Sometime in March, as my
trip to the Jersey Shore was on the horizon, my brother asked me if I would
like to attend the inaugural Avon by the Sea trivia contest. Harry bought
five tickets at the local library. This was not an out of the way errand
for my brother. The Carnegie style library, built with a $5,000 donation
from Andrew himself, is a whopping four blocks from my brother's home. Pay
attention - that might be a question! And Harry visits the book house
every day to print puzzles and schmooze with Sheila, one of two librarians in a
small quaint building. The tickets were for Harry and his wife, Dori, me,
and their neighbors Tom and Gloria. But teams of five were disallowed,
leaving the three Hillson's on their own, and the neighbors to fend for
As we got closer a
surprise prize was revealed - Best Team Name. I tossed a few out to Harry
and he didn't reply, or didn't see them, or just didn't care to comment.
A few days before the event, Harry revealed his choices to Dori and me:
The CO-NJ ecturers / The
CO- NJ oiners / Greta Garbo - Avon to be alone
witty in a Harry kind of way, they were obscure and confusing. Here is
what I tossed back to my brother:
Babes, Bros and Bards of Avon / Brain Waves / Brains of Sand
Jeopardy Rejects / Alibis of Avon / The Sandtastics
Harry and Dori whittled
it down to two choices, and in a non-unanimous vote we decided on Brains of
Sand. Cute and geographically correct, if you will. Brains of Sand
didn't win the best name prize, which was OK by me, because it was a round of
drinks for the teammates, and I do not drink.
In preparation for the
casual competition, I read about Avon on the internet. Wiki is so helpful
and much less cumbersome than the Encyclopedia Britannica. Accuracy,
after all is overrated. When I arrived in Avon on June first, I felt like
Harriet the Spy, looking for clues in street names and business signs. I
read the faded bronze plaque on the drawbridge. I studied a pictorial
little edition about the history of Avon by the Sea. I tried memorizing
important dates like when Avon was founded (by white men, don't get me started),
and the Avon Inn fire. I kind of remembered that Batchelor was the
founder, and there may have been a Baptist camp here as well. But I didn't
catch the part about this guy growing tobacco or it just wasn't mentioned in
the lighthearted little tome. That last wacky fact about tobacky was not
known to the BOS (Brains of Sand), and when the question appeared we got it
wrong. I learned that The Columns, where trivia night was held, had 74
columns in the building, but alas, that was not asked. All told BOS came
in seventh out of maybe 18 or 19 teams. It was hard to keep interested
after a long night and knowing we didn't stand a chance. But I will say
our ranking isn't bad for three non-native Avonians, one of whom (me) lives
1800 miles from the shore.
I did manage to win a
door prize. If you know me, you know I have that kind of magic. I
was giddy to win something that night, and when the prize announced was a $50.00 gift certificate to Casa Grande, I thought woo-hoo! Huevo Rancheros
for the Hillson's but, I quickly learned that Casa Grande is a liquor
store and sheepishly handed over the loot over to Dori. I knew she'd put
it to good use. Kind of comical that the visiting teetotaling Bard of
Avon won the prize to imbibe. Oh well. There was also a 50/50.
This is when participants buy raffle tickets, and half the take goes to the
organization and the other half to one lucky winner. The amount raised that
night was $700.00, so one trivia buff would be lucky to receive 350 bucks if
their ticket was picked. As if politicians don't have their hands
in everyone's pocket as it is, the winner was the mayor of Avon. Does
that sound fishy to you?
My brother also won a
seemingly random pop-up trivia question, but a bit of backstory is needed here
before I reveal the punchline. Avon has an annual 5K the first Saturday
in June to benefit the local rescue squad. Obviously this was cancelled
in 2020 and methinks (how's that for a Bard of Avon word?) 2021 as well.
Harry mentioned this local event in April, and I signed myself up early so I
would be sure to get the T-shirt. If you haven't bought a souvenir T
lately, allow me to tell you they are pricey. Here in Avon, on the
boardwalk, T's are $36.00 with a few at 20% off that outrageous amount. I
was on the right track when I put 2 and 2 together - here is my
math. Twenty-five dollars to sign up for the race, plus getting my
souvenir T, plus acting like a local to prevent me from shopping, and the
entry fee going to a good cause. All good stuff in my book.
