It’s been 45 years … OMG that’s frighteningly long ago! … but if you were in that classroom in 1968, you are still telling this story to anyone who will listen today. It was a simple, perfect, guaranteed-to-succeed April Fool’s prank. No idea, who conceived this masterful plan, but I’m pretty sure it was one of the boys. Wilkinson? Macdonald? Anyone remember?
This was the plan: Pick the class with the teacher rated highest on the I-think-I’m-so-cool scale. That was Mr. Stamp’s geography class (2nd Form English comprehensive school — aka 7th grade in the American system). Then pick the most goody-two-shoes-never-did-anything-wrong girl in the class. The candidate for that was Pat Dawson, though I think she had lots of competition for this spot. Then persuade that perfect girl to pretend to faint in the middle of the appointed class. Not sure full agreement was reached before the bell rang, but by some stroke of luck for all of us waiting in nervous anticipation, halfway through class, she stunned us all by unceremoniously falling off her chair in a faint. Wow.
It was awesome. We had no smart phones to record the event, but I remember it vividly. Mr. Stamp dropped his I’m-too-cool-for-school persona and spun out into a frantic, hyperventilating, nervous ninny. After the initial shocked silence, the giggling and tittering started amongst the rest of us. Pat played her role like a master — she just lay there — didn’t move a muscle. Mr. Stamp paced back and forth barking orders: “open the window”, “someone loosen her collar” (our uniform prescribed shirts and ties), “everyone remain calm” (that was the funniest one). Finally, he ordered Pat’s friend, Vivienne, to go search for help. Pat still lay there completely still, all the while increasing her status with her classmates. What courage! What composure! She really did it! Vivienne left the classroom and we were convinced she would be returning with trouble, but Pat didn’t move. We were still living in a world of very frequent and painful corporal punishment – equally administered to both boys and girls. This could be bad.
The angels were watching over us that morning, as Vivienne hesitatingly and nervously walked down the empty hall to the next classroom in session and found one of the nicest female teachers, Ms. Shephard (before she married Mr. Wilmott). Vivienne told her the real story about what had happened and presumably also shared the mounting worry about possible retribution and punishment. Mrs. Wilmott came back with her into our class and declared “They’ve made a total fool of you John! It’s an April Fool’s trick”. Pat jumped up off the floor, dusted herself off and sat back in her seat. We burst out laughing. We were ready to carry her off on our shoulders in glory. She was a hero. Mr. Stamp quickly reverted to his Mr-Cool persona and tried to claim that “he knew it all along” and was just going along with us. All credibility was lost. Mr. Stamp was never the same after that.
It was glorious. The event spread through the school like wild fire. Twitter would have only slowed things down, this was such hot news. When we moved to our next class, Maths with Ms. Pickering, she made us stand in absolute silence in the corridor until Noon, when April Fool’s Day is apparently officially over, before letting us in her room to start our lesson. We had been marked. What an honor.
Nobody was punished. It was a day for the history books. Fabulous, memorable, no-harm-done fun. Do our kids have the courage and perceived freedom to still orchestrate these types of pranks? I wonder.