By Myron S. Lubell


The Montréal Review, February 2024



Our life is shaped by our mind.  We become what we think.




Here’s a story you might enjoy,
The story of Joel Kupperman - a smart Jewish boy.
Like the tragedies of Sophocles – very complex -
The  pathos of Antigone or Oedipus Rex (well…almost)

Little Joel solved math problems using secret tricks -
Known as “Baby Einstein” – he was only six -
Famous - precocious - the year was 1942.
America just entered World War II.

Some called it the war to save the Jews.
Maybe it was - maybe it wasn’t – many views,
That’s what we heard  on the radio
And scary things we were afraid to know.

We huddled together  and listened in fear
To wartime broadcasts we didn’t want  to hear -
Blitzkrieg -  Judenrein – Panzer divisions on a roll –
A world out of control - then along came Joel.

We needed a hero – and there were none.
So we found one - he was cute – he was fun.
A prodigy with insight clever and crisp -
He gave us hope  - and he spoke with a lisp –

Hey Hitler, you ‘thupid’ Nazi -
I think you are ‘dethpicable’’


Although I never met Joel’s son, Michael Kupperman, I thank him for the illustrated book he wrote about his father’s life: All the Answers. I read the clever book from cover-to-cover several times and enjoyed the story, especially the illustrations. Actually, I shouldn’t say I “enjoyed” the story; it didn’t reconcile with my nostalgic memories of the most famous Quiz Kid, my childhood hero. References to this source are cited as [Michael]. The cover illustration in this essay  (Joel Kupperman, the Quiz Kid) was drawn by Michael.  

I also read sections of Whatever Happened to the Quiz kids? Perils and Profits of Growing up Gifted by former Quiz Kid, Ruth Duskin Feldman. References to this source are cited as [Ruth]. 


The day I met Joel Kupperman

It was November 1944, my first year at Volta School, located on the north side of Chicago - in a Jewish neighborhood called Albany Park. Old men with beards and fur hats walked on the street wearing long black coats; women covered their heads with babushkas - but there were also many Swedish, Polish, and Greek kids in my school - they weren’t Jewish. It was easy to tell who were the gentiles, they had an apple or a banana in their lunch box - Jewish mothers packed a pickle (wrapped in tin foil), or a slice of halvah.

I was 5 ½, barely aware of anything outside of my home or my immediate family - except for news about World War II - allied forces had recently landed in France. My father said that Germany would be defeated soon, and after that we probably will combine all our soldiers, sailors, and marines in the war against Japan - and it wouldn’t take long before the Japanese “capitulated.” I heard that word many times, and I liked to repeat it with relatives and friends - it made me sound smart. Aside from the war news I also listened to the Quiz Kids on our huge living room radio, every Sunday night - so did my parents. Many of the contestants on that popular radio program were Jewish; that was important to people who regarded the war against Germany as a war to save the Jews. And the biggest star of the show, the most famous Quiz Kid, was Joel Kupperman. He was very smart, and he attended Volta, the same school as me. He was in the 4th grade - I had just started 1st grade.

I’ll never forget that day in 1944 - it was extremely warm for November – people called it “Indian Summer” – but I didn’t see any Indians. It was the day I saw Joel Kupperman at school. He was in a hallway carrying books - alone. We were walking toward each other - face to face. This was my chance to introduce myself, but I was too scared to speak to the most famous kid in America (at least since Shirley Temple - but she wasn’t very famous anymore). It was an exciting moment, but I froze.

When the school bell rang, ending the day, I ran home - excited - and told my parents, “Mom, Dad, I saw Joel Kupperman at school today, but I was too nervous to say anything to him.”

“Joel Kupperman!” my father was in a state of semi-shock. “The famous Quiz Kid? Tomorrow, introduce yourself - invite him to dinner. Maybe he could explain E=MC2 - that’s way over my head.”

“Make sure you let me know in advance,” said my mother. “I’ll have to find out what geniuses eat. Myron - why can’t you be like Joel Kupperman?”

