Monday, January 30, 2012

The Original Crank Yankers

Long long ago, eons before LUDs or caller ID, young people in the US and presumably in other industrialized nations as well, used to amuse themselves by making crank phone calls. Some were garden variety repetitions of old standards, and were totally lacking in creativity. You've probab;y heard of the. "Is your refrigerator running?" standard line. Another hackneyed crank was to call a liquor and tobacco store to ask if they had Prince Albert in a can. If the person answering the phone was stupid enough to answer yes, the response would be, "Then let him out before he suffocates!" These were, according to my mom, very lame examples of what was once an art form.

My mom won't tell me her greatest feats as a crank caller because she's afraid I'll try some of them myself. I'm not sure just how vapid she thinks I am. Even if the recipient of a call does not have caller ID service, if a person feels sufficiently harassed, law enforcement can subpoena the phone company for all telephone calls incoming and outgoing. Who needs a police record even if it never makes it to court?

My mom is a little freer about sharing some of her friends' crank calling techniques. The older sister of one of her friends, who happened to be the daughter of one of the local school principals, was blessed or cursed, depending upon how one views it, with a very deep voice for a young girl. She was also blessed with a mother who worled until 5:00 every weekday. This girl, Carolyn,  was fond of adding a drawl to her deep voice and calling all sorts of people, claiming to be former U. S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. Her usual speech went something like this: "Is this the lady of the house?" If it wasn't, the lady of the house was summoned and called to to the phone.. "This is LBJ," my friend's older sister would announce.  "And I don't mean Lard Butt Jennings or Lover Boy Junio." [These were two men living in their town who shared initials with the former president. Those weren't presumably their given names, but it was all anyone knew them by, so those may as well have been the names on their birth certificates.] "I mean this is former President of the Younited States of America LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, and I have it on good authority that YOUR HUSBAND has been carrying on with my Lady Bird. And I WILL NOT not have this.  YOU HEAR ME? I WILL NOT HAVE THIS! So if I hear of your husband coming around here ONE MORE TIME -- not twice, not thrice, but  ONE . . . MORE . . . TIME, I, LBJ, am  going to kick your husband right  in his  keaster with my steel-toed boot so very hard that he will suffer hemorrhoids for the rest of his born days. There WILL NOT be enough Preparation H in the Younited States of America or in Canada, or even in Mexico to fix his problem, and God only knows what in the hell those damn Mexicans put in their Preparation H, if they even have it there; they probably just pray to that La Llorona lady to fix their hemorrhoids. I wouldn't be one constipated pissant surprised if the stuff  has cat pee in it.  YOU  HEAR ME? And by the way, tell that bastard husband of yours to keep his hands and everything else off Lynda Bird and Lucy Baines while he's at it. I'm not sure why anyone would want to be nosin' around Lynda Bird  anyway, but tell him to keep his nasty pecker away  from her just the same. Now Luci Baines, she's a  kinda cute little thing. Keep your damned husband away fom her, too. YOU HEAR ME? And if my steel-toed boots ain't strong enough to do the job, I got Secret Service men and I got J. Edgar Hoover and I got Fidel Castro and Che Guevara and Juan Peron and the Pope himself, whichever one he is right now to take care of the job for me, so keep your man and his fat diseased pecker away from my womenfolk. YOU HEAR ME?"

That particular call was supposedly made enough times that people began calling the police, who eventually called the Secret Service to find out if it was really former President Johnson making the calls.Iit even mad the local weekly newspaper.

My mom's style, according to my Aunt Victoria, was more subtle. She had a friend whose family belonged to what is now the Reformed Church but used to be called the Dutch Reformed Church She used to get her twin brother to call people on the church's roster claiming to be John Calvin , the Protestant reformer responsible for that branch of the Reformation, calling them all to repentance. She used to also call this one lady in the directory, Wilhelmina Katerina Groeneweg, who was a neighbor, claiming that her husband was not necessarily where he claimed he to be. The Groeneweg dairy was just across the field from my mom's house, so she could see Wilhelmina Katerina,  red-faced and rushing out the door and  across the field to the dairy to find Artie right in the middle of the cows where he always was. I don't know how many times Wilhelmina Katerina fell for this ruse. My grandfather, who certainly should have known better, was quite entertained by this as well, and enjoyed watching it when he was at home between airline flights. He said that Artie and Wilhelmina were such an uptight bitch and SOB, respectively, that they were thoroughly deserving of this small indignity.

