It’s time again for Trivia!


by Maureen Blaney
The Appleton Post-Crescent, January 16, 1982.

The first answer is Decapa 5.

The rest are up to you in Lawrence University’s 17th annual Trivia Contest.

The annual event, which jams phone lines and keeps trivia fanatics hopping for hours, begins at 10 p.m. Friday and concludes at midnight Jan. 24.

And the “grand masters” are planning a faster paced contest than usual with 400 questions compared with last year’s 350.

For the uninitiated, the contest is a struggle of mind over body, of trying to recall the odd detail or knowing where to look for it – for 50 hours straight.

Teams – on campus and off – meet in various locations with a preponderance of reference books, a weekend’s worth of munchies, one or more telephones, ready to call on and, of course, a radio tuned to 91.1 on the FM band, WLFM.

There are about 20 teams on campus. Off campus? “We have a list of about 300, but how many of those are actual teams?” said Mike Mol, who this year serves as grand master with Lizz Read. “But we do know there are teams at Appleton East and West, and Fox Valley Technical Institute. Alumni come back and form teams. There apparently is even a team that comes up from Iowa and rents a hotel room as its base of operations for the weekend.”

The contest is composed of a variety of questions, with various points awarded, depending on difficulty. As each team calls in its answer, its points are recorded in an LU computer.

“We get our questions from just about anywhere,” said Mol. “Reading newspapers, seeing something on the news, watching commercials, movies. Some of the questions are from student travels, their off-campus experiences in London or Paris. Some of us are even sick enough to carry a notebook with us to movies, to record something that we could use as a question.”

There are action questions and audio questions.

“An action question is mainly for the on-campus groups, to wake them up, keep them alive,” said Mol. “It might be something like, ‘Run to the middle of Main Hall and get the number on the fire extinguisher, or ‘How many steps are there, from first to top floors, in all the Lawrence University buildings.”

An audio question might consist of cuts from eight to 10 songs, all somehow related. “The team might have to guess the relationship and who wrote the song. Or there might be a selection of symphonies by composers whose names start with B, or eight drum solos and you must name the drummer.”

Not all questions are meant to be answerable.

The last question of each contest is always supposed to be one that no one will answer. That question is used as the first question for the next year’s contest. Each year, after the contest is over, “We publicize the answer so everybody has a chance to get an easy 100 points right away at the beginning of the next year’s contest.

Last year, the contest ended with: “There was a folk song group from Sheboygan who had its premiere on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1968. What was that group’s name?”

That’s the Decapa 5.