‘Trivial mind’ battle goes down the wire

The Appleton Post-Crescent, January 30, 1984.

“It was the best contest ever,” Larry Page said today of the big Lawrence University trivia contest over the weekend. Of course Page, manager of WLFM radio station, which broadcasts the contest, always says that on the Monday after the 50 hours’ devotion to the inconsequential.

This, the 18th annual trivia contest at Lawrence, saw a battle for first place in the final minutes of the contest and the last, biggest, toughest and usually unanswerable question answered by a team that knew the answer to a similarly difficult question last year.

Team names, often noted for their whimsy, humor or tastelessness, were no exception this year.

The winning off-campus team was a group calling itself AIDS for Lutherans, made up largely of former University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley Center students, which gathered 1,720 points over the 421 questions asked.

They played last year under the team name, Open the Trunk, Rick.

Close behind, with 1,705 points, was an independent team named Ignorance is Strength, known last year as Computers in the Ghetto, which had been leading, Page said, until the last 20 minutes of the contest.

A team named Sky Parlor, known in past years ad Toys in the Attic and Cardboard Castle, finished third with 1,595 points after being the only team to answer the final question, called “the big garuda,” for 100 points.

Usually the last question is so difficult that no team gets the answer. It becomes the first question of next year’s contest.

Mark and Kim Koepke of the Sky Parlor team, last year knew what was on the sign below the clock across the street from the railway station in Amsterdam. As trivia devotees, they had photographed it while vacationing there.

This year, they knew the answer to this: “During World War II, the Wimbledon Lawn and Tennis Club was used as a military base. In August 1940, two pigs were brought to Wimbledon for the troops to eat. These were the first pigs brought to the base. What were the two pigs’ names, and what was the name of the man who slaughtered them?”

John Landis, Appleton, Lawrence student trivia master, had seen this information last year while studying at Lawrence’s London campus and notes it as a possible question for this year’s contest.

The Koepkes, Page said, “have the same kind of mind” as Landis. They visited Wimbledon, spotted the same information – Joey, Jenny and Mr. Higgins – and for similar reasons, noted it.

“Today I’m calling the State Department and having their passports revoked,” Page said. “We’re going to have to keep them in the country.”

He said the question still would be used as next year’s opener.

The answer shoved Sky Parlor into third place over Infomaniacs, which would up with 1,515 point.

Among the on-campus teams, the winner was El Salvador Deli Sub Pub, which had 1,375 points. There was a three-way tie for second place, with Armadillo Appreciation Society, Debbie Does Penguin City and Sammy’s Syzygy all getting 1,115 points.

First place teams each won bedpans, which Page, who for the contest is known by the fanciful name Pope Pontius Page the one-quartereth, labeled stainless steel trivia cookware.

Second prize was a goose decoy with cooking instructions, and third a fish-shaped oven mitten mounted on a board.

A total of 178 off-campus teams and 91 on-campus teams registered on Lawrence’s score-keeping computer, though Page said many of these were “jam” teams. Teams that successfully answer a question early in the call-in period will often call back and give phony team names in order to keep the telephone lines tied up.

The questions are read over the air and teams call in answers to a bank of telephones specially installed at the station in the Seeley Mudd Library at Lawrence.

This year’s contest attracted an exceptional amount of national attention. Landis flew to New Your Friday to be interviewed by Barbara Walters on “Good Morning, America.” There were reports on ABC Radio News, too, Page said his son called from Columbia, S.C., because he had heard the radio report while in a taxi.

“CBS Evening News” had a report Sunday night, but WBAY-TV doesn’t carry the program, so it wasn’t seen here.

Doug Looney, a frequent contributor to Sports Illustrated, was here for the weekend to do a story for American Way, the American Airlines magazine.

The contest was started in 1966 for the “trivial minds” left on the campus when select students and professors encamped at High Cliff to discuss the great issues.

Planning will begin soon for next year’s contest, and in the meantime, Pope Pontius Page the one-quartereth observed philosophically, “It’s been another one.”