Randy Ray (BA 1974 UTSC) receives a lot of second looks when he wears his “What the heck is a pingo?” T-shirt. If asked, he will patiently explain that pingos are ice-cored hills in Canada’s North, which the Inuit once used as freezers. Ray doesn’t mind the questions and curious stares, because they testify to people’s appetite for weird and wonderful facts – and his business is peddling weird and wonderful facts. He and his longtime pal Mark Kearney, known as Canada’s Trivia Guys, recently released the Canadian trivia book Pucks, Pablum & Pingos (Hounslow Press, 2004). With 230 pages of quirky facts on everything from history and politics to culture and sports, the book informs readers without overwhelming them, he says. “Our books are a light, fun read, yet people learn something about their country. They’ve been called great bathroom books, which I take as a compliment.”
Ray and Kearney met as cub reporters in 1977 at the London Free Press and are now freelance writers based in Ottawa, Ont., and London, Ont., respectively. They’ve co-written seven books of Canadiana in all. “Reporters are always trying to find answers, sometimes about really obscure things. It’s a natural progression from that to writing trivia books,” says Kearney, who briefly attended UTSC.
The new book contains six tidbits about U of T, including that in 1909 the U of T Varsity Blues defeated the Parkdale Canoe Club to win the first Grey Cup. This is a worthy piece of trivia because of the “wow factor,”says Ray. “Unless someone says, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that,’ we’re not satisfied.”