On the day of the race,
I walked down the steps of the condo, (I mention this because steps have been
my nemesis lately) and I strolled all of 3/4's of a block to the starting
point. Ocean Avenue was closed to car traffic, and I was able to stand
aimlessly in the middle of the street waiting for Harry and Dori. There
was a man with a mic, and it doesn't take an ex-event planner to figure out he
might be in charge. I said good morning and he said good morning, and
then he asked all the runners and walkers that were on the sidewalks and
boardwalks to assemble in the street. And then he thanked me for being
among the first to be compliant, which was definitely a first for me. I
said something to him about having had some experience herding cats, and then
Harry and Dori came, and the bagpiper started walking and wailing and we were
off. I, of course, was a walker. Maybe an ambler at best.
Harry and Dori went ahead of me and were at the finish line waiting for
me. I did not win the award for slowest walker, (there wasn't one) and I
finished in 1:05 which for me at 63, with rheumatoid arthritis and waterfall
knees* is a win!
At least I finished!
Now back to my first
days here. On one of my boardwalk strolls with my brother he pointed at
the Lifeguard Headquarters, a two-story hut on the west side of the boardwalk,
at the very end of Sylvania Ave. Which means that every time Harry walks
to the beach or drives down to Ocean Avenue he sees this white cedar
structure. Harry told me that this little building is the only place on
the boardwalk he has not been to, by which I took to me in
to. But now that I think of it, I doubt he's been in the few
beach badge selling stations, inside the ladies bathrooms, or under the
boardwalk like The Drifters liked to sing about.
I had also come to learn that the guy with the microphone on 5K day was affectionately
known as Mr. Avon. Tim Gallagher is a former borough administrator and
has some sort of beachy job these days where he can show up to work shirtless, wearing red shorts. I saw him quite a few times but wanted to time my
approach to be closer to Trivia Night. My opportunity came on the Monday
before the big night at the Columns. The Hillsons snuck in an extra
beach day before needing to take our sister to Trenton that afternoon for her
afternoon flight home. We were down by the shoreline and who walks by in
his very casual uniform clutching a radio? That's right - Tim G. I
reintroduced myself, and introduced my sister to be polite, and grilled him a
bit about the upcoming evening of festivities. Oh? Tim himself is
the emcee? Oh? Tim will be holding the mic again? Oh? Tim knows my brother, all right. And that is when I went in for the ask and
Tim graciously obliged.
Remember the pop-up
prize Harry won at Trivia Night? Well, technically Dori won, but
nonetheless how would it come to be that the emcee would ask the following
'trivia' question between rounds "What is Harry Hillson's
middle name?". Only three people besides the MC knew this answer,
and I wasn't vying for the reward that Mr. Tim Gallagher announced in the
moments before posing the query. And Tim only knew because... well, that would be me and my magic. The day before, on the beach, I had asked Tim to insert this oddball question into trivia night, and he graciously complied. Only Mr. Avon and I would know that Harry would have a little wish come true.
The prize for my brother
knowing his own middle name was a tour of the lifeguard hut. It is a good
thing I had a mask on, because I am pretty sure I was smirking underneath
it. Dori was waving her hands and Harry looked like he was in shock, and
I was trying to keep a straight half a face. Dori went up and got the
prize and Harry turned to me and said that it had to have been four or five
years ago that he had told Tim he wanted to see the lifeguard hut and
wow!! - he couldn't believe Tim remembered that and engineered this
surprise. That word - engineered - is my word - I was so busy trying not to give myself, my mischief and my magic making abilities away, I cannot
remember exactly what was said.
I didn't burst my brother's bubble. And as far as I know he hasn't claimed his prize yet. We all like to feel special and I may have helped that along a wee bit for my bro, but does it matter? And Harry - if you are reading this blog, now you know how much I love you!
Mr. Avon - Tim Gallagher. My sidekick in antics!
Jane Hillson Aiello and Harry Hillson
* Waterfall knees - the aftermath of hiking waterfall in upstate NY.