Which Lawrence University fraternity in 1975
won its third Midwest Championship Trivia contest?
by Nolan Zavoral
Insight magazine, March 30, 1975.
WELL, THANKS A carload, Bill Edminster. This Lawrence University sophomore with runaway brown hair across his forehead has just torpedoed the morale of his peers with simple fact. Right in the middle of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house 'on one edge of the campus, amidst 25 insomniacs who probably know Popeye's bloodlines better than their own, Bill Edminster says: "Well, we're halfway through this thing." Halfway... only halfway? It is 11 o'clock on a frosty Saturday night in Appleton, and for 25 straight hours these Phi Taus and friends of Phi Taus have pumped brains and reference books in the Midwest Championship Trivia Contest. Mean to imply that 25 hours still remain? "Shut up, Bill," somebody says.
But hang the acrimony, here's another question over the radio, a 10 pointer, and off we go swan diving into the source book", rattling answers into two phones, tapping a cup of beer from a half barrel in the hallway, forgetting "bout those Monday midterms, pursuing the dubious distinction of knowing most about least. Never mind that this really isn't a Mid-west Championship, and that all the questions aren't exactly trivia. Fight on, Phi Taus (team name: Sum Kinda Dummy). Fight on.
In fact, this competition is for Lawrence students and Appleton townspeople - those souls within local dialing distance of the campus radio station, WLFM, which emcees the brain bender. For 50 straight hours the second week-end in February, the station asks, trivia questions worth between 5 and 100 points, plays a record, takes answers over seven phones, announces correct answers and which teams scored and team standings, and asks another question. More than 17,000 calls are received, and telephone breakdowns are second only to nervous breakdowns.
At least half the student body of 1,300 competes, and teams range in size from 1 to 30 or more; a similar number of Appletonians participate in their own offcampus race. For students, this is better winter fun than sledding down the hill near the union and risking a dip in the Fox River. Or at least, it starts out as fun. It ends with a few students wanting to grab Marc Sachnoff by his long locks and sling him into the Fox.
Sachnoff (pronounced sack-nawf), a Lawrence sophomore, serves as Grand Trivia Master. The final arbiter in disputes, he also breaks egghead questions into the trivia porridge. The nerve. It's not enough that you know that Robert Young was an insurance salesman in the Father Knows Best" television show, and that The Troggs first big hit was "Wild Thing," and that an average Jelly bean has seven calories.
Oh, no. Now you have to know, too, that Thomas Whitaker Trenchard was the judge in the Lindbergh kidnapping ease, and that Thornton Wilder's play, "Our Town," took place in Grover's Corners, N.H., and that James Webster Smith was the first black to enter West Point, in 1870. A shriek in the Phi Tau house: "How're we supposed to know all this? What is that Sachnoff trying to pull? This isn't trivia. Trivia is simpler stuff." Maybe so, but Marc says firmly, "Listen, I've decided that people should know some things in this contest. It shouldn't just be mindless intelligence."
While you're trying to figure out what mindless intelligence is, I will tell you something of the Phi Taus and their unceasing fight to win a pair of suitably imprinted boys' undershorts, first prize for the on-campus winners.
THE PHI TAUS are ready for trivia this year. Bet your pledging paddle,
they are. In nine previous trivias, the Taus won twice, in 1968 and 1969, and for the last three years finished second. "We get second again, and we'll have to call ourselves Avis next year," Keth Powell says. A senior, Keith knows well the demands of the contest. As a sophomore, he was shaken from sleep to answer a question regarding his specialty, comic hooks. Quick, Keith why was Superman classified 4-F in World War II? Because with his X-ray vision he read the eye chart in the next room. Thanks, Keith. Points for the Taus.
Before Trivia Bowl X, Keith keeps his head of thick black hair over trays of 3 by 5 recipe cards, thousands of them, on which the questions and answers from previous trivias. He makes sure everything is in place, the old rock cards under music, the old Dick Van Dyke Show, listing cast, under television, and so on. Keith does this in his cramped room on the second floor of the light brick Tay house, and soon he is joined by Bill Wells, another senior who doesnt want to help so much as tune up.
