Don’t Say A Word

Nobody  can know.

High school pranks can be huge fun not only for all involved, but for everybody, including the prankee. It’s especially entertaining when you’ve got a clever prankster on your hands and the school administrators in your sights. I met one such in my sophomore year in Anchorage. We became fast friends and I still occasionally grin like a possum eatin’ s*** or giggle like a sheepish teen thinking about some of the things we pulled off.

There are two that I’d call memorable, meaning that nobody who was there would likely ever forget. Number One took brute strength and a lotta nerve, while Number Two took brains and finesse

1958 Isetta

Number One involved six guys, one 1958 Isetta,four 2″ X 12″ planks, one stake-bed truck, and complete invisibility. Four of the guys picked up the Isetta with the driver inside, carried it up the steps of a main school entrance, deposited it at one end of the school’s main hallway, and, with mission complete, headed for the hills. With classes underway, the driver took off down the empty main hall to another entrance, out that door, across a ramp made of the 2 X 12 planks, and into the bed of the waiting stake-bed truck, which departed the scene post haste.

We were all made invisible by anonymity. Many saw the Isetta go past their open classroom or office door, but only the six of us knew the hows, whos, whats, whens, wheres, and whys. We went unseen and, as far as I know, tight-lipped until now.

Unlike Number One, Number Two created a pre-event buzz throughout the student body which the faculty and staff were aware of but couldn’t unravel because there were only two players and, apart from dropping highly generalized hints to our classmates that they keep their eyes peeled, we divulged nothing.

This was a fairly sophisticated prank whose components were easily kept out of sight and smuggled into school. Among them were a 10″ X 10″ X 12″ cardboard box, some ordinary cotton thread, a Big Ben household alarm clock, a sewing needle, a piece of silk fabric, a common iron washer, the lighting booth in the school auditorium, a 10″ house pot light, a regularly-scheduled student assembly, and a very, very punctual principal.

At the time, I was involved with both the Anchorage Community Theater and the Elemendorh AFB Players. Among the productions I took part in were Job, The Man With A Golden Arm, Death of a Salesman, The Monkey’s Paw, and The Killers. I was an actor in The Monkey’s Paw, but ran the lighting for the rest and that’s where the auditorium lighting booth comes in – I had both the keys and permission to go there during lunch or other in-school breaks, as well as after hours.

The prank was my friend’s idea and he provided the materials and fashioned a setup by which we could strike from above. It was to be sort of a Mors Ab Alta thing. All I provided was access to the Alta. It was my partner who provided the Mors, which consisted of the cardboard box open on one end but with a small hole in the closed end and within which hung a small parachute weghted by the iron washer.

Atop the parachute was a loop of thread which passed up through the hole in the box and through which the sewing needle was passed horizontally in order to hold the chute in place. The needle, in turn, was threaded and the thread was tied to the hammer on the Big Ben alarm clock from which the bells had been removed.

Having gained access via the lighting booth before the first class bell sounded, we carried this assembly across the catwalks above the auditorium ceiling out to a house light near dead center. We then replaced a pot light with the cardboard box so that, if noted at all from below, it would be taken to be dark because of a blown light bulb. Having put it in place and set the alarm time, we left and wandered casually into our respective home rooms as usual.

During the assembly that day, at precisely 10:30 AM when our very, very punctual principal started to speak, the Big Ben alarm clock went off, pulling the attached needle out of position and the parachute floated serenely down to the center aisle floor.

And a good laugh was had by all, including our hapless target…