CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – 22News is celebrating our 70th Anniversary on the air here in western Massachusetts. For years, our High School Quiz show “As Schools Match Wits” was a Saturday Night Staple. Here’s a look at back at a show that is fondly remembered.
“And a wonderful Good Evening to all the folks at home and in our studio audience… the largest audience we have so far… that’s because it’s championship night.”
“As Schools Match Wits” first went on the air back in 1961. The show’s creator, Leonard Collamore, was also the head question writer for the first 22 years. Phil Shepardson, an English Professor at Westfield State, was the original host for the first 30 years and then John Baran took over for the next 15 seasons.
“Phil said it best. He said what makes the show so great… it was pace and people. It was a purely academic competition,” said John Baran.
This high school quiz show included schools from western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut. Two teams of four students each competing in an academic knowledge competition in various categories including Arts & Entertainment, Literature, Math & Science, General Knowledge, Social Studies and World Events.
“In school, there is all the major sports that kids are competing in athletically all the time… but there’s not an awful lot outside of the debate team for kids to perform academically. So to be able to have this incredible tradition to carry it on and watch the kids come in and compete and get a chance to show how darn smart they were. It was really really fun,” said Baran.
“The Empire State Building is an example of Art Nouveau, Art Deco or Art A La Carte?”
“Art Deco,” that answer came from a colleague of ours. Today, he’s 22News Assignment Editor Tony Fay. Back then, he was a contestant four times and a champion twice, representing Minnechaug Regional High School.
“I remember being a little kid and my Mom was like, ‘That’s As Schools Match Wits and you’ll be on there someday,'” said Tony. “That’s was the thing that I was best known for in high school was this program. Because you know people would watch. People who weren’t even really close friends with me would be like, ‘Oh, I saw you on As Schools Match Wits the other day’ and I was like, “Oh that’s cool, thanks for watching.'”
“This was Hollywood for the local area. So the kids came into our studio and they sat there and saw the cameras and the lights and this was Big Time for them, to be able to compete and show how hard they worked their whole lives. Because don’t forget our show, unlike Jeopardy, it wasn’t a trivia show. There wasn’t a lot of pop culture stuff. It was all about what you had learned up until your senior year in high school. So, it was purely academic,” said Baran.
As Schools Match Wits aired for 45 years here on 22News and it still airs to this day on Public Television on WGBY in Springfield.
Rich Tettemer is a morning anchor who has been a part of the 22News team since 1988. Follow Rich on Twitter @RichTettemer and view his bio to see more of his work.