Pennsylvania Memories is a special series marking the turn of the millennium featuring readers' memories of events, experiences, incidents, individuals, innovations or inventions that profoundly affected them or gave them a deep appreciation of personal history.

“Spell ‘millennium.'” It’s Sunday afternoon, one o’clock, when my family and I gather in front of our television for our favorite show. The picture fades in and out, snowy at times, for these were the days before cable – but we couldn’t miss this show. The poor reception was due to the distance as this special program was only shown only on Channel 4-WTAE in Pitts­burgh.

The show was Jr. High Quiz. Beginning in 1962, two teams of eighth-grade students from Pittsburgh area schools would answer questions on history, math, literature, and science read by moderator Ricki Wertz (who I remember from childhood and another show called Ricki and Copper). Pittsburgh National Bank sponsored the show, which ran during the school year. The top two teams were then given a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., touring the White House, the Capitol, and meeting U.S. Senator Hugh Scott.

Although we were the right age during the show’s run, my sister, brothers, and I never were a part of one of these teams because we had moved from Pittsburgh to Huntingdon in 1961. Yet we were on the show several times as part of the studio audience. We were also privileged to view the Friday night tapings of the show from the special perspective of the director’s booth. I still remember Director Tom Borden saying, “Camera one, take one.” I also recall taking pictures during one of the tapings and being told by a camera man that I didn’t need to worry about my flash-cube not going off because the studio lamps provided more than enough light. We saw another part of the show that team members never would – Ricki reviewing the questions and answers in her office the hour before taping.

Why was this show so special to me? The judge was my grandfather, Thomas M Phipps. After teaching and serving the public schools for more than forty-two years, he was called upon to write some four hundred questions a week and then partici­pate in the weekly tapings. We occasionally accompanied grandpa to WTAE.

The show had an impact on our lives. Ricki was a special comfort to me at my grandmother’s funeral. The camera stayed on my sister and I a little longer than usual during a sweep of the audience in that first taping after her death. Grandpa took my brother Bill to Washing­ton, D.C., on one of the Jr. High Quiz trips (he has since worked for the late Senator John Heinz and in the federal government). During my college years, I had a special fondness for the media classes for teachers – like both of my grandparents, I am a public school teacher – and serving as class instructor, radio station manager, and getting my own chance at saying, “Camera one, take one.”

In the years that followed, I saw that this show made an impact on others. With a picture of her father in her office at Juniata College, my mother would have students ask, “Why do you have a picture from Jr. High Quiz?” And then they’d usually add, “I was on that show,” or ‘I watched that show.” Even in Anchorage, Alaska, last year, I met a couple who remembered my grandfather and the show.

I can imagine the memories of those lucky enough to repre­sent their schools on Jr. High Quiz. The program provided a dedicated educator and doting grandfather with a rewarding retirement and some very special memories that his daughter and grandchildren will take into the next “m-i-l-l-e-n-n-i-u-m.”


Vicki E. Goehring of New Holland, Lancaster County, is a fourth-grade teacher who emphasizes Pennsylvania history in her classroom. She uses Pennsylvania Heritage to teach her students why “they should be proud to be Pennsylvanians.”