Columns

2018.04.11 Old: A fool looks back on the past

The April Fools’ story from 1987—the one about Morenci joining Ohio—has not been forgotten. I recently received an inquiry from former Morenci resident Scott Huffaker who wanted to read that report again. I sent a link to where it resides on the Observer website.

Here’s a report from 20 years ago when I talked to myself one day about April Fools’ stories. This was in reference to the Harold Hall Football academy charter school.

By DAVID GREEN

I’ve undergone considerable questioning over the last few days. Here’s a compilation of the answers.

Public: Don’t you ever learn? Do you like living on the edge?

Fool: I wouldn’t describe myself as an on-the-edge person. But ever since the ball on top of the west end water tower blew off in a windstorm, I’ve felt it was my duty to play life a little recklessly when April Fool’s Day falls on Observer publication day.

I don’t know if anyone remembers that water tower incident. It must have happened in late March about 1981.

No, I don’t ever learn my lesson and I end up getting a little queasy feeling in the  stomach every six years or so after I leave the printing plant with fresh papers.

P: Did you get a lot of angry phone calls this time?

F: I didn’t get angry phone calls this time. At least not yet. The paper won’t reach Florida and California for another two weeks, of course. There were some people in Florida who were pretty peeved about the border change incident when they found out about it April 20.

I did get one critical piece of e-mail requesting that I just put a heading on the story reading: “This is my feeble attempt at April Fool’s Day humor. Please bear with me, folks...ha, ha.” He hopes there will be an editorial policy change that prohibits these stories in the future.

P: What did Jim Gilmore say when he saw the story?

F: Jim knew about it in advance. So did Dana Compton. In fact, both of them gave suggestions to enhance the story. I always speak with the subjects of April Fool’s Day stories before publication. I may be stupid but I’m not dumb.

This year I was worried. I wrote the story last Sunday, then went in to see Dana on Monday morning. That’s when I learned he was in Chicago at a conference. His faithful assistant Melony got the message to him and he called during a break that afternoon.

I can think of one exception to my “call first” rule. I never contacted Jesse Joe King, that Ohio State sophomore who discovered the problem with the state border.

P: Was this football joke a success?

F: It was for me. I got to laugh at it without the angry calls. It’s sort of a joke in itself that I never get the chance to enjoy the border change story.

This year there were a lot of people who saw through it quickly, and there were a lot who were fooled for a while. From what I hear, a lot of people read the first few paragraphs and got so irritated about a football academy that they didn’t read too carefully after that.

Lots of people had a good time with it. They were glad for the dose of humor. 

I was happy to read a big, authentic article in a Detroit paper about charter schools the same morning my story came out. 

P: Do you enjoy making fools of us?

F: Not really, but of course that’s the whole point of it. You have to make it sound authentic to get people hooked, but then you have to put in a few hints to give them a way out.

P: What kind of response did you get?

F: There were lots of phone calls and positive comments. Someone from “Aggie country” called offering his help. Someone said he nearly soiled his drawers laughing, and he was interested in serving as custodian. An Adrian caller wanted an enrollment application for his grandson.

They all saw through it, but I’m not so sure about the Hudson caller who asked if it was really true. And then there was the company from Toledo—sports medicine or athletic equipment. I don’t remember which, but they wanted to contact the school. My guess is that it was someone getting back at me.

P: Will you do this again?

F: That’s a cruel question. You don’t know what a relief it is to have it over with. Once I realize it’s an April Fools’ year, this hangs over my head for months. I kept a folder of ideas this time, but they were all too stupid. This one came to mind about three weeks ago, but I didn’t think it was very good. I kept waiting for the great idea to pop up. Nothing good came through, but I ended up liking this one once it was in print.

Sure I’ll do it again.