By Denise Dick
A Boardman couple drove three hours to play an April Fools’ Day joke on their daughter.
Duplicate car keys, cardboard-lined breakfast food and supposedly stolen cars are just a few of the ways Mahoning Valley residents have marked April Fools’ Day through the years.
“My favorite holiday is April Fools’ Day,” said Ken Brayer of Boardman.
Family members usually bore the brunt of his gags.
In 1989, his daughter, Cherie, was in her fourth year at Ohio Northern University, Ada, Ohio, studying pharmacy. Early on April 1, Brayer and his wife drove to Ada for the express purpose of playing a joke on Cherie.
They arrived about 10 a.m. and went to the local police station to let them in on the joke: They planned to “steal” their daughter’s car while she was in class. Police had to verify the couple’s identity and the car’s ownership before consenting to go along, Brayer said.
“We watched from a distance as she came out of the building and looked all around to see where her car was and was unable to locate it,” Brayer said.
She went to police to report the supposed crime when officers opened their garage and Cherie found “her car and my wife and I smiling,” he said. “A three-hour drive for a good laugh.”
When his children were in high school and middle school, Brayer moved the clocks in the house ahead two hours and watched the frenzy of his children racing around trying to get ready for school.
“They couldn’t figure out why their alarms hadn’t gone off,” he laughed. “They didn’t go off because I changed them.”
When the jig was up, Brayer treated the family to a breakfast out. He knew they were in for a long day.
It didn’t take long for his children to anticipate Dad’s antics each year.
“When they were in college, they’d be calling each other, trying to figure out where I was, who’s turn it was that year,” Brayer said.
Nik Amstutz’s favorite April Fools’ joke also employed a fake stolen car.
“About 15 years ago, I had a friend staying at my house, and he had a Chevy Cavalier,” the Boardman school board member said. “I also had a friend who cut keys.”
While his friend and his wife were out of the house, Amstutz took the man’s car keys to have a copy made. Before the couple awoke the next morning, he drove their car to the lot of the Brownlee Woods library, just down the street from his house, and parked it.
“He got up in the morning and they couldn’t find their car,” Amstutz said. “He and his wife went nuts.”
He let the joke run until the couple prepared to call police.
John Conti, a Boardman Rotary member, said fellow members used the jokester’s day to have fun with Lou Young, a longtime club member who has since died. Young was known for his perfect Rotary attendance.
One year at the annual Maple Syrup and Pancake Festival, practical jokers including Conti placed a piece of cardboard in between cakes in Young’s pancake stack.
“He was trying to cut and trying to cut through his pancakes, and he couldn’t get through,” he said.
Young eventually found the foreign object on his plate.
“He had a few choice words for us,” Conti chuckled.