I shake my head in embarrassment when I think of some of the hare-brained things I did to commemorate April Fools' Day. To this day, I marvel at my parents' patience and restraint.
I pulled the "standard" pranks - putting salt into the pepper shaker and vice versa, pouring water into an empty milk carton and returning it to the refrigerator so that when mom went to add milk to the mashed potatoes she got water instead, and calling mom or dad to the phone when no one was there and crying out in delight "APRIL FOOL" after they said "hello, hello."
In 1956 I crossed the line. And that is what this is all about - my last April Fools' joke.
I had gotten my driver's license a few months earlier, and, once in a blue moon I would be given permission to drive my father's pride and joy - our 1955 Buick Roadmaster.
On April 1, 1956, I had permission to use the car. My friends and I went to the Boulevard Drive-In on Route 443 near Lehighton for an ice cream cone. At about 9 p.m. I realized that it was April Fools' Day and I had not deviled my parents with my annual antics.
How could I get a rise from my mother with me 10 miles from home? I got it: I would call my mom from a pay phone, disguise my voice, tell her I was a state policeman and give her the bad news that her son had been in a serious auto accident and that the prized family car had been demolished. Then, after a pause, I would shout "APRIL FOOL" (as I always did) and break into hysterical laughter (as I always did).
My friends loved the idea, too.
I went to the pay telephone booth in the Boulevard's parking lot and made a person-to-person call. I figured getting the operator into the act would make the call seem even more authentic. I had had an older-sounding voice since about eighth grade when my voiced changed, so I was sure I could pull this off.
My mother answered on the second ring. "I have a person-to-person call for Mrs. Frieda Frassinelli. Are you Mrs. Frassinelli?" the operator asked. "Yes…I am," I heard my mom say with some hesitation. "Go ahead, sir," the operator told me.
"Mrs. Frassinelli?" I asked in my deepest-sounding voice.
"Yes," she replied.
"This is Trooper Jones at the Lehighton State Police barracks," I said.
"Who?" she exclaimed, her voice becoming instantly agitated.
"State Trooper Jones," I continued, still sounding most official. "I am sorry to have to let you know about this this way but your son, Bruce, has been in a very serious car accident, and your car has been demolished."
Then, as I had laid out in my plan, I paused. I stifled the laughter welling up in my throat and prepared to shout "APRIL FOOL."
Suddenly, I heard this loud scream and the clunk, clunk, clunk as the phone bounced on the floor. In the distance, I heard the sound of running and my mother's screams trailing off. I was horrified. She was taking this seriously.
"Mom, mom," I called frantically, but I realized what was happening. She was running from our home into the connected grocery store my parents operated on Market Street in Summit Hill to get my father.
Starting to sweat heavily, I strained to hear what was going on. I could still hear my mom screaming and sobbing, trying to explain to my father the news she had just heard.
In about a minute, the rushing of feet got louder and louder. My mother's sobbing was getting louder. I could hear my father breathing hard and saying something to himself in Italian. My dad picked up the phone.
"How serious is my son hurt?" he asked excitedly.
"Pop, uh, this is me," I said. "It was a joke, pop."
"Pop?" I croaked.
"Here, your son wants to talk to you," I heard my father say to my mother."
"Hello," my mom said weakly in a quavering voice.
"Uh, mom, this is Bruce," I said cleverly. "Look, this is a big mistake. It was only an April Fools' joke."
I wouldn't dare quote my mother at that moment. Usually, an impeccably proper woman, she rattled off a string of epithets in Italian which invoked everyone's and everything's instant retaliation and wrath against me.
What had started off as one of my all-time great April Fools' jokes had turned into one of the most mortifying episodes of my then-young life. I also knew that when I would arrive at home later that night, life would never be the same.
(Bruce Frassinelli, son of the late Phillip and Frieda Frassinelli, is a native of Summit Hill who lives in Schnecksville and is an adjunct instructor at Lehigh Carbon Community College.)