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Some things stick in your mind, even after forty plus years. There are some things that were said that I will never forget. The first one was from my young teenage days. A group of us came out of a pizza parlor on Hazel Street. We made the turn on Blackman Street to head back toward the pool when I car with a few older guys pulled up. They started jerking us around but my buddy Lefty would have none of it. He got right back in the older guys faces until one of the guys told him that he would fight him with one hand tied behind his back. Lefty told him, “I’ll take the other hand and stick up your ass.” That line broke us all up including the older guys. They drove away laughing and we went on to the pool.
There are times when a few of us would strike out looking for lovely ladies in other parts of town. One time my good friend Bill and I went down to the public square in the center of the city to see if we could make the acquaintance of some downtown girls. Well on that night we had no luck at all. This was a Saturday night and it was the thing in those days for adults to get all dressed up and go to the Paramount Theater on Public Square. The movie “Barefoot in the Park” had just completed and the well dressed people were leaving the theater. My buddy Bill seats himself on the fire hydrant in front of the theater and yells at the top of his lungs, “I PROTEST COLD FIRE HYDRANTS; THEY GIVE YOU PILES.” I almost dropped to the sidewalk I was laughing so hard and to my surprise the well dress people were laughing just as hard.
This one could be listed under pranks but the line was delivered so well that it became a memorable quote. Later I’ll mention more about phone pranks but this one was classic. One of the boys, who I will not name to protect the guilty, was great at impressions and he did a great Bobby Kennedy. He’d call up a house and get a lady on the line and in a perfect Bobby Kennedy voice he would say, “This is Bobby Kennedy. Did you know that the angle of the dangle is equal to the mass of the ass?” Of course there would be nothing but a gasp on the line and we would just be rolling with laughter.
As I just mentioned we did our share of phone pranks. We didn’t order stuff and have it sent to a house. I’m not sure if it was our scruples or just that there wasn’t any pizza delivery at that time. We would call up and deliver the classic lines:
- “Is your refrigerator running? Well you better go catch it.”
- “Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Well let him out.” I guess you have to be at least my age to know about Prince Albert canned tobacco for rolling your own cigarettes.
- My favorite, other than our talented fellow above, was calling up and asking the person if they had a well in their backyard. I like this one because very few people saw it coming. When they answered no, a group of us would gather around the phone and sing the chorus to the Christmas carol “The First Noel.”
We also spent time ringing doorbells and running away. Sometimes we would prop tin cans up by the door so when the person opened it they would get knocked down and make noise.
The biggest prank was one we pulled on our own group. I was a victim before I was a perpetrator. Some of the guys spread a rumor that there was some kind of beast in the set of trees behind the factories. I went to investigate with some of the boys when I heard a growl and something moving toward me. I was gone like a shot. I wasn’t the fastest guy in the gang but on that night it would have be hard for anyone to catch me. I might still be running if I didn’t hear the guys laughing behind me. Of course that just made me ready to pull the prank on someone else. We drug a few more guys down and got more sophisticated with our methods. One of the guys cut himself running around and smeared the blood on his face and opened up his shirt. He staggered out of the woods claiming he just got away from the monster. That did it. Before we knew it we had thirty or forty kids heading for the trees. This got the neighbors at bit worried and they called the cops. When the cops showed up we scattered in all directions and the next day the Wilkes-Barre Record ran a story about the police breaking up a rumble in a field off of Blackman Street.
I was going to recount our time in Jake’s Pool Hall but I guess that better wait for next time. It was a different world and kids left to their own devices can come up with some crazy things.