DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Welcome, April Fools’ Day, that time of year when custom tells us to be on the alert and ever mindful that not everything is as it seems.
While some view the occasion, believed to have originated with the French in the 16th century, as a harbinger of spring, others see it as the traditional day they can rightfully punk friends and neighbors.
Some may recall the April 1, 1998, Burger King hoax that introduced a “Left-Handed Whopper” made for left-handed customers. The advertisement noted that the new Whopper had the same ingredients as the original Whopper but all the fixings were rotated 180 degrees for left-handed customers.
In Dover-Foxcroft, former WDME radio broadcaster Bill Mack announced on April 1 many years ago that the town of Atkinson was holding a large parade to celebrate the occasion. Mack reported that the well-known David Roberts of Dover-Foxcroft would be leading the parade.
Roberts recalled he had heard the broadcast and realized that it was Mack’s April Fools’ joke but other listeners had taken Mack’s word as gospel.
“There were some people who showed up down at Snow’s Store waiting for the parade to begin,” Roberts said this week.
While Mack and some of the people who turned out for the parade had a good laugh, other pranks aren’t so funny for the victims.
A Bangor Daily News reader recalled the worst April 1 prank he ever saw played on a friend, which resulted in a kitchen full of soap suds. Austin, who didn’t reveal his last name for fear his friend’s parents were still looking for those involved, said his friend had a party on a weekend his parents were away. One of the guests at the party poured a half bottle of liquid dish soap into the dishwasher. Some time later, Austin said his friend started up the dishwasher and left for the grocery store to restock the refrigerator with food the party-goers had consumed. When the friend returned home a short time later, he found the kitchen and part of the dining room filled with soapsuds that were still oozing from the dishwasher.
“My friend was grounded for the next two months and never had anyone over to his parents’ house again as far as I know,” Austin recalled in an e-mail. The friend told Austin that his parents had to remove the dishwasher and take it outside to hose it down.
Bangor Daily News reporter Dawn Gagnon recalled one April Fools’ Day when her sixth-grade teacher sent her after a quart of dehydrated water. Gagnon said that when she asked a high school teacher for the dehydrated water, the teacher said, “Do you know what dehydrated means?” Gagnon responded, “‘Of course, yes, it means to remove water.’ Not only was my face red, one of the high school kids in that classroom happened to be a friend’s brother whom I happened to have a small crush on at the time.” Gagnon said that when she returned to her classroom, her teacher gave her a large hand-drawn fish, a French custom to show she had been the victim of a prank.
Having been born on April 1, Anne Mostue, radio news reporter-producer of “Maine Things Considered,” has been through it all. She has had her locker filled with shaving cream and had a toilet seat covered in plastic wrap.
Turning the tables one year, Mostue said she e-mailed her family and friends with the news that she had decided to move to France and enter a convent. “They believed me! It turned out to be less of a joke and more of a mess to clear up with everyone,” she remembered.
Sarah Beaulieu of Eddington said she punked her daughter with a good one last year.
She told her daughter she was going to camp. “She got all excited, whooping it up,” until she found out it was a chore camp, Beaulieu said. “We let her squirm before breaking out in laughter that it was April Fools’ [Day],” she said.
A Bangor man recalled that while in high school, his mother would set the clocks ahead in the night so he would get up an hour early and go to school. “I would go to school and wonder where everyone was. … Simple, but brilliant,” Corey Webb said.
Then there’s the wreath patrol on Mount Desert Island. Joanie and Eric St. Peter said friends of theirs would go around the island and leave tickets on houses that still displayed Christmas wreaths.
The St. Peters also were known for their pranks. They said that when lost and found ads were free, they placed a few ads that were published on April 1, as follows: “LOST: One blue 1986 Chevy pick-up with plow in the vicinity of the potholes by the Bluenose Ferry Terminal,” and “LOST: Near COA campus, book entitled ‘How to Communicate Telepathically.’ If found, please read book and you’ll know who to call.”
Then to show that love, too, blooms on April 1, Dr. Mark S. Varnum, author of “The Hawk’s Cross,” said his father proposed to his mother on April 1. It was the summer of 1959 and his mother had taken a teaching position in New Jersey and his father had been accepted into professional school in Boston and would start that fall. Varnum said his mother thought things might cool off between them because of the distance. “However, my father was not eager to let things fail and instead traveled down to see her and proposed, as it turns out, on April Fools’ Day … and she waited her whole life for him to say ‘April Fools.’”