Recovering the Trophy – and Restoring it

Tuesday morning, July 27.  I received a phone call from Anthony Clement, the principal of Harriet Gibbons High School.  As those who follow this blog know all too well, Harriet Gibbons HS was the former Street Academy of Albany, my old high school.  It’s also the former alternative high school that was shut down earlier this summer by the cold-blooded bullies at the Albany City School District.  And don’t think I haven’t forgotten that.  Or the dates each and every one of you board members are up for re-election.

Principal Clement and I have talked in the past, and he knows what I’ve done in terms of trying to recover Street Academy / Harriet Gibbons’ history and what that school meant to Albany’s inner city community.

And when he spoke to me today, he said four words that I thought I’d never hear again – four words that, upon their utterance, would keep the Albany City School District from destroying the last great vestige of my school history.

“We found the trophy.”

The “trophy” he referred to was the 1981 Answers Please trophy.


The championship trophy in 1981. Left to right - Answers Please host Tim Welch; a representative from the Junior College of Albany; and some dorky kid whose name escapes me.

On Answers Please, if you happened to win three weeks in a row, you retired undefeated and your school received a special championship trophy from the Junior College of Albany.

After our third win – a 150-60 triumph against St. Mary’s of Hoosick Falls, who at the time had just won a local basketball championship – we received the trophy.  This was the culmination of what our school was able to accomplish.  That trophy was on display at Street Academy’s old campus on Clinton Avenue for years and years.

Then the school moved to the Adult Learning Center building (the old Albany High School Annex) on Western Avenue.

Then the school moved to the Our Lady of Angels campus on Sheridan Avenue.

Then the school moved to the Carnevale’s Supermarket building on Watervliet Avenue.

And somewhere along that time, the trophy was packed in a box and moved.  And moved.  And moved.  And like the titular prize in Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was moved for the sake of moving, and disappeared.

While attempting to recover the history of the high school, as part of my online tribute site of the learning institution, I always asked if anyone knew where the trophy was.  There were efforts to find it, but it didn’t turn up.

Until this week.

Wednesday morning, July 28.  I drive over to the 75 Watervliet Avenue campus.  Principal Clement is running late.  A maintenance worker lets me in the building.  He’s already spoken to Principal Clement, so I’ve been cleared to enter the building.

I am directed to a storage area in the main office.

And there it is.  The championship trophy our school earned in 1981.

I pick it up.  The columns holding up the trophy start to sway and wiggle.  The nuts and bolts that held this thing together all those years are coming loose.  One of the internal rods slips out; I catch it before it falls to the floor.  I find an empty storage box and gingerly place the fragile trophy inside.

Principal Clement has found some other items that might be of interest – photographs of school graduations and proms; videotapes of graduation ceremonies; a 2005-06 yearbook (the last year the school operated as a 9th through 12th grade high school). I gather them up and, with the help of the maintenance worker on duty, we place the treasures in my car.

The maintenance worker carried the videotapes and photo books to my Saturn Ion.  I carried the trophy.  It’s the Stanley Cup rule.  If you haven’t won it, you can’t touch it.

I make a few calls around the Capital District to find a trophy repair shop, but the companies that I knew made trophies, such as Broadway Marketing, are no longer in the individualized custom trophy business.  I wasn’t going to bring it to a bowling pro shop and have them cobble together parts from old bowling trophies to restore this award.  And there’s no marking or brand name anywhere on the trophy that indicates where the original trophy was constructed.

I did some online investigating.  And, thanks to an internet search, I found a website called  For a few dollars and a few moments of my time, I can do the repairs on the trophy myself.  Eyeballing their online catalog, I ordered some replacement 13.5″ interior bolts, some gold nut caps, some felt base dots, and several “check rings.”

The parts should arrive in a week or so.

In the meantime, I’m going to start scanning in the photographs so that they can be preserved; I’m also going to convert the graduation videotapes to DVD’s. Already, on one of these VHS tapes, I found the dedication ceremony that was held when the school’s name was changed to Harriet Gibbons High School.  Once those have been digitized, I’ll let anyone who needs copies of those particular graduation years know how to obtain copies of same.

There’s an old saying in oral history.  You must tell the story, so that future generations will know.  And once you know, you can’t un-know.

And no matter what the Albany City School District thinks of my old high school, I will not let them “unperson” its existence.  I just won’t.