Sixteen years ago today, Taco Bell ran a full-page ad in the New York Times announcing it had bought the Liberty Bell and was renaming it the "Taco Liberty Bell."
This was Taco Bell's way to "do their part to reduce the country's debt." Other corporations had been adopting highways for years and that Taco Bell was "going one step further by purchasing one of the country's greatest historic treasures."
Thousands of people called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the Liberty Bell was housed to angrily protest the selling of the bell. The company kept a straight face until noon that day and then announced that the ad and press releases were merely an April Fool's Day joke.
The joke paid off for Taco Bell. Their sales shot up during the first week of April by more than a half-million dollars.
There are many interpretations as to how April Fool's Day originated. One theory that sounds logical dates back to 1562. Pope Gregory introduced the Christian world to a new calendar where the New Year began on Jan. 1. Some people didn't get word of the change or didn't believe it and continued to celebrate New Year's Day on April 1, according to the old calendar. These folks were the first "April fools." Others played tricks on them and made fun of them by sending them on "fool's errands" and trying to get them to believe that something false was true.
This tradition has lived on for almost 500 years. Going back not quite that far to my childhood days reminded me of some funny April Fool's Day memories.
My day started out by not remembering what the date was. I would dash down to the breakfast table where my father would be drinking his coffee and reading the morning paper. Before I could sit down he would look over his newspaper and say, "Eddie, zip up your pants!" Embarrassed, I would grab for my zipper only to discover that it wasn't unzipped. My Dad would smirk and say, "April Fool!" We would all laugh and he would say, "Gotcha!"
While eating my pancakes and bacon, my mind ran full steam ahead trying to concoct an April Fool's joke that I could play on one of my unsuspecting buddies. To make my plan effective, I needed to find someone who hadn't already been fooled. Once tricked, the victim was on high alert for the rest of the day. No one was going to get fooled twice.
Success was also more likely if you didn't pick the brightest kid in the class. But the prank was even more fun if it was played on a classmate higher up on the food chain.
April Fool's Day jokes are done in fun and not meant to harm or embarrass anyone. A successful prank is one in which everyone laughs including the person upon whom the joke is played.
One old standby involves pointing at someone's shoe and saying, "Your shoelace is untied." When the victim looks down at his perfectly tied shoe, quickly say, "April Fool!" Another good one is to walk into the room, point up to the ceiling and say, "Look at those birds!" As heads tilt back, follow up with a quick, "April Fool!"
The possibilities are endless but as the day progresses, finding unsuspecting "fools" becomes more challenging. Mark Twain once said, "The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year."
Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed's retirement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633.