Plan your April Fool’s prank today

The airplane carrying the UF football team taxis through streams of water from fire trucks as part of the arrival ceremonies at the Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood International Jet Center on Friday, January 2, 2009 (Harrison Diamond / Alligator Staff).

Growing up in West Point, Mississippi, in the 1950s was a magical time.

One of my favorite non-serious holidays was April 1.  Henry Harris, the editor of our local newspaper loved to pull pranks on the community and he usually “got us!”

My favorite was the April 1 headline which read “Jet plane makes emergency landing on West Point High School Football Field.”  In those days before “photoshop,” he had somehow managed to superimpose a shot of a jet resting on the 50 yard line. You could even see the concession stand in the background!

By 9 a.m. there was a huge traffic jam on Main Street as everybody in town rushed over to see the spectacle.  If they had read the story through, they would have discovered the words “April Fool!” in the last line.

One year the warning read “water shortage in Clay County.”  Daddy recalls coming home that evening and finding jars and bottles of water all over the house.  Mother was determined we were going to be ready!

In sixteenth-century France, the start of the new year was observed on April first. It was celebrated with parties and dancing into the late hours of the night.

Then in 1562, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar for the Christian world, and the new year fell on January first. There were some people, however, who hadn’t heard or didn’t believe the change in the date, so they continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April first. Others played tricks on them and called them “April fools.” They sent them on a “fool’s errand” or tried to make them believe that something false was true.

I try to keep the tradition alive and relished playing tricks on my children.  One year I went streaking through the house yelling “It snowed last night!”  My boys hauled out of bed like they’d never done before rushed to the window.  (Kind of mean, but it got them up and going.)

Most April Fool jokes are in good fun and not meant to harm anyone. The most clever April Fool joke is the one where everyone laughs, especially the person upon whom the joke is played.

My best effort was in 2005.  My editor had just purchased a new car.  I spotted a wire story about the recall of a new vehicle for serious brake flaws. I ‘doctored’ the story to identify the model of his new car and left it on his desk.  When he arrived,  he came charging out and went on a rampage through the building.  Everyone rolled over in laughter and he looked directly at me.

He knew I’d “Gotten Him.”

“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year. “  said American humorist Mark Twain.  Oh, but wouldn’t be nice if we played the fool only on this one day each year!

6 thoughts on “Plan your April Fool’s prank today

  1. Emily,
    I too remember the stories Mr. Harris wrote on April Fool’s day. The day the one about the water was published, I was also filling up jugs with water. My daddy finally told me to read the rest of the story. I vowed then to NEVER fall for his tricks again, but I am sure that I did.

  2. Just remembered one more from Henry Harris – one year he surgically removed First National Bank from a photo of downtown area and said it had been blown up by a bomb. I think we caught that one before creating another traffic jam!

  3. Emily,

    I also have a fond memory of the “B-52 Lands On Football Field” traffic jam . . . we were sitting in the front yard waving (and laughing on the inside) at all our friends driving down Main Street toward the field. Of course, time may have clouded one small part of your memory . . . the traffic started picking up about 3:00 p.m., since the Times Leader was an afternoon paper in the 1950s! By the way, we noticed most everyone chose another route to go back home, rather than come back by our house.

    Maybe one day I’ll take the time to sit down and write about all the fun stuff surrounding those great April Fools Day stunts . . . lots of them are the “before and after” stories, rather than the actual Page One itself.

    My personal favorite was the look on the face of the late Dr. James McComas, then President of Mississippi State University, when I asked his permission to “put a plane in the side of Humphrey Coliseum.”

    Best Regards. I so enjoy your columns and your approach to life!

  4. Hey Billy – great to hear from you! I did love your Daddy’s paper and, later, yours. Loved “Pencil Shavings” – journalism will never be the same with the Harrises!

  5. I think I probably got in on the end of some of Mr. Henry Harris’ April 1 columns. I think Spanky kept up the tradition for a while. I remember one about a secret tunnel/area beneath the Jitney Jungle building and another one about DeSoto having come through WP and some artifacts being found [I fell pretty hard for that one!]. I sure do miss those stories! It always took me a few minutes to remember the date!

  6. I remember so well the April Fool’s jokes Mr. Harris put in the paper. I was halfway down the driveway headed for the football to see that plane when my Mama told me that I had better read the whole article!

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