“Well, I know the multiplication tables up to 12 x 12.”

“Big deal, you’re almost six - I heard that Joel hummed himself to sleep with the multiplication tables before he could talk.”

“So what! I can make a fish-face and croak like a frog. I bet he can’t do that.”


The next day at school I was determined to talk to Joel. Then I saw him, same time, same hallway - carrying his books. Slowly, I walked toward him, he walked toward me, our eyes met, and I said, “Hi Joel.”

Then - the most famous boy in America looked at me and said, “Hi.” He really did - but I didn’t invite him to dinner - not yet. My plan was to move slowly - one step at a time. Next time, I’ll show him how I make a fish-face.

I discussed this idea with my best friend, Jerome Lavinsky, but he laughed and said, “everyone knows how to make a fish-face, but you’re the only kid who can croak like a frog. Why don’t you tell the child ‘progidy’ you’ll teach him how to croak but only if he comes to your house for dinner?”

“What’s a ‘progidy?’”

“I don’t know. That’s what my parents call him.”

Unfortunately, I never saw Joel again. I stood in the same hallway the next few days and asked around school, “what ever happened to Joel Kupperman?” No one knew. Finally, there was an announcement by our principal on the public address system: “Boys and girls – our little genius, Joel Kupperman, is on a cross country tour with a few movie stars and three other Quiz Kids - selling War Bonds.”

NOTE: By the end of the war the Quiz Kids had sold bonds worth an estimated $120,000,000 (approximately $1.7 billion in 2024 money). They each received a medal from the Treasury Department.

Several days later, while Joel was on tour with the other Quiz Kids, Jerome ran over to my house. He was huffing and puffing - out of breath. “Hey Myron, guess what? I saw a picture of Joel Kupperman in the newspaper - he was on a big stage with a few other Quiz Kids - horsing around, making a fish-face. See, didn’t I tell you, everyone knows how to do that?”

Jerome and I laughed while playing marbles on the living room floor. Then my mother brought us toasted bagels covered with peanut butter and jelly. “Watch this,” said Jerome, as he wiped jelly from his face. “I can name the four Galilean moons of Jupiter - Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.”

“Wow, Jerome – that’s brilliant,” said my mother. “You’re going to be the next Joel Kupperman. Would you like another bagel?”

“My father taught me those funny names,” replied Jerome, “but what’s a moon?”

Talking about “funny names” - several months later we dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and those bombs were named “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” - and World War II ended. The Japanese CAPITULATED. My father was right, and I was convinced that the reason Joel was no longer at my school was because he was secretly working for the government, helping to build a more powerful bomb, and the new bomb would scare every country in the world, and that would end wars forever. Joel would win the Nobel peace prize. Get ready world - here comes my friend Joel - he used to go to my school.

“That’s dumb,” said my very smart cousin Gary, an 8th grader at Volta. “How can you win a peace prize for inventing a bomb? But, I heard that Joel and this other Quiz Kid, ‘Little Ruthie,’ were invited to a secret island to watch scientists drop practice bombs - they needed the Quiz Kids to solve several complex math problems, like how rain or the speed of the wind could change the direction of a falling bomb.”

Several years later the Quiz Kids became a TV show (it wasn’t very good) but in order to understand more about Joel Kupperman, it’s important to know about the radio years (1942-1949) – that’s when he rose to fame - big time fame! He was even invited to meet Eleanor Roosevelt. Call me crazy, but I liked Mrs. Roosevelt even more than Esther Williams, the beautiful woman who made movies while swimming, or Sonja Henie, another beautiful woman, who made movies while ice skating.

“Eleanor Roosevelt?” my mother scrunched her nose. “She’s such a mieskeit (Yiddish - ugly face)

“So what?” said my father. “She’s probably the greatest woman in American history.”

