Sunday, September 4, 2016


There was a time when I used to spend countless hours every week entering contests. Back then, people didn’t have computers in their homes, so contests had to be entered by mailing postcards or entry blanks to the sponsors.

Through trial and error, I managed to figure out how to win at least something in the majority of the contests I entered. One strategy was to enter right before the contest ended. That way, my entries would be on top of the mail sacks and have a better chance of being selected.

Another trick I learned, mostly through research, was that contest entries had to be exactly the way the rules stated.  For example, if the rules said to write, “My dog LOVES Puppy Wuppy chew treats,” on a 3x5-inch card, the words had to be exactly as listed. If you forgot to capitalize a word or you left out a quotation mark, your entry would become fireplace kindling. The same was true if you used anything other than a 3x5-inch card.

As a result of my intense contest entering, I won some pretty interesting prizes: tennis racquets autographed by Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert, a year’s supply of hot dogs, $200 in cash, jewelry, books, records, movie tickets, skis, a portable TV and even a new wardrobe. But I never won the grand prize – no new car, no big vacation or cruise, no million dollars in cash.

I remember one contest I entered because I really wanted to win the grand prize, which was a complete home-entertainment system with fancy speakers and a state-of-the-art TV. I ended up winning second prize. I’ll never forget the day I received news of my prize, which was totally unexpected.  It came in the form of a phone call.

“Hi!” the caller said, his tone oozing with excitement. “I’m calling to congratulate you!  You’ve won second prize in our big entertainment sweepstakes – a phone call from Bobby Dall!”

“I won a Barbie doll?” I repeated.

“No!” he said. “Bobby Dall! You’ve won a phone call from him!”

I honestly didn’t know how to respond…mainly because I had no clue who or what a Bobby Dall was.

“He’s a member of the rock band, Poison,” the caller explained, his tone’s previous enthusiasm vanishing. After all, he’d probably expected me to squeal with delight when he announced what I’d won. “You’ve heard of Poison, haven’t you?”

Actually, I had. Stephanie, a 14-year-old girl who lived next door at that time had talked about nothing else. But the only band member she’d ever mentioned was some guy named Bret, because she had a major crush on him. She’d never mentioned this Bobby guy.

So, the caller informed me, my big prize, the phone call, was going to be delivered at 2 p.m. the next day.  I hung up and rushed next door. I figured I’d give the call to Stephanie, even though the caller wasn’t going to be her beloved Bret. At least Bobby would be the next best thing. And I was certain she’d appreciate my prize a lot more than I would, especially since I was feeling so disappointed I’d won an entertainer instead of an entertainment system.

Unfortunately, it was school-vacation week, and Stephanie was off visiting some relative in Massachusetts. So I was officially on my own when it came to Bobby Dall.

I had no Internet back then where I could look up information about Poison prior to the call. I knew nothing about the band other than Stephanie’s descriptions of Bret being “the hunkiest guy on earth.”  But I figured Bobby probably wouldn’t want to hear that. I also couldn’t look up photos of Bobby, so I had no clue what he looked like. Visions of everyone from an Elvis Presley look-alike to some wild-haired drugged-out rocker, ran through my mind.

Part of me thought maybe I’d be better off if I just didn’t answer the phone the next day. But another part of me thought maybe I should just have fun with the whole thing and talk to Bobby, come what may. I was pretty certain the poor guy was expecting to be talking to some excited teeny-bopper fan, not some clueless old married lady.

Bobby called right on schedule the next day. His voice was surprisingly soft when he announced who he was.

“Hi, Bobby,” I said, as if I were talking to an old buddy. “How’s it going?”

His silence told me he probably had expected to hear something like, “Ohmigod!  It’s Bobby Dall!  I can’t believe it! Ahhhhhhhh!” 

“So, where do you live?” he finally asked me.

“In New Hampshire.”

“Is that in Vermont?” he asked.

“Um, no – New Hampshire is a state.”

“Oh. What do you do in New Hampshire?”

I don’t know why, but I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “I’m a fashion model,” I said. “But not here in New Hampshire. I commute to Boston.”

“Really?” his tone suddenly changed dramatically – from indifferent to interested. “Is Boston far from Worcester? We’ve got a concert coming up there in a couple weeks.”

“No, it’s not that far.”

“You want to come see us?” he asked me. “I can get you a couple backstage passes, if you’re interested.”

“Sure!” I said. “Sounds great!” I actually was thinking of Stephanie when I answered.

“Good, I’ll have someone get in touch with you about it.”

After I hung up, I started laughing, thinking what would happen if I did show up backstage at his concert. Believe me, the words “fashion model” never would come to anyone’s mind when looking at me.

As it turned out, the day before the Worcester concert, a couple of the band members had a big disagreement that reportedly got physical, and they ended up canceling the concert. 

Alas, once the Internet became popular and most contests switched over to online entering, I no longer had a strategy for winning. Still, I did try my luck online, mainly because it was cheaper with no postage involved. I won absolutely nothing. So I eventually stopped entering contests.

But last Saturday, I went to the Pembroke-Allenstown Old Home Day celebration. One of the big attractions there is the annual raffle, where dozens of prizes are awarded. Every year for the past 20 years, I’ve faithfully purchased raffle tickets. And every year for the last 20 years, I haven’t won a thing.

So this year, I bought only six tickets…and I won a brand new guitar, valued at about $150.  Needless to say, I was both shocked and delighted, mainly because I hadn’t won a contest of any kind for so long, and the guitar was a pretty decent prize.

Maybe I should call Bobby Dall and ask him if he can teach me how to play it.


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