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The 6th Semi-Annual Williams College Trivia Contest. December, 1968

One of the most important innovations in Williams Trivia was made by Morgan in this contest. It was the first to feature hourly Bonus Questions.

As the name suggests, these were simply one question long, judged to be difficult enough to warrant 5 points and an hour apiece to solve. By the 1970s, the Hour Bonus concept had enlarged to lists of things, or various questions sharing a central theme. Bonuses grew exponentially from there. Today's gargantuan behemoths would scarcely recognize these, their humble ancestors.


Bonus Questions are listed in the order of the parenthetical times included with each, rather than the order on which they appear on Morgan's records (namely, the Roman numerals). It may be that there were only five Bonus Questions in this contest.


1 204 Carter
2 184 Gladden
3 145 Bryant
4 143 Berkshire
5 136 Hopkins
6 107 Sage F

Other teams known to have played: Lehman West, The Grand Duchy of Fenwick, Williams (a freshman team), and Bennington, who came in last with 1 point.


In Spring 1968, Morgan became the first freshman team to win the Williams Trivia Contest. Apparently, this did not go down easy with the Powers That Be of the time.

At this early point in Trivial history, all five of the contests had been hosted by Carter House's Frank Ferry (and others). Meanwhile, Ferry's Carter mates had won the previous three games in a row. The freshly-scrubbed, insolent faces of Morgan stuck in their craw. How could students who were (gasp) a full TWO YEARS YOUNGER be in contention?

Morgan poobah Bill Osborne tells what happened:

"At a point around 5:00 am the Contest sponsors, chagrined that a few "know nothing" freshmen were trouncing the rest of the college, gave a question and song designed expressly to stump the Morgan Hall group.

The perversely obscure song was by coincidence well known to me, and the laughably unanswerable question was answered by one of Mort Wasserman's compat riots (Dave del Junco) instantaneously-- at which time the outcome of the contest was conceded.

The clinching question was something like "On The Phil Silvers Show, aka You'll Never Get Rich, on one episode a chimpanzee was inducted into the Army. What was the chimp's name?" Answered immediately by del Junco, one of Mort's idiosyncratic entry mates, the chimp was Harry Speakup (because of the chimp's hairy legs and lack of communication skills).

The song played at the same time was "La Dee Dah" by Billy and Lillie -- a record that my sister once bought with MY MONEY when I sent her to the store to buy me an Elvis 45. She explained that she thought I would like Billy and Lillie better! And I was scarred for life and could never get that awful song out of my head."

(NOTE: The Phil Silvers episode in question was about Fort Baxter's attempt to break the all-time army speed record for mass induction. A recruit's missing pet monkey mistakenly gets into the line of enlistees, and because of the robotic assembly line atmosphere, is hurriedly shuttled through every checkpoint. As the men were signed in, the following exchange occurred:

     Corporal (not looking up):  "State your name."
     Chimpanzee:   (says nothing)
     Corporal:  "Hurry!  Speak up!"
     Captain (not looking up either):  "Harry Speakup!"
     Corporal:  "Harry Speakup!  Have you ever had rheumatism, pneumonia, smallpox, chicken pox, German measles? Next!"

(The chimp is rushed on to the next station, eventually getting sworn into the army.))

But did the anti-Morgan subterfuge end there?

Bill Osborne: "I also have a recollection that unidentified competitors cut the phone lines at one of the two Morgan entry locations in an attempt to sabotage the Morgan Team, but without realizing that we had two locations."

(NOTE: The Morgan team was actually a merged group of players from Morgan West, led by Mort Wasserman, and Bill Osborne's Morgan Middle West cohorts. Thus they were able to withstand their telephonic vandals.There are actually numerous nefarious telephone tales throughout Trivia's history. Reports of phone lines being cut can be heard from the contest's beginnings, all the way through the 1980s. Another popular trick of yore was for rival pranksters to crisscross phone lines. They would then "answer" calls meant for the radio station, "crediting" their unwary opponents with imaginary points. Naturally the real running team knew nothing of this chicanery, and the ersatz points would vanish with the next scoring update.)

Bill Osborne concludes: "It is ironic and somewhat distressing to have become part of a small piece of trivia myself."

(NOTE: All these years later, fewer than 5 frosh teams have ever won Williams Trivia outright.)

Added on 1/4/2015: Here is the first newspaper article about the contest known to exist. It is from the Williams Record, January 14, 1969, Page 3. It is the source of the quote from Frank Ferry that you will find at the top of the main archive page. Des Devlin points out that that is the December 28, 1968 issue of TV Guide that Frank Ferry is reading. Click on the picture for a higher resolution image.