The genius behind the Quiz Kids: Louis G. Cowan

Louis G. Cowan, the innovative creator of the Quiz Kids, had trouble getting sponsors. Everyone thought that precocious little kids would be perceived as arrogant brats - and the radio audience would switch to Jack Benny, the Shadow, or Bob Hope. But Cowan put a new twist on his proposed show. Of course, the kids had to be brilliant (that was necessary) but that wasn’t enough - they had to be sincere and likeable - and they had to be entertaining and blend with each other to make a good show. This was show business - not a classroom. Finally, in 1940, after many rejections, Cowan convinced Alka Seltzer and One-A-Day-Vitamins to co-sponsor the Quiz Kids, which would be broadcast from the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, at first only as a local show for a midwestern audience, but after the arrival of Joel Kupperman it became a national show, broadcast in every city in America.

NOTE: Louis Cowan would resurface in the early years of television to produce one of the biggest shows in history – the famous $64,000 Question, which became a blockbuster #1 rated show on TV - it even bumped “I Love Lucy” from the #1 spot. Cowan then became president of the newly created television division of CBS. Unfortunately, $64,000 Question eventually became part of the infamous quiz show scandal. It was rigged! Contestants were given the answers in advance. Was Cowan involved in the scandal? Maybe, but it was never proven. However, he was fired by CBS. Several years after the investigation he and his wife died in a tragic home fire caused by careless smoking in bed. It’s ironic, but they were smoking Kent cigarettes, one of the major sponsors of the $64,000 Question.

NOTE: In 1987 Woody Allen wrote and directed a nostalgic movie, “Radio Days,” (I loved it ) - reminiscing about the popular radio shows of his childhood. One of the characters in the movie was a pompous brat - obviously inspired by Joel Kupperman. However, young Joel wasn’t pompous, nor was he a brat. He was a sweet, rambunctious little boy who loved the Chicago Cubs as much as he loved math - he was the all-American image - and he showed a country at war that Jews were also patriotic citizens.

1940: The  Quiz Kids radio show

The format of Quiz Kids was simple, five contestants would answer questions that were submitted by the public, and they each got a $100 US War Bond. The quizmaster would ask questions - the kids then raised their hands and shouted “oooo oooo me me I know it” - or something like that - then the quizmaster would select the first hand up. If the boy or girl answered correctly they received one point. If they missed, the other four contestants got their chance. At the end of the program a panel of judges tallied the points. The top three contestants could come back the following week, the two lowest scoring kids were gone. They would be replaced with two new contestants, and everyone smiled - even the two losers. “Smile children,” said the sympathetic quizmaster, “a smile can be ‘heard’ and felt, even by a radio audience.”

Finding the perfect quizmaster was important; Cowan did not want a pedantic school teacher or a stuffy college professor. Definitely, not an articulate actor who would intimidate the kids. Eventually he selected genial Joe Kelly, a performer since age six. As noted by Michael Kupperman (Joel’s son), “Joe’s jolly, gee-shucks delivery helped make the show a hit.”

This was show business, but it was supposed to look and feel like a classroom. In fact, the quizmaster and the five Quiz Kids all wore black graduation gowns and mortarboards - even guest stars who appeared on the show dressed the same (Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Eddie Cantor, Chico Marx, Milton Berle). Although this was radio (TV wasn’t yet perfected) it was important what they were wearing because a fairly large audience attended each show, and newspaper reporters and photographers were always at the studio, hoping to write stories or take photos of the cute, amazing, entertaining, outrageous, brilliant Quiz Kids. And of course, Cowan made sure to accommodate the press (pastrami sandwiches for everyone). His goal was to turn a local radio show into a national sensation, which would be broadcast from coast to coast, especially in New York.

