Before television, April Fools Day was a day to have some fun in catching others unaware. The fun was especially in trying to fool Mom and Dad, who never failed to “get us”. It was their day’s first priority, and since they were up first they had time to prepare for April Fooling us kids.
My earliest memory of being fooled is being told my shoelace was untied. By the time I was five, Dad could no longer fool me on that one. One morning my mother was ready with a new and good April Fools. We lived on a farm, where the fences – everyone’s fences − were held together by bailing wire. Well, that was said with tongue in cheek, though it bears a certain amount of truth. This was in the nineteen forties when impact of the 1929 depression still kept money scare for farmers – at least in my neck of the woods. Consequently, the cows were always getting out through weak places in farm fences patched with bailing wire. Then we’d all fly into action to get them back into the barnyard. Then Dad would use more bailing wire to mend the fence.
On one particular morning, my mother came to the foot of the stairs and called up those familiar words, “Kids, get up! The cows are out!” Within the moment, we were fairly tumbling down stairs finishing pulling on clothes and buttoning up. There stood mother, serenely smiling and saying, “April Fool”. She was able to spring that one on us for several years; it was easy. “The cows are out”, was a call for reflexes –first – before the brain could get a start.
Daddy loved to fool us. One April Fool’s morning three of us kids were up before Carolyn. Dad was trying to think of a good one for her. Finally, he said, “I know! When she comes through the door, I’ll grab her and say, “Why, this girl has the measles! Well, my two brothers and I couldn’t wait for Carolyn to get up. We thought it was a swell April Fools.
When she came in, Dad was standing by the kitchen pump at the wash up sink, and he grabbed her and said, “Why this girl …… why this girl …. and the three of us waited and wondered: “Why doesn’t he say it?” Finally, Dad said, “Why this girl ….. really does have the measles!” And she did! Guess that April Fools joke was on Dad, instead.
I was at the end of my childhood before I got an April Fool’s on Dad, one morning after breakfast. My brothers had already gone down the lane to catch the bus to school. I was 18 and in my first year at a nearby junior college. That semester I had all my classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. April Fool was on a Tuesday or a Thursday.
Mother had started out the kitchen door with a coal bucket of ashes. The dump truck was stuck in the mud in the horse barnlot to the left, and the stock truck was to the right at the foot of the yard. Dad was sitting at the table, shaking tobacco into a tabacco paper. He told my mother to take the ashes down and pour them under the wheels of the truck because it was stuck in the mud.
I did not think she quite understood so watched out the window to see which way she would go. Sure enough, she turned right on the sidewalk towards the lane, which is where the stock truck was parked. I had been sitting in a chair trying to think of a good April Fools joke for Dad. The previous fall, an older sister had bought a used television for our family – our first, which is why no one had April Fooled anyone. Already, because of that television, our way of life was changing.
So, when Mother turned in the wrong direction, she created the perfect April Fool to pull on Dad! After about 15 seconds I said, “Dad, she didn’t understand you. She’s going the wrong way.” He said, “Tell her”. I went to the screen door. It was a pretty day and the inside door was open. I said, “Uh oh! He said, “WHAT? “I said, “She’s pouring the ashes out in the yard!” Dad got up so fast, he almost knocked over the chair. Then he took several quick steps and as he was going through the door to the porch, he was yelling, “Hey, hey, hey! What are you doing?”
Half way down the yard was Mother. Bucket in hand, she turned, serenly, to look at him. By this time I was so tickled, I could barely squeeze out, “April Fool’s, Dad!” He didn’t say a word. Just gave me a chagrined look, went back in, sat down and finished rolling his cigarette. The memory is rather dear to me for several reasons. First, it is the only time I was ever able to get an April Fools on Dad. Plus, he and Mom, who had yearly fooled us kids – unbeknownst to each other set it all up for me– beautifully.
That was the end of April Fool fun for my family. Television changed the way we used our minds and our time. Instead of playing games, playing cards, or reading, in the evening, we watched television. I wonder what all the rest of my life would have been like if television had never come along.