Sometimes the most interesting thing about early media is examining what was popular in another time, especially when it is something that seems so unusual today. One can only imagine how future generations will respond to the popularity of such insipid drivel as The Kardashians or Honey Boo Boo.
Throughout the 1940s and into the early 1950s there was a radio show that gathered the smartest children in America, calling them The Quiz Kids. The children would answer difficult questions submitted by listeners, who would marvel at their intelligence. In an era of shows where children are browbeaten as they try to cook a meal or succeed at modeling, looking back at a program from a forgotten medium that applauded academic prowess is both fascinating and a bit sad.
The intelligence of the Quiz Kids was not defined as nerdiness or geekiness in this era -- being smart was cool, and the program attracted such pop culture guests as Walt Disney, Bob Hope, Fred Allen, The Lone Ranger (in character), and Gene Autry. The Quiz Kids were even invited to the White House to meet with President and Mrs. Roosevelt.
Martin A. Gardner's new book, Quiz Kids, chronicles the program, the children who appeared, and its popularity during a time of transition in America. From the end of the Great Depression, through World War Two, and into the post war era, The Quiz Kids program continued to flourish, and education became respected.
Gardner's book is a very thorough, fascinating look at the popular program, which gathered children that ranged in age from 5 to 15 and over a 13 year period featured many different Quiz Kids. Gardner notes in his Prefaces that one of the few Quiz Kids who was on the program for a number of years, Ruth Duskin Feldman, wrote a book which tracks down and interviews several Quiz Kids as adults. This perspective is not a part of Gardner's book. This author instead discusses the show itself -- its creation, auditions, gradual success, marketing, etc.
For those interested in radio's golden age, this very interesting book about a very popular program from a very important era in the medium is most highly recommended.