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10 Memorable Moments From Our Trivia Show

Note: We're coming to San Francisco next! Get your tickets now!

While I generally think of myself as a polite person, I am THE WORST at writing thank you notes. This is embarrassingly true: Sometimes I’ll write a thank you note in my head after opening a gift, obsessing over it for a few days, but then, for one reason or another, I’ll never actually commit it to paper. Worse, when I do write up a thank you note (like the note I wrote Jason English when he sent my kids a bunch of bedtime reading books and a collection of Richard Nixon paper dolls), I’ll often forget to mail it. And when I finally remember to drop it in the mail, I feel like it needs an accompanying apology note because now it’s so belated, so then I never send anything out.

See? I told you I’m the worst.

But today, I’m doing the unthinkable (for me). I’m writing you, the 150 or so people who came out to the Mental Floss Trivia Show in New York’s Flat Iron Room last week, to thank you for making it such a super fun night.

Here are some of the things I didn’t expect to happen, but really made me happy:

1. We raised over $2000 for John and Hank Green's Project4Awesome charity! (All the ticket sales from our 3-city tour are being donated, and we might even add some more locations as we go.) Thank you for helping us use our Trivia Powers for good!

2. We ran out of space! It was so packed that even NY1’s Pat Kiernan had to patiently waiting in line. (Also: thank you for coming Pat Kiernan! You’re the best!)

3. Some of you are very talented dancers. Specifically, I did not expect this Flosser to get on stage and do The Spongebob, a dance I only learned about a few weeks ago.

4. This guy won some delicious cupcake flavored toothpaste, and shared it with his table after indulging in the free apps. He shared it with me too! (It tastes suspiciously like icing. I had seconds.)

5. Not only have several of you seen Space Jam, you actually remember specific quotes from it. (For updates on the Space Jam movie, you can visit the official site here.)

6. For some reason, this painting was on the wall. (If I had the option, I would have this painting travel with us so each of you could bask in its genius as well.)

7. The Roving Typist, who I’d actually wanted to commission a story on because I love what he does so much (he totes his typewriter around the city and writes stories for people he meets), came to the event and ended up on stage! I only realized he was there when I was looking back at pics from the event today.

The Roving Typist from Mark on Vimeo.

8. We gave out a lot of prizes. (And food and drinks, too!)

9. Mike Rugnetta from PBS’ Idea Channel was there. He is terrific. You should subscribe!

10. I think a generally good time was had by all. Thank you to everyone who came out to support the show and the Project4Awesome. If you enjoyed it, and you’ve got pals in San Francisco or Chicago, we’ll be in those cities on June 18th and July 30th respectively. Tell them to come see the show so we can ply them with bad jokes, booze, oh, and some really great trivia.

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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