Remember "American Graffiti"?
That coming of age movie from 1973 popped into my mind the other day as my brothers and I reminisced about our high school years. We were all in high school during the 1960s. That was the basis for the story line in George Lucas' film. Lucas, himself, was in high school in the 1960s. He captured the culture of rock and roll and cruising in a series of vignettes about one night in the life of teens in California in the movie.
My favorite vignette is the one where the character Curt Henderson, played by Richard Dreyfuss, is talked into tying off the axel of a police car by a member of the local gang, the Pharaohs. Dreyfuss takes a cable, clumsily crawls across a used car lot, attaches one end of a cable securely to an anchor for a sign, slips under the police car attaches the other end to the car's axle. The police, lying in wait for teenagers recklessly cruising up the street, are unaware of the despicable deed by Dreyfuss. The Pharaohs pile into a car, speeding and squealing tires, they bait the police. Sure enough, the police drop the engine into gear, put the pedal to the metal, screech out of the used car lot and, whammo, the car lurches forward while the cable tightens and pulls the entire axel assembly off the police car.
An image every teenager wished would come true. But honestly the pranks pulled by teens growing up in Fargo could not have been described as despicable deeds.
I went to Shanley High School, while my brothers attended Fargo Central High School. It didn't make any difference which high school the teens attended; pranks were a part of our high school experience.
At Shanley I can remember when someone captured about twenty birds, yes regular birds, and somehow got them into a classroom closet. During first hour, when the nun opened the closet door, poof, birds were everywhere.
I can also remember when someone got into the biology lab and look the covers off the glass aquariums that housed the snakes the students were studying. The snakes were all non-poisonous, all harmless. The biology room was on the garden level of the
school. The door to the biology lab was left open and the snakes found new homes. Some went though the floor level locker vents into the nice, cool, dark lockers others slithered down to the subterranean level band room. The snakes in the lockers were discovered by distraught students going through the papers at the bottom of their lockers. However, the dark, cool recesses of the band room, complete with an ample food supply, made a great home for the snakes for years.
My brother Dick talked about the pranks at Fargo Central. Someone gathered up a gaggle of geese from the NDSU poultry barn and transported them to the third floor of Fargo Central. As any good farmer knows, geese will walk up steps, but not down steps. The geese were clandestinely moved in on a weekend night, left to roam on the third floor all weekend and from what Dick said, the policemen trying to round up the geese on Monday morning were a sight to see.
Page 2 of 2 - Then, and, yes, he swears he was there when a bunch of students did this: In protest to some policy the school imposed on the seniors, the seniors staged a walk out and sat on the front lawn of the school. One thing led to another and voila – there you have it
– a Volkswagen on the top of the front steps, blocking the entrance to the school.
Looking back at the teen culture of the 1960s my brother Dick wondered if today's youth have lost the art of critical thinking when it comes to pranks.