I also had to start watching the show again. The program guide on the Jeopardy web site indicated that the show aired at the same time accident attorneys, payday loan makers, and diet doctors advertise on the airways, and I set the DVR accordingly. The show used to be on after dinner, a nice way to end the day and begin the evening. Re-engaging with Jeopardy, I asked myself: What had I committed to by agreeing to be a contestant? Was I a part of a desperate franchise? Such thoughts were put aside quickly as I worked through, among other lists, the countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the names of people who would succeed President Obama. VP, Speaker of the House, Secretary of State, and so forth....That's from part 1. The series continues, but the show aired yesterday, so we already know what happened. I won't spoil it for you, but it set my thoughts flowing back to my junior high school guidance counselor, Mr. Hannan. He was on "Jeopardy" in the early 1960s, and it was horrifying when he lost because he confused cirrus and cumulus clouds — probably on a big "Double Jeopardy" bet. We'd all learned the different kinds of clouds, and Mr. Hannan had even taught science! How could it be! But he was good natured about it, and we accepted that you've got to understand what it's really like trying to think and remember things when you're caught in the bright camera lights. [CORRECTION: The teacher I'm remembering wasn't Mr. Hannan, but a science teacher whose name I've forgotten. The material that follows, however, about Mr. Hannan, is, as far as I know, correct.]
The coolest thing about Mr. Hannan — Joseph Hannan — was not that he went on "Jeopardy." It was that he wrote a novel about being a teacher — "Never Tease a Dinosaur" — and it was made into a TV pilot — "Hey, Teacher" — that starred Dwayne Hickman. Dwayne Hickman was Mr. Hannan. So, practically, Mr. Hannan was Dobie Gillis!
It's sad that there's so little trace on line of the things from that era. I wish I could find the full text of "Never Tease a Dinosaur." I wish I could find a video clip of "Hey, Teacher." (The pilot aired in1964 — back when the networks filled in the summer schedule with pilot episodes of shows that never got sold.) I did find a tiny obituary for my old guidance counselor. The obit spells his name 2 ways — Hannon and Hannan — and makes me wonder now if I got it right.
Author Joseph Hannon died at age 84. Mr. Hannan wrote the book 1961 "Never Tease a Dinosaur." The book dealt with his experiences as an elementary school teacher in the 1950s. His observation of a man working in what was then a mainly woman's job. The book was the basis for the 1964 "Vacation Playhouse" TV pilot "Hey, Teacher." Dwayne Hickman starred as Mr. Hannan. Mr. Hannan served his country in the US Coast Guard during WWII.So I don't have a clip of Shubha missing his shot on "Jeopardy," and I sure don't have a clip of Mr. Hannan fluffing the cloud names on "Jeopardy," and I don't have a clip of Dwayne Hickman playing Mr. Hannan in "Hey, Teacher," but I do have a clip of Dwayne Hickman screwing up on "The Match Game":
Teachers and TV quiz shows. It's all good.
ADDED: A reader sends me the January 13, 2008 obituary in The Record (nicely written by Jay Levin). This isn't otherwise available on line, so I can't give a link. Text after the jump:
A LIFE: JOSEPH F. HANNAN , 1923-2008 As 'male schoolmarms' go, he wrote the book "I am an elementary schoolteacher; a male elementary schoolteacher; a dedicated, hardworking, shave-twice-a-day male elementary schoolteacher," Joseph F. Hannan wrote early in his teaching career in Wayne.Mr. Ginter! The man whose office I was sent to by teachers who didn't like my short skirts and long bangs! Ha. He tried to reason with me, hypothesizing what if a girl came to school in a bikini. What would happen to the poor boys? I reasoned back: I was not wearing a bikini, but a skirt — in the length that was fashionable. Let the girls wear pants then, but don't force me to wear a skirt that's the wrong length.
As 'male schoolmarms' go, he wrote the book "I am an elementary schoolteacher; a male elementary schoolteacher; a dedicated, hardworking, shave-twice-a-day male elementary schoolteacher," Joseph F. Hannan wrote early in his teaching career in Wayne.
"Yet at least one-quarter of the notes I receive from parents are addressed to Mrs. Hannan."
So it went for the witty Mrs. ... er ... Mr. Hannan, a Pompton Lakes resident who chronicled his experiences as a "male schoolmarm" in his 1961 book "Never Tease a Dinosaur." He died Monday at 84.
Mr. Hannan wrote "Never Tease a Dinosaur" on a clipboard while soaking in the bathtub. His wife, Marge, said that was "a good place for him to think," what with four kids - the fifth would arrive a few years later - underfoot.
The book was turned into a TV pilot titled "Hey, Teacher." Dwayne Hickman, who a year earlier portrayed a teenager on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," was protagonist Joe Hannan, "a terrorized third-grade teacher who may not last out the term's first day," according to the blurb in the June 13-19, 1964, TV Guide.
Mr. Hannan liked the casting.
And why not? He was nothing if not agreeable and go-with-the-flow.
He had no problem being the one guy at the grade school. "The harem effect," he called it.
"He always said the staff was wonderful to him, and they treated him like a king," said Marge Hannan, who was a school librarian at Pompton Lakes High. "They even fetched him coffee."
There was a trade-off:
"The sultan has a duty to the harem," Mr. Hannan wrote. "You will be called upon countless times to perform duties only a man can carry out successfully. For example, you will: change flat tires, put on snow chains, unlock locked bumpers and carry in bulky packages."
Bill Ginter was hired by the Wayne schools the same year as Mr. Hannan. Eventually, they would work together at Anthony Wayne Junior High - Ginter as assistant principal and Mr. Hannan as guidance director.
"I think Joe enjoyed being the only man, that's for sure," said Ginter, who lives in Sussex County.
"He just enjoyed life and was such an uplifting person."
Joseph Hannan grew up in Paterson on the banks of the Morris Canal, which helps to explain his membership in the Canal Society of New Jersey.
After serving in the Coast Guard during World War II, he worked as a letter carrier in Paterson while getting his degree at Rutgers at night.
An aunt suggested he go into teaching. He picked up the necessary credits and started his career as a sixth-grade teacher at Wayne's Packanack Lake School.
A few years later, he was teaching at Mountain View School and mining the experience for material. His essay "Snakes in the Classroom" appeared in the April 1959 edition of the New Jersey Education Association Review.
"As a gesture of love from a small boy or as a harbinger of spring, be assured that some day you'll have to face a snake. ... The snake must be made to feel welcome. I need hardly say that a loud shriek followed by a fainting spell is not conducive to a good snake-people relationship."
"Snakes in the Classroom" caught the eye of the publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston, which asked Mr. Hannan to write a humorous book about being a teacher. The advance paid for the family's camping vacation at Yellowstone; subsequent checks helped put eldest son Joe through Syracuse University and a new Zenith television set in the living room.
It was around that Zenith that the Hannan family gathered on June 15, 1964, when "Hey, Teacher" aired on Channel 2 as part of CBS's "Vacation Playhouse" series. The Paterson Morning Call sent a reporter and photographer to capture the moment.
Celebrityhood was short-lived for Joseph Hannan. The network did not pick up the pilot. But Mr. Hannan soldiered on. He published another book, "Killing Time," about the challenges of leisure; taught for 20 more years; and enjoyed a retirement filled with canal-lecturing and banjo-playing and grandkids.
His lighthearted take on the perils of teaching in the "Leave It to Beaver" era - including three whole pages on gum-chewing! - lives on in "Never Tease a Dinosaur," thanks to Amazon.com.