Unfortunately, many self-proclaimed child-psychologists regarded the Quiz Kids as freaks, losers, exploited robots, or manipulated nerds, headed for a miserable, maladjusted life. However, the perception of “being weird” was dispelled by Arthur Gordon, the editor of Readers Digest, who wrote: “They are not ordinary children. They are extraordinary, not only in terms of mental development but in categories where very bright children are popularly (and erroneously) supposed to be deficient: leadership, friendliness, generosity, good humor, good manners and general emotional balance. They are, in fact, such well-rounded and superior human beings that anyone who observes them is bound to ask: How did they get that way? Are they made, or are they born? The answer is, almost certainly, both. Heredity is the seed, environment the soil in which an exceptional child must grow. When good heredity and favorable environment meet in one small individual, the results can be truly astonishing.” [Ruth]

(Pardon me for being suspicious …. but I suspect that Louis Cowan gave Arthur Gordon a lot more than a pastrami sandwich to encourage that glowing endorsement?)

1942:  Joel becomes a Quiz Kid

Five year old Joel Kupperman amazed his kindergarten teacher at Volta school - he found mistakes in the math text book.  The teacher suggested to Joel’s mom that he should appear on the Quiz Kids. Sara Kupperman jumped at the opportunity … “How can my precious little genius apply?”

February, 1942. A letter printed in a large, childish handwriting arrived at the Quiz Kids office[Ruth]

Dear Sir: I am five years old but I play with numbers. I can do 99 or 98 times any number up to 100 in my head.… I can do like 1/2 of 3/4 or 2/8 of 5/6 of an apple. I know if sugar sells for 6 cents in one store and 9 cents and 11 cents in other stores, the average price is 8 2/3 cents... I know a little geography, too. Like about the hemispheres, how many continents, their names and what is N.S.E. and W. of the United States.

I like numbers best. It is fun to fall asleep, counting 6 plus 6 equals 12. 12 plus 12 equals 24. 24 plus 24 equals 48. 48 plus 48 equals 96. 96 plus 96 equals 192. 192 plus 192 equals 384. 384 plus 384 equals 768. 768 plus 768 equals 1,536. I would like to be a Quiz Kid. I am not as good on numbers as Richard, but I am pretty good.…

Love and kisses,

Joel Kupperman

P.S. My grandfather has teeth that he takes out at night but he is smart.


Young Joel was invited to the Quiz Kids office for an interview - he had an adorable personality - and was selected to appear on the April 29, 1942 show. Unfortunately, he didn’t do well (except in math), and was eliminated. But he was cute and charismatic - so the producers gave his mother a list of books and told them to return in six months.

Many years later Joel reflected on his return to the Quiz Kids: “I was told to read Time magazine. All I did was read a whole lot of crap. I had a 219 on the Stanford-Binet test - some say it was the highest IQ ever recorded, but later I took a test on objects in space and I was below average. I was good with words and numbers but not spatial analysis. There’s this weird notion that intelligence is a simple thing, but in fact people can be smart in some ways and stupid in others.” [Michael]

October 1942: Joel returns – “a star is born”

“OK children,” says jovial Joe Kelly, “how much is 38 times 99?”

Instantly, Joel raises his hand. “Mister Kelly - its three-thousand seven-hundred and sixty-two.”

“Oh golly! That’s absolutely wonderful,” says the quizmaster. “How did you do that so fast?”

“I can’t tell you,” responds little Joel, “it’s a ‘theequit’ twick.’” (secret trick - said with a lisp)

NOTE: At the end of this story (if you read that far) - Joel explains the secret trick - how to amaze your friends.

After that adorable answer, America fell in love with little Joel - he appeared on the cover of several magazines - the press couldn’t get enough of him – he was even compared to Einstein and Euclid - and Louis Cowan, the innovative producer of Quiz Kids, was so excited he jumped out of his bathtub.

Eureka, I found it - we’re going national!

Cowan might not have said these exact words, but actions speak louder than words, and his radio show underwent a subtle overhaul. Although still known as the Quiz Kids - it would essentially become “Joel Kupperman, and his four friends.” The loveable child prodigy would lead the way to national recognition - a local radio show would soon be heard in every city in America.