My mom also used to call Mormons that she knew and tell them that they were invited to try out for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She'd give them a time and place to show up for the audition. I don't know how many of them ever showed. She also ordered many pizzas and made a great number of hair appointments for her teachers, usually at the Kut and Kurl, inside of which  no one who was less than three-quarters Okie would ever be caught, dead or alive. Speaking of dead or alive, my mom supposedly once called and made complete funeral arrangements for her biology teacher, who did not have as much as one toenail in the grave. (She promised to drop off the check later in the week.) The highly embellished obituary supposedly even appeared in the local weekly newspaper. Once the funeral home and the newspaper staff found that the man's state of death had been greatly exaggerated, it was too late to halt the presses. Things usually went to press at least three days before they appeared in the newsstand. This, according to my Aunt Victoria, was one of my mother's crowning glories.. Her legendary status in her former high school stands to this day, som thirty years later.

my PseudoAunt, who, by the wya, is very ill with scarlet fever and possibly pneumonia at the moment and is in need of prayer and positive thoughts, has admitted to this ancient  misdeed, or I would not have included it in my blog. She committed a rather clever set of crank calls just before caller ID became commonplace. At that time, if the phone one was using was blocked from revealing its number, it wouldn't  reveal the number to any telephone. Now some phone services can see even blocked numbers, but not back then.

Anyway, to make a long but great story a bit briefer, my PseudoAunt was at her tennis club taking a breather between matches. A roster of the members of the social club affiliated with the public courts on which my mom played had just been mailed out all the members of the social club. A copy was in the office of the puclic courts. This document provided too ripe a source of mischief for my PseudoAunt to pass up. My PseudoAunt looked at the list and saw that one regular player had an address and a phone number in a different city, which was not terribly far away, but contacting her would involve a long distance phne call. This meant that if any tennis appointments were made, others would be less likely to call and confirm them because of the long distance toll charge. People then were slightly more frugal than they are now.

So my pseudoaunt and two of her friends used the telephone from the office of the public courts to call roughly twenty-five people to make tennis playing dates with this lady, who shall be known as Marlene Talbot (not her real name).  Nineteen of the people called were able to make the date to play with Marlene at the time. The appointments were all scheduled for Court #3.

Two days later, nineteen people were inexplicably standing around Court #3.  Sooner or later they noticed one another and began talking, and Marlene's name seemed to be the common denominator in all of this. Marlene was nowhere to be found, As it turned out, she was actually at a chiropractic appointment, if my PsuedoAunt's memory served her correctly. Those who were stood up eventually paired up and played so they wouldn't waste their time, as there was plenty of court space. According to my PseudoAunt's brother, an aunual event has sprung form this crank call. On the first Sunday in May, they now hold the Marlene Talbot Invitational at the public courts where she originally, unbeknownst to herself, stood up nineteen different tennis players, and supposedly a few racquetball players besides.

While I consider the funeral and obituary for the living biology teacher to be her grandest achievemnt of which I'm aware, she may have done even greater things about which no one has ever bothered to tell me. If you know of any of these accomplishments, please respond in the comments section.. I am greatly interested in hearing anything you have to share. Additionally, if you have anything exciting you've done in your young (or not-so-young) days, please share. If laws have been broken, names can be changed to protect the guilty. I most eagerly look forward to hearing from you.

Do Widzenia


  1. Your family is priceless, Alexis! Really, it seems like there's never a dull moment. :)

    Best wishes and prayers for Jillian. I'm sure the doctor's don't see Scarlet Fever all too often, yikes!

  2. I used to work with someone who had the surname Wild. In fact, he shared the name of the famous child actor, Jack Wild. (Artful Dodger, Jimmy in H.R. Pufnstuf)

    He told us one day at work that his home phone had rung at about 3am, waking him and his family up. He picked up the phone and the voice at the other end said: "Are you Wild?" To which he replied: "Yes!" To which the caller responded: "So would I be if some &*^% had called ME at 3am!"

  3. Matt,
    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
    Becca, you're right that something crazy is always going on in my family.

  4. Hey Alexis!

    I hope every thing is ok in your world. :)