Wells (congenial, lightly bearded center of the football team):
What was Maynard Krebbs middle name on the Dobie Gillis TV show?
Keith and I: Um.
Wells: Walter - that was his middle name.
Keith and I: Then what does the G stand for?
Wells: Dont know, but his middle name is was Walter. Funny thing.
Keith: Alright, what was the last line from the King Kongmovie?
Wells and I: "Um."
Keith: "Twas beauty that killed the beast. That was the line. Good trivia question. Hope they use it. It's right here in the files."
Around 7 that night, Friday, the troops begin assembling. The war begins at 10:30 p.m., wont end until midnight Sunday. The yellow front door swings open to several coeds, friends of the Taus and the spirit of the team, and to an alum of no small trivia repute David Fremon, the legendary Fremo, a '70 graduate of Lawrence back for his first trivia joust as an alum, Fremo has hitched rides from Chicago, where he is job counselor for the Illinois State Employment Commission.
In jeans and a lumberjack shirt, Fremo commands the awe of all. Is there anyone who knows more trivia than this man? Well, maybe one, Harry Pomainville, who, it is rumored watched so much late night television that he knew every old movie from "The Jazz Singer" forward. Any movie question, call on Harry Pomainville. Anything else, though, consult Fremo.
Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, to another trivia Contest at Lawrence. Fremo comes in a little wobbly from beering, and hears the question: What is the full name of Minnie Minoso, the old American League baseball player? The fog clears and Fremo pulls himself to attention and sings out the correct answer: Saturnino Orestes Arrieta Minoso. Halfway to a coma, Fremo remembers something like Saturnino Orestes Anrieta Minoso. And a legend is born.
Although Fremo will compete offcampus with a batch of Phi Tao alums known as Penguin in Bondage, he will be in telephone contact with the regular Tau team, helping it. The telephone beats smoke signals, but it still ties up a line that could be speeding an answer to the station. However the groups tried a citizens band radio hookup that netted nothing but static, so the telephone it is.
"C'mon over baby,
"We got a chicken
"In the barn,
"Whose barn, what barn, my barn..."
Revving up for trivia, somebody puts on an old Jerry Lee Lewis album. The game will be played in and near the living room, with warm green decor around three couches onto which a Phi Tau and his girl can entwine and ponder who originally sang "Blue Suede Shoes (Carl Perkins, of course.) A speaker on an end table is wired to a radio in the adjoining pool room, and around the end table are scattered at least 50 source books, from The Annotated Mother Goose" to The Encyclopedia of Military History." Two captain's chairs squat before the two telephones. The fireplace licks its yellow chops. The room is as inviting as the people.
Pregame warnings. Beware of other Greeks - or anyone - bearing gifts. A few years ago, somebody brought what looked to be chocolate chip cookies, but were Ex-Lax cookies. Landed one person in the infirmary. And how about the other time, when someone called and left the phone off the hook and Bill Wells had to acquaint himself with every phone on campus before finding the right one and hanging it up to undo the sabotage.
"Some people take this a little too seriously," Bill says. "Its really a big thing to win. I think it's because it's one of the few things that appeals to everybody on campus. That's unusual, because most of the time everybody just studies. I mean, I feel guilty if I'm not booking, even if I don't have any booking to do."
And now... let the games begin!
FIRST QUESTION, a so-called super garruda, meaning very big indeed. Worth 100 points. They all know what it will be, because it's always the last question from the year before. Question: National (blank) Week is always the second week in November - what is the week? Calling in. Busy signals. Finally getting through with: National Split Pea Soup Week. Correct. End of record. Tone from the radio signaling time's up. Next question.
