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Who’s The ‘April Fool’?

As most of us know – often times too late — April Fool’s Day is an annual opportunity on April 1 to play one or more practical jokes on an unexpecting someone, often times a spouse or a youngster. Jokesters often expose their deeds by shouting “April Fool!” at the recipient.

Well, it wasn’t on April Fool’s Day but my dad pulled a fast one on me when I was a youngster. In fact, the month was September and I had just begun to attend first grade at the Cathedral elementary school in downtown Fort Wayne. We lived on Euclid Avenue in the southeast part of the city nearly three miles away.

My parents had but one car, as most folks back then, and my dad drove it to work. Besides, my mother didn’t drive anyway and took the bus wherever she went including taking me to school. We had to walk one-and-a-half blocks to the bus stop, wait on the city bus – a trolley, back then – and ride for the 15 to 20 minutes it took to get downtown. My mother, of course, had to do that both in the morning and again in the afternoon to pick me up.

I don’t think it had been a week yet when one afternoon my dad met me after school instead of my mother. “Where’s mom,” I asked? “Oh, she’s busy,” he said.

“Where’s the car,” I quizzed him again? “It’s close by,” dad answered. Then he asked me a question. “Where do you catch the bus?” “I’ll show you,” I replied.

The bus stop was on Calhoun Street directly across from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory is located today. Back then there was a department store at that location. After we arrived at the bus stop my dad said, “Show me which bus you take when it comes.” A few minutes later I pointed to my bus as it approached the stop. “That’s it,” I said proudly, “Number 5, the Pontiac Harvester!”

As the trolley pulled to the curb to let passengers off and on, my dad lifted me onto the bus steps and told the driver, “Let him off at Euclid!” Before I realized what had just happened, the bus was heading south on Calhoun Street.

Somewhere along the route home I remember looking out the back window and saw my dad in our car following the bus. When we reached Euclid and the driver made sure I got off the bus, I don’t recall whether or not my dad was there to give me a ride home. I think I ran the block-and-a-half, anxious to tell my mom that I had ridden the bus all by myself! “You don’t have to take me anymore,” I said proudly. You can’t fool me. That’s what I’d call good parenting!

While attending Cathedral elementary school I began singing in the boy choir in fifth grade. We often sang in the Cathedral choir loft for school Masses, funerals, weddings and feast days. The event was a school Mass because I remember all the grades assembled in the pews below the loft nearly filling the huge Cathedral. At the back of each respective grade was a Sister of Providence, the teacher for the grade.

The organist, we called him professor, had his back to the altar where the Mass was celebrated. There was a mirror positioned on top the organ allowing him to view the altar without repeatedly turning around. The choir faced the organ so we could follow the professor’s directions and the Mass.

I was standing directly in front of the organ, a foot or so from the instrument. Behind me was a bully, a boy a year older than me who enjoyed kicking me in the back of a knee causing that leg to buckle. He had kicked me several times throughout the liturgy.

Finally, I had had it! The next time he kicked my leg I drove both knees into the wooden organ console. It made a large boom, echoing throughout the Cathedral like someone had struck a big bass drum.

The professor slid off the organ bench and was intent on coming after me. But I pointed behind me and exclaimed, “He kicked me!” Without a word he grabbed bully boy and sent him below – to sit with his class.

I got to watch from overhead as he tapped his grade’s nun on the shoulder and apparently told her he had been sent from above. Whatever was his excuse didn’t matter because she led him by the earlobe into the pew next to her.

It wasn’t April and we were in church, but I would love to have shouted, “Fooled you!”

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer