More practical jokes from years ago

by John Straka Published:

Here are more practical jokes that I remember from way back when I was just a teenager looking for some fun things to do. When the telephone was still very new, kids (and sometimes grown-ups, too) would call someone after dark and ask if the street light near their house was burning. They would go look and when they came back to the phone and said it was, they would be told to please blow it out.

After the war, when refrigerators became available to the public, the owner of a new one might be called and asked if their refrigerator was running. If they said it was, they would be told that if they hurry, maybe they would be able to catch it.

Disappearing ink had two uses. If you used it to write something for someone, they would be very surprised when, a few hours later, the paper was blank. The other use was to spill ink somewhere and make the stain go away like magic, all by itself.

I remember writing secret messages using either milk or onion juice instead of ink. When it dried, whatever I had written would be invisible. Heating the paper would scorch the invisible ink and make it show up again as brown ink.

Invisible ink reminds me of the time when people would show up walking an invisible dog. A stiff wire was used instead of a leash and the invisible dog would be wearing a visible harness. I thought that was kind of stupid.

On the subject of dogs, some stores would sell artificial dog doo-doo. That could be lots of fun. You could visit a friend, plant it where the friend would find it, and while he or she went to get a broom and dustpan, remove it, leaving the friend wondering what was going on.

I never really understood the hotfoot. I had seen it done in the movies, but I think it would certainly be very dangerous. How could anyone set fire to a man's shoelaces without also setting fire to his pants?

I never was in the military, but I'll bet a bunch of young men in a barracks would provide many opportunities for practical jokes. One such opportunity came when a soldier would be the first to fall asleep. All the other guys would get half undressed for bed and then wake the victim up and tell him it was morning and that he was late and that he better hurry and get washed up and dressed. While he was trying to hurry, all the other guys would finish undressing and crawl into their bunks and when he came out of the bathrom, he would find all his buddies pretending to be fast asleep.

I saw an old movie recently in which a man played the old hand buzzer trick on his partner. When the two men shook hands, the buzzer went off. It would have felt very much like an electric shock. I know because I remember having one of those buzzers.

I also had one of those little viewers that a person could look through and expect to see a picture of a pretty girl in a skimpy outfit. Usually the picture would not be straight up and down so the viewer would twist it to get the proper alignment. That would leave a ring of black shoe polish around the victim's eye.

That prank worked the other way, too. I bought a viewer that would accept the film from a color slide. Some people would hesitate or even refuse to look at what they thought they might see, only to be fooled because the picture was actually just scenery or a landscape.

My Aunt Mary (my dad's sister) was really old-fashioned. She wore floor-length dresses, cooked on a wood burning stove, and had values from at least one generation before mine. It might have been her birthday when Dad (and Mom) wrapped a gift for her and sent me to her house to deliver it. I told her it was something for her neck. She was very hesitant to accept it because she never wore jewelry. In spite of her protests, I talked her into unwrapping the gift and she rewarded me with a big smile when she found it was a bar of soap.

Any new guy in a machine shop can expect to be the butt of some practical jokes. The most common one is to come back to his machine after a break and find all the handles with gobs of grease hidden on their underside.

I remember when the elderly man whose job it was to sweep the floor left his nearly full wheelbarrow for a few minutes. When he came back, he couldn't lift the thing. He figured someone had buried something really heavy in his wheelbarrow, but he couldn't find any such thing. It took a few minutes before he realized that someone had nailed his wheelbarrow to the floor.

I wish I had saved my Chinese handcuffs. That's the name of a woven bamboo sleeve just big enough to put one index finger into each end. When the one you wanted to handcuff did that, he or she could not get their fingers back out of the thing. The harder they tried, the tighter it gripped the fingers.

My all-time best practical joke was a doorbell on my car. I'd be sitting in my car parked at the curb, and when someone would pass by, I'd ring the bell by pressing a button on the dashboard. It was fun watching them look for where the sound of the bell was coming from. Naturally I would pretend I didn't even hear it. That was, of course, unless the pedestrian was a pretty girl.mThat would always get me a broad smile.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.