “You can tell us the answer.”

“That’s right, you can,” one of the other women, Ellen Dokton, said, nodding.

Realizing he did not, the three returned to their internal deliberations.

“What band do we know from the ’80s?” Barbour said.

“Dave Matthews?” Dokton suggested.

“Journey,” the third woman, Marcia Kong, said.

“So if you don’t know an answer, we call it you ‘noodle it out,’ ” Barbour said, turning back to the reporter. “Some things you can’t. But, like, if they say some president, then you figure out what it was he did, and then figure out the time, and then figure out what presidents were around at that time. Sometimes we can

do it that way.”

“Noodling” is one of the tricks Barbour has acquired in the five years she has been frequenting the year-round trivia night at the restaurant in downtown Concord. Another: Sometime during round two or three, order a large slice of the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and whipped cream, and get it with ice cream. This will arguably do little to bolster one’s trivia prowess, but it may make the night more palatable, regardless.

Trivia night at the Barley House is a weekly tradition for many residents in and around Concord. Most Wednesdays between the hours of 8 and 10, groups of up to six team members pack into the restaurant’s bar and rear dining area to listen as emcee and co-owner Deb Shea recites questions over a microphone between the two rooms. After the question is asked, each group determines an answer, writes it down and takes it to a score keeper sitting next to Shea.

Barbour said she began attending trivia night when she saw it advertised on a calender at the New Hampshire chapter of Mensa, an organization of smarty pantses. She and Dokton are friends outside the world of trivia; Dokton said they were introduced by a woman “neither one of us like.” Barbour had only just met Kong. The group was playing under the alias “Show me your Wits,” she said. She then proceeded to explain the reference.

Asked why she is drawn to digging up and doling out random tidbits of knowledge, Barbour, a retired teacher from Goffstown, made a confession.

“I’m a nerd,” she said. She then turned to Dokton.

“Ellen, why do we come to trivia night?” she said.

“Because it’s fun,” Dokton replied.

“What’s the other attraction?” Barbour pressed.

“It’s useless information,” Kong said.

“Yeah,” Barbour responded, grasping a cup of hot tea. “My brother used to call me the walking encyclopedia of useless information.”

A while later, at another table, 16-year-old Josh Pifer said it was his second appearance at the weekly event. He had come with his parents, as well as a friend and fellow Concord High School senior, David Bamidele.

“I’m a veteran, basically,” Pifer said, laughing.

The conversation turned toward summer vacation, a welcome reprieve from studying, he said, and a prime season for trivia nights throughout the region.

“Junior year was tough,” he explained. “Senior year is probably going to be the easiest year. I feel like I’m pretty much done with high school, if that makes sense.”

As he finished talking, Shea announced a new question, and Pifer’s attention reverted to trivia.

“Which liquid product featured the hit song ‘Like a Prayer’ in its advertisements?” Shea asked.

Pifer turned to Bamidele. “Sing it for me,” he said.

Bamidele closed his eyes and tilted his head back. “Just like a dream to me,” he sang, holding an imaginary microphone close to his mouth.

Pifer’s mother said the group’s name was “Low Midnight.”

“It’s a play on the movie High Noon,” Pifer said. “Get it?”

A few questions later, four older women sitting a few tables over and playing under the alias “The Red Pencils” said their group had been attending trivia night for about three years – albeit in various forms. The foursome was originally called “Icky Vicky,” they said, but when its founder, Vicky Shouldis, died in 2011, the remaining members renamed it in honor of Shouldis’s dogged editing habits. (Shouldis, a freelance writer, was a longtime Monitor contributor.)

At that point, a new question was presented by Shea: “What insect does an isoopterpophobic fear if you had this and you were a homeowner?”

One of the women, Mary McEvoy-Barrett, thought out loud for moment. “You’re a homeowner, what do you not want in your house?” she asked.

“Relatives,” said Mary McGuire, the woman sitting across from her. The others erupted with laughter. “Just saying,” she said.

McGuire had an answer for the next question, too.

“Who was Murphy Brown’s favorite soul singer?” Shea asked.

“Aretha Franklin,” McGuire said, without thinking. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T. She had her on the show.”

“Nice,” the other Mary said.

“Oh, wait, now I’m second-guessing myself,” McGuire said, looking up. “The piano guy. The blind piano guy.”

She thought for a moment. “Ray Charles,” she said.

“You think Ray Charles is a soul singer?” McEvoy-Barrett said. “Ray and the Raelettes?”

“Go with your gut,” another woman, Lynn Koontz, from Hopkinton, suggested.

“You know what, I think Ray Charles was on Designing Women, actually,” McGuire said.

Two tables over, Darby Vanamburg, 32, and Lynn Casey, 45, sat alongside three others, including Casey’s twin daughters, both high school sophomores. Vanamburg said she and Casey had been coming to trivia night ever since she began working at the state’s forensic lab in Concord, where Casey also works, about seven years ago. Trivia night has helped gird their friendship; Vanamburg often eats dinner at Casey’s house, and Casey’s daughter Colleen refers to her as “Aunt Darby.”

Eventually, Casey admitted to being a crossword addict and Vanamburg brought up the subject of her cat, who she said is depressed.

“It all started because she was peeing on things,” Vanamburg said. “Like the coffee maker, the toaster – really random electronics. I’m pretty certain my sister ate a pee-bagel once because we realized she had just eaten the bagel and she’s like, ‘That’s probably why that tasted weird.’ ”

“Apparently there have been studies that it’s a sign of depression, that they’re trying to tell you something,” she added.

She said the cat had been prescribed half a Prozac each day, but so far it didn’t seem to be working.

“She’s maxed out.” Vanamburg said. “It’s not working. It just sucks, because she can’t tell you what’s wrong.”

Shortly after 10, Shea presented the final question of the night, which she said was Independence Day themed: “Which event began with the colonists throwing snowballs?”

Colleen’s eyes widened as she listened to the question. She grabbed an answer slip, scribbled something on it and hustled it to the scorekeeper at front of the room.

“Second grade is paying off so much tonight,” she said as she returned. “My teacher was obsessed with the Civil War.”

“You mean the American Revolution,” Vanamburg said.

“Yes,” she replied, grinning. “Well, I got the answer right.”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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