Teacher’s Pandemic-Era Trivia Nights Culminate in New Book

Update: Timeless Trivia is now available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.

Canby High School social studies teacher Bob Hammitt likes to make people think. Don’t believe me? It’s true. He even wrote a book about it.

Dubbed Timeless Trivia: 1,000 Questions, Teasers, and Stumpers for When You Have Nothing but Time, Hammitt’s book goes on sale on Amazon next week. But the writing of it began months ago, in the early days of the pandemic, when he started hosting trivia nights on his Instagram to help his friends — and himself — keep their sanity.

“I was just trying to think of something I could do to be helpful to people,” Hammitt tells The Canby Current. “I came up with the idea of running a trivia contest on Instagram, asked a few students and former students if they would be interested, and they said yes, so we did it.”

The games — not surprisingly — got pretty competitive.

“We did 25 questions each night, and they were of a really wide variety,” said Hammitt, who has long been known for the bite-sized history lessons and interesting factoids he regularly shares on his Facebook page and blog, The Unfinished Pyramid. “I was trying to make it where everyone from a 15-year-old to an 80-year-old feel like they knew some questions.”

The effort was successful in helping Hammitt and his friends reconnect during the onset of the distancing era — and cope with the stress and challenges of the coronavirus and all its associated issues.

But it also showcased the generosity of the Canby community. The prize each night was a $20 gift card to a local restaurant, but most of these were declined — not because the recipient didn’t like the food or had no need of it, but because they wanted to see it go to someone who needed it even more.

“I’d say, about 80 percent of the time, the winner refused their prize, matched the $20, and we were able to give a $40 gift certificate to a family in need,” Hammitt said, adding that Canby Dance coach Jennifer Chaffee did a lot of the leg work of finding families in need and delivering the gift cards.

“I was really amazed and so proud of the generosity of so many people — many of them who were experiencing hardships of their own.”

Bob Hammitt. Submitted photo.

The questions themselves also took on something of a life of their own, and that inspired Hammitt to make the book.

A few friends asked him to email the questions because they wanted to play with their own families and friends, he said. Pat Johnson, the retired longtime principal at Canby High School, used them for a class he is teaching in southern California.

Hammitt’s favorite was a friend in Massachusetts who used the idea to raise money for kids in need in his community.

“I felt really proud of that,” he said. “All of the people I sent them to were really appreciative, so I thought, ‘Wow, if I packaged them all into an e-book or something, more people could have fun and I could maybe make a few bucks, too.’ I mean, the work was already done.”

The topics include sports, history, geography, science, movies, music, television, and so on. The collection is meant to be challenging to old, young, in-between, and fun for all different types of people.

A few examples: “At 8 minutes, 36 seconds, what is the longest song ever to reach #1 on the Billboard Chart?” “What did Disneyland begin selling to the general public inside the park for the first time in 2019?” and “Name the college football program that appeared in every season ending AP Top 25 poll from 1969 to 2001.”

(That would be “American Pie” by Don McLean, alcohol and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.)

The last one could be seen as a nod to Canby High School football coach and fellow teacher Jimmy Joyce, who came up with the winning name for the book in what was — of course — a contest hosted by Hammitt on his Facebook page.

His prize? The Cougar football program will receive a portion of the profits from the book’s sales — expected to be primarily Kindle royalties on Amazon, but the interest in the project has also led him to move forward with a paperback version.

The Kindle version will be $1.99 for the first five days on Amazon, and then go to $4.99 after that. Price and availability of the paperback version has not yet been set. Stay tuned to The Canby Current for details to come.

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