The Phi Taus and helpers settle into the trenches, never to leave except for a couple of hours of sleep. Keith works the files; his girl friend, Cynthia Siekman (pronounced seek-man), Sorts the books; Deb Rowland, she of cherubic face and disposition, copies questions and answers at the card table; Shary Everman, heavy smoking devotee of country music, clicks at an electric typewriter on the floor, updating the files for future years; attractive Debbie Schwoch handles the phones, along with the sparkplug of the team, Julie Connelly. Short and spunky, Julie could fast talk a wino out of his last bottle. Rules forbid more than two guesses on one call, although there is no limit to calls. However, Julie usually packs in at least three guesses shouted to her from researchers camped around the end table.
The others, varying in number from 10 to 15 or more, sit back from the action, ready for a question that will send some of them, say, over to Main Hall to count the steps as part of a math problem.
Toward the end of trivia's 50 hours, only 3 teams matter much in the oncampus race, involving at least 50 teams: the Sum Kinda Dummy outfit (the Phi Taus, remember); Lizard Rex, holed up in the placement office of Sampson House, an administrative building; and Tuna Tower, a dorm team from Colman Hall that took its name from a Watergate quiz in National Lampoon magazine. Tuna Tower, as we all know, was where Richard Nixon liked to fish with his buddy, Robert Abplanalp.
Going into the final two questions, the Taus lead with 2,435 points; Tunas second with 2,405; and Lizard third with 2,333, which is something considering that no three point questions have been asked. Anyway, question No. 413 is an 85 pointer, a junior super garruda. All quiet in the Phi Tau house. Tension so thick you could cut it with a tuna. Then: What is the license number of Batman's Batmobile?
Action! At least 10 people crumble to their knees, leafing through books, trying to find a picture of the Batmobile. Viewed from above, it looks as if 10 people have lost 10 pairs of con-tact lenses. Hard rock pulses through the speaker. Loud babbling in the house: "You got it? You got the license number? . . . No, not there, you got it over there? . . . Try DD for Dynamic Duo . . . Hey, Julie, try DD." Julie Connelly tries. Wrong. (It really is 2F3567.) "Keep going, keep going," Julie yelps. The tone. "Quit going," she says.
Now, they wait for results. Nobody scored among the collegians. Taus still lead. Cheering. And now for the super garruda, the 100 pointer that could make the Taus into Hertz or relegate them to Avis again. More tension. Jim Thompson, phantom mascot who has run off at various times for groceries or vespers or to meet his brother, hangs wide eyed over an arm of the couch. David Vogel, heavy set and red haired, says in his best William F. Buckley voice, "You may take heart, all of you; we are ahead." Still waiting. Julie fidgets by the phones. "Oh, I'm going to wet my pants. Oh, no, here it is, here it is!"
Question 414, for 100 points: What is the phone number of the Hofbrauhaus in Munich? The Hofbrauhaus is the biggest beer palace in Munich, and the number is Munich 22167. Out the back door slams bearded Dave Rosene, a Phi Tau friend who actually visited the place when studying in Germany last fall. Didn't get the phone number, though. On winged feet, he flies to Sage Hall, his dorm, to check his German pamphlets - unsuccessfully, it turns out. After him wheels Deb Howland, and after her, Bill Wells, who stands coatless in the 10 below cold, bouncing to keep warm. The old Phi Tau relay ploy: If Dave finds the number, he will yell it to Deb, who will yell it to Bill, who will yell it to Julie, who could very well yell it to the station without the telephone.
Meanwhile, a backup system is employed at the house. Off in a sleeping room near the hubbub, standing on a bed to reach the pay telephone, Jan Surkamp is trying to contact an overseas, operator. It is midnight Sunday in Appleton, and 7 a.m. in Munich, and even if the Hofbrauhaus is closed, Jan maybe can get the number.
However, she cant even slide past the local operator, who will have no part of the linkup. Boss's orders. One suspect, the diabolical maneuvering of Marc Sachnoff in this. Anyway, pony tailed Jan is just about jumping up and down on the bed from frustration, Bill still is jumping outside to keep warm, and poor Julie is rocking back and forth in a captain's chair because, well, she's Julie. Send out search parties for Dave and Deb.