NOTE: Cowan also lent his creative genius to “Voice of America,” broadcasting inspirational programs to Europe - spreading the message of American democracy. He envisioned the Quiz Kids, led by Joel (the cute Jewish boy) as a way of arousing the sympathy of people who were indifferent to European Jewry - helpless people who were being slaughtered by Hitler. He felt that even though it was easy to gloss over persecution of adults, no one could ignore the suffering of little children. [Michael]

In order to transform the Quiz Kids into the “Joel Kupperman Show” (without anyone knowing what was happening) it was imperative for the cute little “super-star” to remain on the show every Sunday - he must never be eliminated, even if he had a bad day. Cowan did not rig the program (not like his future productions: The $64,000 Question and The $64,000 Challenge ) - contestants were not provided answers in advance, but the creative producer controlled the format of the show, making sure that Joel was never in the bottom two. All that was necessary was to include at least two math problems each week - Joel was quicker than anyone else in that category. He would always be the first to raise his hand, but the other areas presented a problem. Joel didn’t dominate in art, politics, history, geography, sports, science, etc. - he was average, at best. So, jolly Joe would have to be somewhat manipulative - which contestant would be called upon to answer each question - not always selecting the kid who was first to raise a hand - thus, spreading the points (other than math) somewhat equally among the contestants. This was radio - who would know if the quizmaster was fudging a little? And Joel always scored in the top three. He lasted on the show for 10 years - approximately 400 episodes. Second longest was Little Ruthie (170 episodes) – she was also Jewish, and very cute.

Jolly Joe starts the show: “This question was sent in by Becky Sue McDonald, a teenage fan in Peoria, Illinois – she loves Frank Sinatra, dancing the jitterbug, and geography. How big is the equatorial diameter of the earth – measured in inches?”

(All four kids raise their hand)

“Joel – once again – I see that you were the first kid with a hand in the air – you are our little genius. What’s the answer?”

“Mister Kelly: This is very ‘thimple’ (simple) - The diameter of the earth, at the equator, is 7,926 miles … that would be 502,191,360 inches.”

“Golly gee, Joel – that is marvelous. You’re the smartest boy in America – you’re going to be the next Albert Einstein. – now, for a word from our sponsor, Alka Seltzer.”


Click on the vintage living room radio and turn up your volume. Join this typical American family and listen to a 1940’s Quiz Kids program – try to solve Joel’s math puzzle at the 17.40 mark (reminder: he’s only 6) Note: My dad and I never wore a tie while listening to the radio.

Many celebrities appeared on the popular national show  (Jack Benny, Eddie Cantor, Chico Marx, Fred Allen,  Bob Hope) - exchanging pre-scripted banter with little Joel.

“Joel, don’t forget - in two weeks from now you’re going to be on my radio program - and you’ll get to pull the mustache of my sidekick, Jerry Colona – he’s almost as funny as me”

“Thank you Mister Hope – that sounds like something I’d really love to do. Did you know, if Mona Lisa married Jerry Colona her name would be Mona Colona?”

“Good one – Ha! Ha! I’ll use that on my show. I’ll have my lawyer talk to your agent about royalties.”


Joel’s fame rose - he was receiving 10,000 pieces of fan mail weekly – consulted on a variety of issues, ranging from the war to taxes - and female journalists wanted to marry him. He was then hired to appear in a movie - “A Chip off the Old Block” - starring Donald O’Conner, with Joel playing himself. Cowan was in heaven - so was Joel’s mom. And the child prodigy had just turned seven.


During the next few years, while the Quiz Kids was still on the radio, I never missed the show.  Joel was my hero, even though he no longer went to Volta.  I practiced multiplying 3-digit numbers in my head – it took intense concentration.

“So what?” said my mother. “Joel Kupperman can calculate square roots with his eyes closed.”

1949: The move to Television

After the war,  radio shows died a rapid death (much like silent movies, when talking pictures were invented) - the rush was on - radio shows were jumping to  television.  Milton Berle was the first big star to switch, followed by Fred Allen, Jack Benny, and the  Quiz Kids  - and Louis Cowan, always the innovative genius,  made a few “visual” changes to the show.

