|Alfred Toll House |
[next door is the Jacob Loose Mansion]
One of my favorite April fools stories comes from 1971. I was 14. My grandma, my dad's mom came to live with us. My sisters got to share a room so that grandma could have her own space.
Her name was Mary Lee Toll Brinkman. She was born into big money. The house of her childhood is now the Catholic Reporter building on Armor road and Warwick in Kansas City. [Or it was the last time I was down in that area.] The house and the money were gone long before I was born, but my Mom used to tell the story of going to dances in the ballroom on the top floor of the "Toll Mansion."
We called Grandma Toopta. No one knows why. She used to babysit us on Friday nights so my parents could go to lodge meetings. Years later we found out that lodge was really Dad's AA meetings. Back then we had one little black and white TV, an RCA Victor model. Sometimes I would go with Dad to the store to replace the tubes. Do you remember when the grocery stores had little tube testing stations where you could test and buy tubes? Anyway, we would sit up on Friday nights with Toop and watch TV. She taught us all the song, "the incy wincy spider" and the more obscure, "I don't know why she swallowed the fly" rhyme. I will have to say it for you sometime.
So, anyway, Toopta came to live with us when I was 14. She liked Hawaii 5-0 "book em Danno." She watched the Today show and General Hospital. She drank Sherry [something like wine or brandy I think.] She attended the Episcopal church. My mom didn't like her. I am not going to speculate why. There were a number of possible reasons, but it was a real sacrifice for my Mom to have Toopie living in our home. It only lasted for about a year, and then she was gone. As quickly as she had arrived, she was gone, traded off to another Uncle for a player to be named later.
One morning, I heard a thump, thump, thump, coming down the stairs. I ran around the corner and there was Toopta in a writhing ball of pain at the bottom of the stairs. I called for help, and in a few moments, my mom and both of my sisters were there. We were all gathered around Toop. My Mom took over. Kids step back.
Mom: Toop, where does it hurt?
Toopta: Oooooo. [groaning]
Mom: do you want me to call an ambulance?
Mom: where does it hurt?
Toop [quietly]: what day is it?
Everyone looks at each other. We are puzzled. She must be losing her mind.
Toop: what day is it?
Mom: Toop it is Wednesday.
Toop [a bit louder now]: no, what day is it?
Mom: it is April 1st.
April 1st!!!!!!!!! It is all a big joke. She is not hurt, she did not fall down the stairs. My sisters and I start laughing. Mom is furious. She does not think it is funny at all for a 72 year old woman to pull such a stunt. She storms off into the other room. I help Toop up and Toop and the kids go on about our business, somehow the better for the story.
That's the way it was, April 1st, 1971.
Oh, and by the way, The blog will continue. As long as Scott Connors reads this, I am going to keep typing something.
It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.