Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Feb. 2, 2007

The little state that could

On Kansas Day, one native son, who now lives and works in Michigan, proudly shares information about the Sunflower State with others. Dave Johnson started doing a celebration at work a little more than 10 years ago "just to put a bright spot in the Michigan mid-winter." He took muffins and milo to work and served his Kansas cuisine on "Kansas Day Festive Quiz Placemats" that he made.

"It was the popped milo that really impressed them," he said. "My co-workers humored me in my tongue-in-cheek boasting, and I kept doing it year after year. The company I worked for really would use any excuse for a company party, even Kansas Day."

After a few years, Dave started e-mailing the quiz to friends and they, in turn, forwarded it to others. That's how he "met" my husband Art, who each year sends the quiz to many of his e-mail buddies. The quizzes cover Kansas history, geography, current events and pop culture.

I just recently became acquainted with Dave through e-mail and, being curious about his past quizzes, I asked if he'd send me his place mats. He replied that he would and they arrived, quite appropriately, on Jan. 29.

Many of the questions are light-hearted.

"The state animal of Kansas is: A. the chimpanzee, B. the giraffe, C. the Nile crocodile, D. the buffalo" was a question from 1996.

One from the following year was: "Finish the line from the Kansas state song, 'Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo _____.' A. fiddle, B. roam, C. mind their own business, D. wipe their feet before entering."

Questions in subsequent years were a bit more serious.

"A few weeks ago, I attended a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial breakfast. The speaker helped me to fill in some gaps in my knowledge of American history. Only a couple of weeks after the breakfast, I learned that the last college campus that King spoke at before his death was: A. Harvard, B. Stanford, C. Yale, D. Kansas State University."

Another example:

"Sometimes I regret that my kids don't know who the Jolly Green Giant is. He's a vivid childhood memory for me. The best part of him was that unforgettable deep 'HO HO HO' that you always waited for at the end of the commercial. That 'HO HO HO' wasn't computer-generated or synthesized. It was the genuine bass voice of Elmer Dressler, Jr., who died in 2005 at 80 years of age. A great voice must have a great origin, and Mr. Dressler's origin was: A. Vegas, B. Queens, C. London, D. St. Francis, KS."

Dave looks for ideas throughout the year and has regular contributors, including his mother, who supplies him with a steady flow of newspaper clippings from which he selects many of his questions. Art and I have even given him a couple of suggestions.

An example was the following question from Dave's 2007 quiz:

"If you're into fashion, you may have noticed that the bob haircut is making a comeback. Some beauty magazines say that it's in the top ten of most influential hairstyles in history. It was made famous by silent film star Louise Brooks, and in times past it was referred to as the 'Louise Brooks bob.' Louise had been sporting the style every since her childhood in: A. Cherryvale, KS B. Chicago, C. New Orleans, D. L.A."

Dave dedicated this year's quiz to his mom, who, he says, "instilled in me a grateful heart for a great heritage."

And speaking of heritage, here's one final question that any self-respecting Riley Countian should be able to answer:

"Manhattan, Kansas, is home of the KSU Wildcats. Rivaling its eastern namesake for fame, Manhattan, KS has been dubbed A. 'The Little Apple,' B. 'The Little Orange,' C. 'The Little Bartlett Pear,' D. 'The Little Engine That Could.'"

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