Joel, then 14, was the only carryover Quiz Kid - all the others had reached the  age of 16, the mandatory “graduation” age. Although Joel was then a household name, most people didn’t know what he looked like, since he was a radio personality.  In the new format he would be surrounded by seven cute little kids - the TV show used eight contestants instead of five. 

I watched the TV show, but  only a few times (I was then 11 and  had become very cynical) - I kept thinking of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs -  this wasn’t the same Quiz Kids show anymore (it was boring) -  I flipped channels to the “Lone Ranger” and started saying “Hi-Yo Silver” and Jerome responded by calling me “Kemosabe.”

 “Hey Sleepy - no yawning  on the job - people aren’t watching this TV show to see you sleep.”  

 “Smell the coffee Kupperman – they sure aren’t watching to see an over-the-hill Quiz Kid like you.”

As noted by Michael Kupperman: “… television was a medium  for which my father was  squarely unsuited. Once cute, his precocity had now calcified into a smartness of a less charming, adolescent mien. He was considered insufferable by many of his peers. The stress of remaining within the Quiz Kids  grip, combined with his now being publicly recognizable, began to take its toll.” [Michael]

And fellow Quiz Kid, Richard Williams, Joel’s best friend from the radio show, said: “As Joel reached adolescence, he became as reserved as he had previously been talkative.  Gangling and bespectacled, he looked just the way you’d think a math genius would look.”  [Ruth]

In 1952 Joel turns 16 - the mandatory age for ‘graduation’ - so he quietly departs from the  Quiz Kids without any fanfare,  certainly not like the publicity he received when he joined the show,  and he begins college; his  ten-year stint in show business is over. Hopefully, he could now lead a  “normal”  life. But, how can a 16 year old boy lead a  “normal”  life if  everyone in America knows his face - which is almost as recognizable as Milton Berle, Joe DiMaggio or President Eisenhower - especially if everyone (including me) expects him to become the next Albert Einstein – or save the world from the growing menace of Communism?

1952-1956:  University of Chicago

Joel receives a scholarship to the University of Chicago - where he is harassed by a group of anti-Semitic bullies  - his defense is to become  a recluse and concentrate  on his studies (not exactly a “normal” life) - no fraternities, no football games, no parties  - just studying and preparing for exams.  He graduates in two years - valedictorian of his class - age 18. He stays at the university two additional years - earning a masters degree, and is mentored by a professor of Asian Philosophy - who advises him  to leave the country, to go to Cambridge University in England and pursue a PhD in Philosophy.

I read about this in the newspaper – even  though Joel was no longer a Quiz Kid  he was still somewhat newsworthy. Philosophy!  Why not math,  quantum physics or nuclear science?  What good is philosophy for building a bomb that will save the world?

1957:  The $64,000 Challenge

Louis Cowan, the creative producer of  Quiz Kids and  The $64,000 Question  - produces another blockbuster TV show -  The $64,000 Challenge  - and one of the first contestants on the new  show is Joel Kupperman - then a 21 year old PhD student at Cambridge University.  Joel competes in the area of “music.”

Music?  Huh? Now  I really was confused - what did music have to do with math?  I was 18, a freshman in college, and I had recently read  in a psychology text book  about “right brain” and “left brain” - it seemed to me that math and music were complete opposites - one was highly structured - one was creative - different sides of the brain.  Why was Joel competing in music?  This  seemed so out of character for someone who was once known as Baby Einstein! 

Joel has no problem answering all questions during the first two rounds of the quiz show - his winnings accumulate  to $8,000. Three more weeks and he can win $64,000, but Joel recognizes that the show is  rigged - he quits and returns to Cambridge.  This bothers him  for the rest of his life - he feels he was a party to a fraud. [Michael]

Two years later  The $64,000 Challenge  (and several other quiz shows) were exposed as fraudulent.   As noted previously,  Cowans was fired by CBS - but there was no federal law against broadcasting rigged quiz shows on TV.  Thus, no one faced criminal charges. However, in 1960 federal legislation was enacted to make fraudulent  quiz shows illegal. 

