What Happens When You Turn Off Gravity?
(or play a happy April Fools prank)
Roy Coleman

Back in in the spring of 1972 the City of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Education were tearing down a number of buildings around Morgan Park High School to expand the campus.  It was planned that 8 houses and 2 businesses (one a 3 story brick build) would be removed between March 29th and April 3rd and that access to the school building would be limited to just two paths.  MANY caution signs were posted.  I then came across newspaper articles where the ‘Society for the Conservation of Gravity’ (Google it!) was trying to introduce an ordinance requiring all tall building to be built horizontally because the elevators were using up too much gravity and we might run out.

SO -- I decided to see what would happen if gravity were to be turned off.  I wrote the attached ‘Official’ looking memo and put it in everyone’s mailbox before the end of the day on Tuesday.

Wednesday morning I got there early and set up my City of Chicago Traffic signal (don’t ask) at the Tee on the third floor timed for 6 seconds green, two seconds yellow and 8 seconds red.  I also posted several ‘REACUE AREA’ signs on top of the lockers.  I got the first three students of mine to walk separately along the corridor and obey the traffic signal.  Not too surprisingly EVERYONE else obeyed it.

My first period class found out they had a sub for their second period trig class!   I then provided some heavy twine for each one.   Since their classroom was directly opposite my door I wanted to watch what would happen.   At the start of second period I was telling my class to watch when one of my female students who was fairly tall said she could make herself stiff enough to be picked up by the ankles and neck without bending.  (LIGHT BULB!)  I had her lay across my doorway below the window and had two guys start to pick her up as I swung the door open.  The trig class started to rise saying ‘”I feel it going off.”   The sub ran to the front and grabbed the chalk rail and started screaming “GET ME A ROPE, FOR GOD’S SAKE GET ME ROPE, DON’T LET ME FLOAT AWAY!”  I had to cover a couple of extra trig classes as they couldn’t get another sub.

At the end of the day as I was going to sign out, one of our young English teachers who happened to have a foot, leg or hip problem and walked with a cane accosted me because she didn’t know how far 3 microns was so she parked over three blocks away and walked in.   It took a couple of years but we finally became somewhat cordial to each other.  She died several years ago and I went to her wake.  As I was greeting her family her son said “Oh you’re the one she has been mad at all these years”.

For many years my students would hear or talk about this April Fools prank.  That slowly faded away until I started getting the children of my former students whose parents had told them.

I guess this is a pretty good(?) legacy.  At least they remembered something I did in class.


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