two thousand twenty
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I recently had an opportunity to participate as a judge in the Wayne County History Bowl 2010 on March 13 at Williamson Middle School.  The contest was given in two parts, a written exam and an oral presentation patterned after the television program, "Jeopardy."  The subject, as always, was general Wayne County History and all contestants were given the same material to study in preparation.

As on the TV show, there were two rounds of the oral segment in which the students could choose categories and point values.  Part I categories were "M" is for..., Name that Town, Celebrities, Picture This and From the Farm.  Questions in Part II were entitled, Where Am I?, POW, Dictionary.com, After the Revolution and Can I have a Date?

Each team consisted of four students, grades 5-8 from each school.  Red Creek team members were in grades 7 and 8, Williamson students were all 8th graders, while the Lyons Middle School team was from grades 5 and 6.

The History Bowl was played very similarly to the television show.  The Lyons team quickly became the underdogs, which could be laid to inexperience and stage fright, and their total points fell far short of the other two teams during the first two rounds.  Red Creek's team consistently fought head to head with the Williamson students to a very close second at that point.

Then came the final round where, as in the television version, the final question was the same for everyone.  The players were to decide how many points from their accumulated scores they wanted to bet and write their answers to the question.

That question was, "In the 1800's, a second railroad through the southern towns was completed.  What was it called?"  Bear in mind, all teams had the same material to study for the competition and were aware of the answers to the questions they might be asked.

We watched as the confident team from Williamson made and all-or-nothing bet and quickly wrote down their answer.  The students from Red Creek were a little more conservative with their bet, wagering enough to remain on the board if they missed the answer.  The youngsters from Lyons looked at each other as if they were not sure they sould even be in the competition at this point.  Finally they committed about two-thirds of their points and used the entire time allotment to decide on their answer.

When time was up, the Lyons team answered, "Palmyra???" which was incorrect, of course.  However, they retained 1400 of their points because they were unsure of their answer.

The Red Creek team held up their slate showing the answer as "Pennsylvania RR."  That too was incorrect and their total points became less than 1000.

The spokesman from Williamson answered with a confident grin and strong voice, "West Coast," and indicated they had wagered all their points.  The MC looked toward us for a final ruling - and maybe to add a little suspense to the proceedings.  We looked at each other and unanimously ruled it unacceptable.  When the MC indicated, "Incorrect," the Williamson score was reduced to 0 and a roar of applause went up from the Lyons parents and friends.  Of course the correct answer was West Shore RR.

That final round grabbed my interest because a short time earlier I had written a commentary for the area newspapers in reference to President Obama's budget speech wherein he stated support of an $8 billion (with a b) project to improve and install a High Speed Rail line across the US.  Over $151 million has already been earmarked for work to be done in New York State.  I compared the rise and fall of the short-lived West Shore Railroad Co. to the possible issues facing HSR unless concerted attention was paid to establishing and funding maintenance of such a line - if indeed it is ever completed.  But then, that is a subject for another discussion.

In short, the Lyons underdogs had prevailed that day by using conservative strategy - and garnering a lot of luck.  The team members carried home the trophy, huge blue rosettes and priceless smiles that I'm sure they still had when they arrived in school on Monday.  This was truly a case of the proverbial dark horse, long shot or sleeper winning the race, although it could also be defined as a David v Goliath victory.

Congratulations to all the students for an interesting and entertaining interlude to an otherwise gray drizzly spring Upstate New York Saturday.


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6 Comments to "Modern David v Goliath"

  1. Seth C. Burgess Said,

    Congrats to Lyons on the surprise win at the 2010 Wayne County History Bowl.

    This would have been a fun event to watch live!

    Posted on Wed Mar 17, 09:29:00 AM EDT

  2. Gil Burgess Said,

    Let's have some fun and carry the question a step or two further: What was the complete name of the railroad and what "west shore" is referred to in the name?

    Posted on Wed Mar 17, 09:46:00 AM EDT

  3. John Zornow Said,

    I remember the "West Shore" that ran through Newark until the late 1950's early 60's. I lived on West Miller St. and could hear the trains traveling through the night, the click, clack of the rails.
    It wasn't until years later when Newark purchased the now abandoned rail right of way that I noticed the abstract read "New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. I checked further and learned that the West Shore had been organized as a competitor to the New York Central, but was taken over by them. It ran from New Jersey across the Hudson River from New York City, north along the west shore of the river to Albany, then on to Buffalo. I have a rare Edgett-Burnham label that shows West Shore brand green beans, with a drawing of a steam engine. I will send this under separate e-mail to Seth.

    Posted on Wed Mar 17, 10:36:00 AM EDT

  4. Seth C. Burgess Said,

    Here's a link to to the West Shore can label:

    West Shore Brand Whole Refugee Beans

    Thanks for sharing John!

    Posted on Wed Mar 17, 08:34:00 PM EDT

  5. Gil Burgess Said,

    OK, in somewhat of a roundabout way John has answered the question. The complete name of the "West Shore" Railroad was the "New York, West Shore & Buffalo." And, yes, the west shore to which it refers is the west shore of the Hudson. The New York Central ran on the east shore and the line on the west shore is still busy with freight today---although most of the West Shore RR west of Albany has been taken up. Some spurs and sidings are still in use.---Nice looking can label!!!

    Posted on Thu Mar 18, 03:49:00 PM EDT

  6. Anonymous Said,

    My blog post about the WC History Bowl question has drawn some interesting comments. As for the name(s) of the West Shore RR, as I understand, it was renamed four (4) times before it went bandrupt and was usurped by the New York Central. In chronological order they were, Hudson River West Shore Railroad Co., Inc., West Shore Hudson River Railroad, West Shore and Chicago Railroad and finally New York West Shore & Buffalo Railway Co. -- And yes, it is a gorgeous hand drawn and designed label - those were the good ole days before CAD!

    Posted on Thu Mar 18, 08:24:00 PM EDT


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