The following are the recollections on the very first National Bible Quiz Finals of Scott Laurens, captain and top scorer of the 1st place team from Bouldercrest A/G, Atlanta, GA
We were just glad to be there. This was also the first time we had ever done Regionals which was two or three days after Christmas 1962. We had over six months to prepare for nationals which was very unusual. But strangely enough I don’t recall us actually memorizing the whole book. We weren’t that far enough along to say, “OK, we are going to memorize the whole book.” Thinking back, we probably should’ve done that. We memorized large portions of Luke including chapters, but we didn’t memorize the whole book.
Back then we carried our Bibles to school, public school, so we often got challenged about that. And one day Brenda (known as Brenda Gregg on the quiz team, now known as Brenda Laurens, Scott’s wife) got challenged at school. She was telling them what she was doing, that she was memorizing Scripture for this quiz team and they said, “Nah, I don’t believe you memorize Scripture! Here, let me have your Bible.” So she gave them the Bible and they opened it up to a chapter in Luke, I think it was the twentieth or twenty-first chapter, and they said, “OK, quote this chapter”. And so it was the exact chapter that she had memorized! So she started quoting it to them and their mouth just fell open because they couldn’t believe somebody would memorize scripture!
We were excited. We were looking forward to attending Nationals. We had studied for a long time and we had a real good team spirit. I think that was probably the thing that singled us out more than anything else. We weren’t there to win, we were there to do our best. We didn’t have unofficial tournaments back then. All that we had was the official city and State competition, the Regional competition and then went to Nationals, nothing in between. We had no expectation of what the national competition would be like at all.
The first quiz sets were very rudimentary. They were essentially a plank board type arrangement such that you had to really reach to get up to the buttons. We hadn’t even practiced our reflexes to the point where we were trying to develop a particular technique, and that really hurt us when we got to Nationals because the other teams that were there quickly showed us that they could beat us to the buzzer, especially the first match. The team that we met was excellent at getting to the buzzer first. And they just about beat us because of that. All the people in the audience said it was pretty obvious to them how they were beating us to the buzzer because we were going straight at it and they were pivoting off their elbow to get to it which is much quicker. We picked up on that later, but we certainly didn’t practice all the things we should have before we got there.
There was an orientation session with all of the officials and all of the teams the night before we started quizzing. I think that was on a Thursday night. We went over all the rules and made sure everybody understood what was going to happen because this was obviously the first time they had National competition. On Friday there were two rounds of competition. They had single elimination, so if you lost one round you were out. There was a lot of talk the night before about certain teams meeting each other in the finals. There were two teams in particular that had seen the draw and figured that they would meet each other in the final round. We drew one of the those teams in our first round.
It was Ohio we were playing. We went by state names back then. Very naively we went into that match thinking we could do our best, but were quickly losing that match because they obviously had the technique down about hitting the buzzer and they were a good team. That particular round had an unusual arrangement of the questions. They had two of the thirty point questions at the end of the quiz! Up until the nineteenth question there was only one thirty and the rest were tens and twenties. I was the top quizzer on our team, and I quickly realized in the match that there was no way we were going to beat this team if I went after ten pointers (this was on-the-fly personal strategy). I only went after the twenties and thirties, but the only thirty pointer I had a chance at earlier in the match the other team beat me to it. All I had was twenty pointers. We were well down in the match. The other team was doing quite well although they had missed a couple of questions surprisingly. In fact, it got to the nineteenth question and I recall the score being 175 to 100 with two thirty pointers to go. At that point I had answered four twenties, and under those rules five questions correct and you’re out with a ten point bonus (this went to the team rather than the individual). Even if I had answered a question and gotten the bonus and another teammate of mine had gotten the other thirty point question, we still would’ve lost by five points. At that point the other team had won the match but didn’t realize it. In fact, our pastor (Eugene Gustafson) was keeping score in the audience and when he realized the match was over he closed up his score pad. The other team though was not using the strategy that we use these days. They didn’t tell their team to sit back and not hit the buzzer at all. The nineteenth question was a thirty pointer and it was an interrupted question. The other team got to it first. It was probably the first interrupted question of the match. When they hit it and then tried to complete the question, the fellow that hit it sort of expected the judges to say right or wrong on whether he completed the question correctly or not. He finally realized that they were not going to tell him that and he then started stumbling through a six part answer. He started laboriously going through the list that he needed to give and wasn’t very rushed at all about doing it. Finally, at about the fifth one, they called time on him. So he missed the question. If he had given the answer immediately after completing the question he probably would have been correct and been