There are disadvantages and advantages to growing up in a very small town where everybody knows everybody else. As the saying goes; it takes a village.
One of the disadvantages is that if you or your friends are up to something you shouldn’t be that could cause someone to get hurt, someone will be sure to call your parents and fill them in.
One of the advantages is that if you and your friends were up to something you shouldn’t be that was harmless fun, those same tattlers will not only keep your secret, they may aid and abet.
Two of the small-town pranks that I participated in happened at the town’s school.
While the only two sixth-grade classes were out on the playground one April Fool’s Day, we put our heads together and came up with a plan. At the end of recess, instead of returning to our own classrooms, those of us in Mr. Jackson’s class and the others from Mr. Ingram’s class would switch places. Without tipping off the prank to either teacher, we would file into the wrong classroom and take seats. The rooms were right next to each other in the hall.
When we entered the wrong classroom, there was a lot of giggling and whispering as we got settled into unfamiliar seats and waited eagerly for the teacher to enter.
When he did, he stopped short in his tracks. A look of startled puzzlement came across his face as he gazed around the classroom at all the unfamiliar faces. He didn’t say a word as we stared back at him and waited for a reaction.
We didn’t get one. He calmly stepped out of the room and softly closed the door. Uh-oh. Now we were worried. Were we in trouble? Was he calling our parents?
What he seemed to be doing was having a hurried conversation with the other teacher about how to handle the situation.
When he stepped back into the room, all he said was, “All right class, take out your textbooks and turn to where we left off before recess.” Of course, we didn’t know where that was, because he was not our teacher, and this was not our classroom.
He made us answer questions and then take a quiz on the other class’s assignments, and then asked to collect our homework, as we frantically worried that we all were going to get a big fat “F’ for the day’s work. You could almost smell the fear in the room.
When the bell rang for the end of the class, he informed us that none of the day’s work would count toward our grades and that the other class had received the same treatment from the other teacher. He thanked us for the prank, which he said had provided a good laugh for both him and the other teacher.
As a group, we didn’t try another prank until we were in the 8th grade, in the middle school building next door.
For several weeks the local radio station that all the teens listened to had been promoting a running joke. They had chosen a specific date a few weeks off when they said a spaceship was predicted to land in our area. Its goal, the radio station personality said, was for its space alien pilots to collect all the teenagers, load them into a spaceship, and take them to their planet. He didn’t say what they wanted us for, or whose idea it was for them to choose our age group. Maybe our beleaguered parents?
The town’s teens took it for the joke that it was. We decided it would be fun to play along with the gag. For weeks we laughingly discussed amongst ourselves what we should pack, if we should leave a note for our parents, if maybe the aliens would let us drive the spaceship, etc.
Then, just like on April Fools’ Day in sixth grade, we put our heads together and came up with a prank to top that one. The plan spread rapidly among middle school students. When the appointed date arrived, the teachers probably noticed the whispering and giggling and the air of excitement in the building, but had no idea what it was about. They didn’t listen to the same station we did. They were listening to Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and Patsy Cline. We were more into Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, and Elvis Presley.
We furtively watched the wall clock in each room as the time clicked closer and closer. At the exact moment of the supposed abduction by aliens, we all rose from our seats, arms held stiffly out, assumed zombie-like expressions, and walked out into the halls, down the stairs, and right out the front door onto the lawn in front of the school. No one spoke except the teachers, who ran after us in alarm, shouting, “Students! Get back here immediately! Where are you going? Get back here!”
Once we hit the great outdoors on a lovely Spring afternoon, we scattered. Some ran toward home, or down Main Street. Others simply rolled around on the ground, laughing hysterically, calling out, “Hey, Spaceman! Come and get me! I’m packed and ready to go!”
It took a lot of time for the teachers to round up the ones they could catch and herd us back into the classrooms. No learning was going to take place after that disruption. Oddly, I don’t remember if there were any repercussions of our prank, either from the school or from our parents. Because so many of us participated, it would have been impossible to discipline all of us, therefore it is likely that none of us were disciplined.
It’s been a very long time since I participated in any pranks, but I was a secretary in a large high school for over 20 years, and I’ve seen my share of student pranks. I recall the time a flock of chickens was let loose in the building. Rumor had it that the students’ first choice had been to carry a calf up the stairs to the school’s second floor because they said a cow will not go down a set of stairs. They decided on the chickens instead. It might have been amusing if the chickens had not gotten into the kitchen and cafeteria and left feathers and feces everywhere. This necessitated a crew of custodians spending many hours sanitizing every surface in both areas, followed by a post-chicken-prank visit from the State Board of Health for a thorough inspection.
If the students had asked me first, I could have suggested a prank more fun with a less negative outcome.