1964-2014: University of Connecticut - Professor of Eastern Philosophy

“New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings”

Lao Tsu

“The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell"


For the next 50 years, Joel Kupperman lived in relative seclusion in a small college town - avoiding all press and television interviews - and if the subject of Quiz Kids ever came up in conversation, he would walk out of the room. [Michael]

The famous child prodigy no longer appears on television shows - forgotten by time, except by older people (like me) who used to listen to the  Quiz Kids on the radio - but during his tenure at the University of Connecticut, in addition to influencing thousands of students, he evolves as a prolific scholar,  publishing 11 books on ethics, values for the good life, and Eastern philosophy - and 65 articles in leading academic journals.

The most highly regarded of Kupperman’s  books is “Six Myths about the Good Life,” which explores the values that are worth aiming for in our lives, a topic central to what has been called “Philosophy of Life.”

Much of Joel’s scholarly work focuses on how people make moral and ethical choices and what constitutes a good life.  He also discusses and examines  similarities and differences between Western and Asian philosophy.  In his “Classic Asian Philosophy: A Guide to the Essential Texts” -  the following  poignant statement, which could apply to Joel’s own development, introduces the first chapter: 

“Most of us at some point in our lives stop to ask who we are. Perhaps we have been playing a part or simply doing what other people expect of us. It does not feel right, and it occurs to us that things would be different if we were our real self. Our real self, we think: what is that?”

April 8, 2020 (RIP)

Joel Kupperman - age 83  (an American philosopher and professor - former Quiz Kid)  dies in an assisted living facility in Brooklyn.  Cause of death:  influenza-like illness (probably Covid-19)

Shortly after Joel dies his wife, a professor at NYU,  is  interviewed by the New York Times:  ”When we were dating that first summer, if a store clerk heard his name, they would invariably say, ‘I hated you when I was a kid.’  He was really determined to reinvent himself, and by college he was already thinking of himself as a philosopher. He wanted to retreat into the life of the mind, and in many ways he succeeded. He really lived in his head.”

2025: (Five years after Joel died)  -  Revival of the Quiz Kids

A 30 piece orchestra, led by Glenn Miller (age 121) plays its iconic hit: "In the Mood.” After several minutes of jiving to the swing-classic, the music switches to the cute children’s song - “School Days” - the TV audience is instructed to applaud - a school bell rings, and from behind a red velvet curtain, out comes the famous quizmaster, jovial Joe Kelly (age 123) - he’s seated on a golden wheel chair, still smiling.

“Hello everybody - gee whiz - golly - it’s really swell to be back - welcome to the new Quiz Kids - a revival of the great American classic – but, in our revised show, instead of using only cute, precocious little kids, we’re also going to include a few adults. Shucks - some of these old fogeys are really smart cookies - so, lets get started by asking the never ending question: What ever happened to Joel Kupperman?”

Ralph Wright, a 77 yr. old retired computer programmer from New York (who devoted his entire career to finding simple solutions for complex problems) is the first contestant to raise his hand. The stodgy old man refuses to smile, despite instructions from the TV producer, Louis Cowan (age 120). “I call it as I see it … I’m known as Mister Wright cause’ I ain’t never wrong.” (several chuckles from the audience) “After his promising start on the Quiz Kids, Kupperman vanished into oblivion. He wasted his god given talent - what a pity - the kid could have been another Einstein.”

Immediately, I raise my hand - “No! No! I disagree.”

“Myron - I heard you went to school with Joel at Volta,” the quizmaster smiles. “Wow! That is so neat! What’s your answer? What ever happened to Joel Kupperman?”