out of the match. At that point, he had to sit down with three incorrect answers without a replacement, since under those rules you couldn’t replace someone who had answered out backwards only forwards. They finally got to the point where they were about to resume the match at the twentieth question after there was a lot of discussion on whether there could be a replacement. Then, our one team member who was out in the audience because there wasn’t enough room behind the table spoke up and said, “Hey wait a minute, you’ve got to ask the other team question nineteen because it was an interrupted question!” The officials scratched their heads for a second and said, “Oh yeah, that’s right.” So they reread the question and I hit it and got it correct and answered out. We got a ten point bonus for that and our score was now 140 and the other team had lost fifteen but they were still ahead 160 to 140. I had answered all but one ten pointer for our team and really the second best quizzer on our team was my brother, Rusty. He had sat through the whole match, all nineteen questions, like a bump on a log not answering one question. It was almost funny because he was just in shock or something. Here we were still down twenty points with one question to go. It was a thirty pointer. We had been beat all match by the other team to the buzzer. Rusty finally beat the other team to the buzzer and answered it correctly! The question was, “When the prodigal son returned what did his father do?” Rusty said he ran, fell on his neck and kissed him. I misunderstood the question. I thought it was what did the father give him which would have been a robe, shoes, ring and calf so I would’ve missed the question. At that point we erupted more for Rusty answering a question than us winning the match! The other team was devastated because they were really probably the better team, at technique anyway, but here we were turning around the whole match on the last two questions. We really kidded our pastor about the fact that he had given up on us before the match was over.
The semifinal match was against Maryland. They were an all girl team. During the match we quickly got ahead and they called a time-out not for a strategy session but for a prayer session! They didn’t distract us. It wasn’t that our team didn’t pray! We certainly prayed, but not in the middle of the match. And it wasn’t like we were over-confident. I think our team had a very good team spirit and sportsmanlike attitude. We were always complimentary of the other team and made sure that we greeted them and shook hands with them after the match. That was a very important thing to do. We wanted to display a good Christian-like attitude. I don’t remember the score, but I remember quizzing out with one hundred points.
The final match was scheduled for Saturday night. This National Final was in Memphis, Tennessee and it was General Council. At that time they had Youth Night and they had scheduled the final match to be part of the Saturday night service in front of seven thousand people! We had to block out the crowd in front of us and behind us they had put up on the stage all the other teams that had been in competition! We were playing a team from Texas that was quite good. But we did really well and I quizzed out. The quizmaster was Lee Schultz, the longtime announcer for Revivaltime. Our team was not afraid to challenge the questions or the officials when something wasn’t correct. Rusty was quizzing very well now and feeling good about himself. I remember him answering this particular question and not agreeing with the way the question was phrased. He said this out loud to Lee Schultz about the correct phrasing of the question and Lee sort of bowed to him and acknowledged that he was correct. Rusty got all the notoriety because of this since no one questioned anything at the time.
They presented us the trophy right there. During the service, when they had the altar call, we put down the trophy and went down to the altar because we felt that was very important. I think we won because of our team unity and spirit. I believe all the other teams had studied just as much if not more than we had, but I think because of our unity and spirit it is the one reason we won Nationals. Not because we were better, not because we knew more, certainly not because we had the technique or strategy down, but because of our team unity and out team spirit. I think that’s a very important factor not only in that first Nationals, but in subsequent Nationals as well. Certainly, when adversity comes, you’ve got to be able to rely on something besides just your knowledge. We had spent a great deal of time together. In fact, the previous year we had gone through studying the book of Acts up to the district level which we had won (this was the highest level in the first year of quizzing). Essentially, we had been together as a team for two years not just one year. We developed a very good team spirit during this time. We sacrificed a lot too. I remember one of the guys on the team was a very good football player and because of all the time that we spent studying the material he was not able to play football that year. We had a good coach in Cleta Gustafson as well as Pat Cobb (she later coached the same church to victory at Nationals in 1976). We also had a very good quiz coordinator in the Atlanta area at the time. He encouraged everyone in Bible Quiz a lot. In fact, he drove us to Memphis in order for us to get there.
This program has benefited us every year since. Everyone involved on our team is today involved in church in one way or another. We have coached teams and our children have participated. The kids who participate today may not realize that the Word they have memorized will be with them forever. At the appropriate time the Spirit will bring back to their minds those verses that they have studied. Memorizing God’s Word has laid an enduring foundation for my life that has stood strong for many years. I believe that learning God’s Word is the most important aspect of the Bible Quiz program, and I would encourage anyone to participate.