Thursday, March 27, 2014

April Fool's Day in Ogden almost a century ago

“Yes, Ogden celebrates April Fool” was an April 1, 1926 headline in the Standard-Examiner.
“Patrolman William Meyer this morning forgot it was April Fool when he helped himself to a peanut cluster from the counter of the Beehive Confectionary store,” the article stated. “While the proprieter grinned, Meyer bit into an appetizing piece of chocolate-coated chili peppers.”
Not to be the lone victim of such an April 1 prank, Meyer later created some chocolate-covered soap and let detective L.L. Nelson taste a similar “treat.”
Elsewhere in Ogden that day, 88 years ago, a woman in downtown restaurant, who order fried oysters, “cut into a wad of cotton, friend in egg albumen.”
Also, a huge wood-mounted map struck  District Forester R.H. Rutledge on the head – without warning – in what was believed to be another April Fool prank.
“Garlic chocolates” was another prank of that era, as were bricks, which were put inside a hat, or wrapped package on the sidewalk, awaiting someone to come by and kick them.
Pocketbooks nailed to the sidewalk, or coins on a string were also popular pranks of that time.
The Ogden City Court also often staged its own April Foolery. For example, another April 1, 1926 Standard story said that two police officers who arrived that morning for the regular 10 a.m. court, found the room totally deserted. Later, they discovered court had been held at 9 a.m., to prank them.
“April Fool in police court” was an April 1, 1912 Standard headline. A frequent town drunk, John Shea, was in court again for kissing people and begging,  This time, the judge said he would change the “man’s medicine” and instead of sentencing the drunk to five days in the jail – the standard sentence for the man on three previous occasions – the judge made it 15 days long this time  – and no April Fool.
“Played April fool joke on himself” was an April 3, 1913 Standard headline. Jimmie Carr, charged in court with drunkenness on April 1 told Judge Reeder: “It was so near April Fool day that I was fooled. I thought I could drink an extra glass of beer, but I was fooled. The beer made me drunk and I was arrested.”
Carr caused an uproar in his hearing with comments like that. In the end, the judge suspended his sentence, but told Carr he would receive 60 days of hard labor if he returned to the court.

Special social events on April 1 were common in Ogden during the early 20th Century. According to the Standard on March 31, 1915, the Ogden Chapter of the American Association of Engineers held an April Fools Dance on April 1 at the Reed Hotel. The Knights of King Arthur Association also held an April Fool event on April 1, 1911.
-However, the likely kingpin of Utah pranks, though probably not an April Fool one, was staged in Washington County, Utah, likely in the 1920s or 1930s.
Southern Utah historian Bart Anderson of St. George often talks about the hoax in his historical lectures.
Although no exact date is known, it took place in the ancient volcano cinder cone, located between Snow Canyon and Veyo.
Teenagers carried old tires, or brush into the top of the volcano and then lit them on fire as a group of dignitaries were traveling by on Highway 18 (or by another version of the story -- as local church goers were departing their meetings one Sunday).
A few sticks of dynamite might have even been used for more special effects.
Either way, that fake eruption caused such area excitement that some geologists were called in before it was determined to be a hoax.

(-By Lynn Arave and originally posted on the Ogden Standard-Examiner Web site on March 27, 2014.)

-NOTE: The author, Lynn Arave, is available to speak to groups, clubs, classes or other organizations about Utah history at no charge. He can be contacted by email at:  

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