Thursday, January 17, 2013

A little knowledge can be life-changing

I am a fan of arcane knowledge, virtually worthless information that serves little purpose other than to prove to others you have way too much time on your hands. For instance, what does the “S” stand for in Ulysses S. Grant? A common belief is it stands for “Simpson,” but actually it doesn’t represent anything. His real name was Hiram Ulysses Grant. He changed it because he didn't want to enter West Point with initials like H.U.G. (would you?). He was named Hiram, after his grandfather, and Ulysses, after the hero in Greek mythology. Feel free to us this at your next party if you want.

Now once in a while useless information can come in handy or, in extreme cases, put money in your pocket. As far as the former, it is good to know how to figure square footage and convert to square yardage when buying carpet, as floors are usually measured in square feet and carpet is sold in square yards (there is nine square feet in a square yard). Or have a rudimentary understanding of quantum physics when watching The Big Bang Theory. As far as arcane, obscure facts putting money in your pocket it doesn’t seem likely, however, that wasn’t the case with Nancy Christy.

Christy, in December of 2008, was facing one last question before walking away with a cool $1 million as a contestant on the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?  Anyone familiar with the show knows the tension during the final question. Meredith’s voice lowers a notch and her brow furrows lending gravity to the moment. In the background a timpani can be heard along with a touch of deep brass; the symphony equivalent of a drum roll. The contestant is nervous and apprehensive wondering if the final question will be something familiar. Is so, a millionaire is born. If not, sorry Charlie.

With her final question Christy was no different. The tension was thick, the apprehension palpable. Then it came: “Who did Grant Wood use as a model for the farmer in his classic painting American Gothic.” As soon as the question was asked, the tension drained from Christy’s face. In another venue, and not on national television, Christy might have stood up, threw her fist in the air and said “bring it on” (I have done this when playing Trivial Pursuit). But she didn’t. Rather, maintaining her decorum, she listened patiently while Meredith read her the choices: “Traveling Salesman, Local Sheriff, His Dentist or His Butcher.”

Prior to answering, Christy—ready to burst—explained she had worked in the theatre at one time and opened a show dressed as Nan, hinting she had this one in the bag. Then answered correctly: “His Dentist.” At that moment, the confetti dropped and Meredith, shedding her solemn demeanor, jubilantly announced Christy was the first woman $1 million winner. All because at one time in her life she took a bit more than a passing interest in American Gothic.

Since her big win, Christy has become a collector of Grant Wood memorabilia (and why not?). She has made a pilgrimage to the Chicago Art Institute to view the original American Gothic as well as visited here at the Center (picture to right). She has said for obvious reasons American Gothic changed her life. All because she knew an arcane, obscure bit of information having little impact on the universe. But significantly impacted her world.
Given this, a visit to the American Gothic House Center or a Google search for Grant Wood or American Gothic could turn a mental note into much more. Imagine the possibilities.

Click here to view Nancy Christy’s winning answer: Nancy Christy

One last piece of worthless information. For those who watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Meredith is only known by her first name, there is no mention of a surname as if she is just “Meredith” like Ghandi, Michaelangelo or Beyonce. Meredith does have a last name and it is Vieira. Never know it might win you some money someday. I doubt it, but then again...

Upcoming events

Winter has a tendency to be a bit slow here at the American Gothic House Center and events are sparse but a big one is on the horizon: Grant Wood’s Birthday Soup Smorgasbord on Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the KD Center in Eldon. Besides homemade soup and birthday cake there will be door prizes and the winner of the American Gothic House print by Chris Abigt will be drawn. So mark your calendar.

Click here to buy raffle tickets for original print framed with original porch boards from the American Gothic House: Raffle Tickets

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 |

1 comment:

  1. What a neat story! How cool to have her visit and become a Grant Wood collector.