Will the Real Joe McKnight Please Stand Up?

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
I attended high school in Kentucky in the 1970s. This was before we had computers, cell phones or even iPods. But the students at my high school cleverly entertained themselves by creating a fictional student named Joe McKnight.

Submitted: July 11, 2017

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Submitted: July 11, 2017



From 1977 to 1980, I attended high school in Kentucky. There was nothing unusual about my high school. Like a lot of other high schools in the 70s, we had our subcategories of students: geeks, rednecks, jocks, cheerleaders, etc. The school usually reeked of pot, since not only the students but also a lot of the teachers smoked it regularly. I can't say for sure whether pot was the source of the creativity, but we had some very clever and creative students who kept us all entertained.

One group of boys in particular; John, Kevin, Tony and Frank, came up with some of the school's most awesome pranks. These boys were all in my graduating class, so I knew them pretty well. Pranking the teachers was common practice, as it is at many high schools. But our pranksters were excellent students. They kept the pranks fun, harmless, and if at all possible, anonymous.

Kevin was in my history class. The history teacher, Mrs. Dallaire, was a bleach-blonde air head. After giving us a reading assignment, she would step into the hall and gossip with the teacher next door, Mrs. Clark. She paid no attention to what we were doing while she conversed with Mrs. Clark. That gave Kevin his golden pranking opportunities.

One prank Kevin liked was having everyone scoot their desks just a little bit closer to the chalkboard every time Mrs. Dallaire wasn't paying attention. This was subtle, but one day Mrs. Dallaire was writing on the chalkboard, she turned around, and suddenly we were in her face.

"Oh, my!" Mrs. Dallaire exclaimed in her Southern accent. "We seem to be too crowded in this room!"

Kevin kept a couple of bottles of pop in Mrs. Dallaire's coat closet, along with some styrofoam cups. He would pass the cups around and pour us all some pop. We had those wonderful old desks with book holders underneath, so we stuck our cups of pop in the book holder when Mrs. Dallaire stepped back in the room.

One day Kevin brought a radio to school and put it inside the book holder in his desk. When Mrs. Dallaire would turn around, Kevin would crank the music up.

"I hear music!" Mrs. Dallaire would say. She always went out in the hall and looked around to see where the music was coming from, which is when Kevin would turn it off. 

"Never mind, it's gone now," Mrs. Dallaire would state, continuing with our lesson. 

Kevin repeated this prank over and over again, but Mrs. Dallaire never noticed it was his radio.

A prank Kevin did on Mrs. Dallaire that we all really liked was the day she was going to use the pull-down screen to show us a film. Kevin lined the top of the screen with M & Ms. When Mrs. Dallaire pulled the screen down, all the M & Ms poured down on her and she slipped around on them on her high heeled shoes.

Those are some good examples of pranks, but they don't compare to the two biggest pranks the boys pulled.

The first prank had to do with our school election for Junior Class President and Senior Class President in 1978. I was a junior at the time, and our class was content with our candidates for Junior Class President: John Dawhare, who was using the slogan "Put a John in the Office of President" and Larry "The Weatherman" Wilson, our resident meteorologist. Larry made his own homemade meteorologist's equipment and gave us a weather prediction every day on the school's morning news.

But in 1978 there was only one candidate running for Senior Class President: the hated Michelle Demarest. Michelle looked like a Malibu Barbie. She had an eternal suntan, sparkling white teeth, and golden blonde hair. But nobody liked her. She was just so perfect that she was despised.

That's why Frank and Tony, two of the school's famous pranksters, decided to make sure NOBODY voted for Michelle. Since there wasn't anyone running against her, they spread the word: we would all do a write-in vote for the Saturday Night Live character "Mr. Bill". Mr. Bill was a clay animated character who always got squashed, so it was kind of fitting since he won the election but the school wouldn't recognize that Mr. Bill won it. The administrators, of course, gave the Presidency to Michelle Demarest. However, I don't think Michelle ever lived down the humiliation of being defeated by a clay animation.

The final prank I want to share is a doozy. I haven't ever heard of another student prank like it. It was brilliant for its ease of delivery. 

To explain this prank, I need to remind you that we didn't have computers in the 1970s. Attendance was taken by hand every day. Each teacher (and the bus drivers) had a handwritten list, in pencil, of their students.

The four boys, John, Kevin, Frank and Tony, came up with the idea of creating a fictional student. They named him Joe McKnight. The boys discreetly added Joe McKnight to the list of names on the bus roster as well as all the class rosters in their schedule.

The task of answering "Here!" for Joe was carefully delegated to various boys in each class, usually the ones in the back so it wasn't noticible that they answered twice, once for their own name and once for Joe. My next door neighbor, Mark, usually answered "Here!" for Joe if there was roll call on the bus.

This prank went on for all of our Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. Amazingly, none of the teachers questioned anyone about the added student at the bottom of the roster. The problem came when we were finishing our Senior year.

On the second to last day of school the Principal always announced awards for grades and attendance. Students whose names were announced went down to the office to get their paper certificates or awards.

We were all stunned when Principal Reynolds announced that Joe McKnight was winning a Perfect Attendance Award!

This had never happened before. Every year there had been one or two days in each class that Joe had missed (because no one was assigned to say "Here!" for him). Now the boys had a dilemma: who was going to go to the office and "be" Joe? It had to be somebody Principal Reynolds wouldn't recognize, but he recognized everyone. 

Finally, Tony had the answer. This would be the first day all year that Joe was absent! Too bad about his perfect attendance award, but Joe was too sick to come to school today.

We always wondered whether Principal Reynolds tried to mail that certificate to Joe after school ended. He might have searched a long time before realizing Joe had no address or school record. I guess we'll never know, but all of us will forever remember Joe McKnight.

© Copyright 2020 Jane Atkinson. All rights reserved.

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