Street Academy of Albany
The 1981 Answers Please Championship
In 1981, television station WRGB aired a weekend program called "Answers Please," a high school quiz show that featured two schools competing against each other in a battle of brains; a "College Bowl" for the high school set.
In 1981, Street Academy received an invitation as an "alternate" to participate in the Answers Please program. Being an "alternate" meant that if another school won three consecutive weeks, they were retired and two schools, not one, were required for the next television taping. It just so happened that at the end of February, 1981, Cooperstown High School had completed a three-week unbeaten run and retired as undefeated champions. This meant that a new school was requried for the competition; and Street Academy received the bid.
Street Academy's opponent at the time was Albany Academy for Boys, one of the most exclusive preparatory schools in the Capital Region. At that time, Albany Academy was a high-end military prep school with a $3,000-per-year tuition, its own hockey rink, and a campus that was larger than some small towns.
Our school had never appeared on Answers Please, heck Street Academy was never even asked to appear. In fact, the only reason we made the list to appear one year was because of the three-wins-and-you-retire-undefeated rule that meant some schools needed to appear as emergency replacements.
It gets better. The night of the taping, our team was supposed to meet at the school, where the Street Academy students and teachers and family would ride a chartered bus to the WRGB television studios for the taping. Only two of the four teammates - captain Chuck Miller and teammate Alfrieda Tillman - showed up for the taping. Two other students who had just planned to watch the event - Willette "Starkeema" Loyd and Candy Williams - were tabbed as emergency replacements.
Okay... here are the sides. Albany Academy, with their top four National Honor Society, full dress blues regalia, buzz haircuts and $3,000 a year tuition - against an inner-city alternative high school with two replacement teammates.
Albany Academy never had a chance. Street Academy beat them like drums.
That's right - when the game was over, it was Street Academy 145, Albany Academy 105.
Street Academy jumped out to an early lead, and once the first team wins three toss-up questions, that school receives bonus questions. Then, after the bonus questions, the toss-up questions begin again with an even slate. So as long as Street Academy could answer the three toss-up questions before Albany Academy did, we were able to keep the four-part questions away from them (in fact, they only got one four-part opportunity in the entire game).
Albany Academy made a late charge near the end, and they were up two toss-up questions to none on us - if they got one more toss-up question, they could have run the table on a four-part team question and beaten us. But thankfully for us, the second round timer ran out. The judges checked the score, double-checked the score to make sure that they were actually seeing what they THOUGHT they were seeing - and suddenly the new champions on Answers Please came from a tiny inner-city school - a school that whipped the pants off one of Albany's most prestigious institutions.
Yes, Street Academy made the newspapers. Front page of the Albany Knickerbocker News (the same day that Walter Cronkite announced his retirement from the CBS Evening News). Lead story on WRGB and a few other local stations.
We appeared on Answers Please two more times - whipping Keveney Academy of Cohoes and St. Mary's Academy of Hoosick Falls, and retired undefeated. Our school received a big trophy from WRGB, and the four of us received special trophies from the Albany City School District for our accomplishment.
This is the only surviving video clip from the event, it came from a WRGB news broadcast announcing that Street Academy had defeated Keveney Academy in the second of Street Academy's three victories.
Web site contents (c) Copyright Chuck Miller, All rights reserved.