The team gathers in a semicircle, arms around each others' shoulders, tense, hoping the second place Tunas didn't score, either. It doesn't matter now if lizard did. Three decades seem to pass before the announcement that begins: "Well, nobody ... got the answer... Awwwright! Phi Taus win. Hugs and kisses and the chant, "We're No.1, we're No.1." Then out the door, all of us, and over to the station to collect the boys' shorts, the spoils of victory. (Other high finishes have produced a yellow dust pan and a 25 pound block of salt for the Phi Tau trophy case.)
Later, a small beer celebration begins at the house. I catch myself studying the label on my first bottle. The Phi Taus, after all, may need an answer off it next year.
Garrudas for you
YOU SAY YOU know trivia. You say those Phi Kappa Taus at Lawrence can't hold a candelabra to you in such matters. All right, then, prove it - In lnsight's Greater Gallactic and Neighbor-hood Trivia Tickler. Put your teeming mind to these 25 questions, worth a total of 250 points and taken from this year's contest at Lawrence, as are the answers and point values. No prizes will be given -- you expected a yacht, perhaps? -- and no scores reported. Take it for the love of the game. And good luck.
1. What was the name of Superman's father? (5 points).
2. What was the original name of the Nancy comic strip? (10 points).
3. What were FDR's opening remarks to the OARs? (10 points).
4. What was the name of Spock's father in Star Trek? (5 points).
5. Who sold Love PotIon No. 9? (5 points).
6. From what country did the Yo-Yo come? (5 points).
7. In "The Maltese Falcon," who played the murderer and who was
murdered? (20 points).
8. What was the name of the snake in Bogart's movie, "We're No Angels"?
9. What was the name of Sky King's ranch? (5 points).
10. How far is it from the Bat Cave to Gotham City? (20 points).
11. Who wrote "Gloria," the Shadows of Night's hit? (5 points).
12. Complete: Well, there's this cute little girl, she's a workin' there...
13. From what opera came the theme for Captain Video? (10 points).
14. When agreeing with Red Rider, what would Little Beaver always say?
15. On TV's "Spin and Marty," what was Ollie's favorite expression? (5
16. Give the last names of the lieutenant, sergeant and corporal from "Rin
Tin Tin." (10 points).
17. Complete the commercial jingle: "Let's have another cup of coffee,
yes... (10 points).
18. What was the name of the female wolf that raised Sgt. Preston's
husky? (15 points).
19. What was Donna Reed's part in "From Here to Eternity"? (10 points).
20. Who played Mr. Boynton on radio's "Our Miss Brooks"? (10 points).
21. Who was Groucho Marx's announcer? (5 points).
22. On "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," what do the initials T.H.R.U.S.H.
stand for? (10 points).
23. What radio character was "champion of the people, defender of
fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"? (25
24. What is the oldest corporation in the United States? (5 points).
25. Who was Woody Woodpecker's boss? (15 points).
Answers: 1. Jor-el; 2. Fritzi-Ritz; 3 "Fellow immigrants..., 4. Sarek;
5. Madame Rue; 6. The Philippines; 7. Mary Aster and Miles Archer; 8.
Adolph; 9. Flying Crown; 10. 14 miles; 11. Van Morrison; 12. "Black
leotards and her feet are bare"; 13."Flying Dutchman"; 14. "You betchum,
Red Rider"; 15. "I'll be a blue nosed gopher"; 16. Lt. Masters, Sgt. O'Hara,
Corp. Boone; 17. "Let's have a cup of Nescafe"; 18. Three Toes; 19. a
prostitute; 20. Jeff Chandler; 21. George Fenniman; 22. Technological
Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of
Humanity; 23. Mr. District Attorney: 24. Harvard University; 25. Walter
225-250 points: expert
200-225: getting there
150-200: try golf
100-150: how about cribbage?
0-100 for shame!