“Mister Kelly - When I was a child I thought as a child. Joel was my hero - I was sure he would become a great scientist, he would invent a super bomb to end all wars - but that didn’t happen. He chose a different path in life - he became a professor - a philosopher - he taught thousands of students how to think - how to get inside their head, instead of performing cute math tricks and memorizing ‘crap’ - pardon my profanity - I’m using Joel’s exact words. How can you call that oblivion?”

“Golly gee Myron - you and Ralph sure have given us lots to think about - lets break for a word from our sponsor, Alka Seltzer - during the break our distinguished panel of experts will decide who is right, you or Ralph.”

After the Alka Seltzer commercial - jovial Joe, the smiling quizmaster, returns to center stage: “OK, I’m back. Holy Cow! It sure was a close vote - but four of the seven experts voted for - (drum roll ~~ long pause) - Congratulations Myron, you are the winner. We’ll see you next week, back on the show, where you’ll receive another U.S. War Bond.”

(applause from the audience - as directed by the TV producer)

Ralph starts to leave the stage, carrying his award, a case of Alka Seltzer (48 little boxes). Then, he stops, turns to jovial Joe, and makes a parting comment - “I don’t care what your team of ivory tower eggheads says - they’re full of [expletive deleted] - I’m sure most people in the real world agree with me.”

(scattered boos from the audience)

Cowan jumps to his feet and motions for Glenn Miller to drown out the boos – the orchestra plays and sings a loud, spirited rendition of its 1942 hit - “Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?”

The “Theequit’ T’wick” (Secret Trick) Explained

Here’s how to multiply any two digit number times 99 …. It’s simple! All you got to do is add two zeroes to the number - then subtract the little number from the big number. For example: 34 times 99 would be 3400 minus 34 = 3366

Practice this a few times and you’ll get real fast - then you can amaze your friends and relatives - they’ll start calling you a genius. But, be careful, don’t let it mess up your head.

Love and kisses - Joel Kupperman

“Myron – Why can’t you be like Joel Kupperman?”

From age 5 until 11 - I sat in the living room every Sunday night with my parents and listened to the Quiz Kids - I loved that great radio program, but I cringed every time my mother asked the exasperating question - “Myron, why can’t you be like Joel Kupperman?” And sometimes, when Joel answered a very complex math problem – no words were necessary- just her “evil eye.” I got the message.Of course, I did my best to prove that I was “almost” as smart as the famous Quiz Kid. I rattled off the names of all 48 state capitals in 48 seconds (that was before Alaska and Hawaii) - and I memorized the middle name of every American president (Harry S. Truman didn’t really have a middle name – he just used the “S” to sound more dignified). And my childhood friend, Jerome Lavinsky, had to deal with the same type of pressure from his father. That’s why he learned the names of the Galilean moons of Jupiter. He also knew the latitude and longitude of Midway Island (the site of the famous WWII naval battle). Jerome and I were good students, but neither of us ever became a Quiz Kid. However, it’s kind of ironic – we both followed in the footsteps of our idol, Joel Kupperman. We both went to graduate school, received a PhD, and enjoyed rewarding careers as college professors. Eventually Jerome shortened Lavinsky to Lavin. He now prefers to be called Jerry.I’m still Myron, but my wife and some of my friends call me. Mike - and I still know how to croak like a frog – something Joel Kupperman could never do.

“No one saves us but ourselves.  No one can and no one may.  We ourselves must walk the path.”



Myron S. Lubell was born in Chicago and moved to Miami Beach at age 12. He is a Florida CPA (retired), received a BBA and MBA from the university of Miami, and a PhD from the university of Maryland. He then became an Accounting professor at Florida International University for 32 years during which time he also wrote a weekly tax column for the Miami Herald. After retirement from academia he turned his talents to writing satire. He is author of “The Sixth Borough” (an insightful look at segregation in South Florida in the 1950’s) and “The Kessler Crossing” (a sci-fi social satire).

Photo: “Man in a Stairway”  - by Susan W Schermer - www.susanschermer.com



(The author can be reached at mysalu@aol.com)


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