Were You April Fooled?

As you read this Week-Ender, April Fool’s Day will already have passed, and I am wondering how many of you were reminded of the day by someone playing a prank on you?

Pranks for the memories!

For practical jokers, April Fool’s Day is liberation day; it’s the green light to pin “kick me” signs on friends’ backs and get away with it, put shaving cream on their co-workers’ hot cocoa instead of whipping cream and be forgiven – maybe not right away, but at least as soon as the taste of shaving cream goes away…oh, get the mint-flavored shaving cream and you’ll be forgiven much sooner, I’ve been told.

Not that I am a practical joker, though I have been known to carry on a ruse for a laugh or two.

One of the most memorable April Fool’s jokes in which I participated was when I was the managing editor of a Marine Corps base newspaper in Quantico, Va. As I was planning my annual editorial calendar, I noted that one of our weekly issues fell on April 1. So I got this bright idea of putting out an April Fool’s edition.

I somehow got permission from my boss to do it. My staff and I worked on it for weeks. We prepared bogus articles about all kinds of things, like new weapons and equipment coming into the inventory that were purely fictional, stories about sports events that never happened, and made-up missives about major policy changes.

I let my writers exercise their creative talents, dreaming up events, people, and incidents that never did or would happen.

The piece that really put it over the top was the lead article stating that Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) was moving from Washington, D.C., 30 miles south to Marine Corps Base, Quantico. All HQMC staff would work out of tents, use field desks, and not have phones or computers, among other preposterous but just-maybe-believable items.

The entire front and back section of the paper was bogus, but when you turned the page you saw the real thing – the entire middle section was for real. The only clue we gave on the front page was that we put the date upside down.

Oh, yeah, that prank got some attention. My boss knew about it, her boss knew, the big boss at HQMC knew and he probably told some of his folks…other than that, it was a well-kept secret.

The newspaper was seen by HQMC staff first thing every Friday morning because it was delivered each Thursday night.

So when HQMC personnel started showing up for work on Friday morning and they sat down to a cup of coffee and looked at the lead headline -- “Headquarters Marine Corps Will Move To Quantico, Staff Will Operate From Tents” -- well, you can imagine some spilled coffee and choking going on.

Our phones started ringing by 7 a.m. – those who hadn’t gotten past the front page were aghast and wanted to know where we got our information, among other comments. When we told them to look closely at the date on the paper – ha ha, gotcha!

Fortunately, everybody had a good sense of humor about it, and by mid-day most everyone knew they had been first-class April Fooled…though a few stragglers did continue to call through the day and even into the next week. (It really pays to let the boss(es) know beforehand when you plan a whooper like that.)

If nothing else, it was a great way to know that lots and lots of people at HQMC were looking at our newspaper…who needs readership surveys when you have April Fool’s Day?

So maybe it was that primo event that gave my wife the idea to pull her own stunt on me soon after.

I was transferred to Headquarters Marine Corps that next year and, on the following April 1, I got a call first thing one morning from the Marine who scheduled transfers to tell me that I had orders to a military facility on Guam, an island in the Pacific, effective immediately.

I had just gotten to HQMC and wasn’t scheduled for a move, so it came as a shock and surprise.

So for the entire morning, I was going from one person to another at HQMC, trying to find out how this happened, what was on Guam that needed my presence. Nobody seemed to have a clue.

About the time I was ready to pull my hair out, my wife called to ask how my day was going. I broke the news to her about how my day wasn’t going so great and why. After I lamented for a while, she started laughing; then I noticed that everybody in my office was laughing, and I realized I’d been had.

My dear, sweet wife had planned the whole thing, gotten everybody in my section to go along with it, and even had gotten the guy who did the transfers to go along with it; she went to great lengths to give me an April Fool’s memory I’d never forget.

So, would any of you Week-Enders like to share some of your more unforgettable April Fool’s Day events? Or maybe you know of someone else who suffered at the hands of an “April Fooler.”

Share it here and maybe you’ll give some folks ideas; it’s never too early to start planning for next year…

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Peachtree City, Ga.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net.