Cranking It Up

The Wild Boar and I were discussing childhood games and entertainment yesterday evening.

Although there were many memories of things we used to love to do as kids we both agree that in times of total boredom while hanging out with friends, crank calling ranked very high, right up there with ding-dong ditch. 

What was it about crank calling that was so appealing?

I remember spending hours with friends calling random people and saying all kinds of silly, ridiculous things just to get a reaction. 

There was one friend of mine who had a very large walk-in closet.  We used to get her teenage sister’s phone with the very long cord and lock ourselves in her closet and start making our way through the white pages.

It was always a bonus when we’d get a little old, cranky lady to answer.

This was one of our favorites…

Cranky Lady:  Hello.

Us:  Hello, Mrs. Smith?

Cranky Lady:  Yes.

Us:  Is your refrigerator running?

Cranky Lady:  (unsuspecting) Yes it is.

Us:  Well….then you better go catch it!  (Laughing, roaring….hysterical and then hanging up)

But of course we had other more devious crank calls as well.

Our most horrible routine being the Electrocuted Repairman Act of 1980.

We would call our unsuspecting victim and say, “This is the phone company calling and we are currently working on your line.  A repairman is down the street and has the transformer box open.  If your phone should ring in the next hour, under no circumstances should you pick up the call…doing so would result in the possible electrocution of the repairman.  He is just testing the line, don’t answer.”

Of course we would call back in minutes and let the phone ring and ring and ring and ring and ring and ring and ring until the person on the other end could absolutely no longer take it and would pick up the receiver and muster a very nervous, “Hello?”  We would then treat them to a blood-curdling scream and immediately slam down the phone.

I can’t even tell you how hard we would laugh.  Isn’t that terrible, cruel and disgusting?  We had no shame.

One time we called every neighbor on my friend’s street pretending to be the neighbor next door to the person we were calling. We asked to borrow a cup of flour and if they could bring it right over.  In minutes everyone was exiting their house with flour and mass confusion ensued.  We got busted for that one!  But we still laughed.  Hysterically.

We could go on like this for hours.  Of course we thought we were completely hilarious.

I swear if a group of kids called me today and did those things, I think I would laugh so hard I would split in half.  I guess with Caller ID no one crank calls anymore.

My kids have no idea what “crank calling” is.  A lot of people should be glad.

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  1. Deeba 1

    Oh yes, we did it when we were kids too. Thanks for reviving those deliciously wicked memories Cathy. Not ure if I would crack up laughing if someone did it to me now. Thank heavens for caller ID, though my daughter & her friends still do crank call at times!

  2. Scary Mommy 2

    Damn Caller ID— my friends and I would spend hours on crank phone calls. Best way ever to spend a Saturday night as a thirteen year old!!!

  3. Barbie with a T 3

    I suppose there are still some harmless childhood pranks going on in some other form now that there is caller ID. I see stunts performed by teenage drivers quite a bit around our town. Being a coastal beach town, they ride around in vehicles with their heads and body parts through the roof or windows, acting like teenage kids do. When I was a kid we used to call the local “house of ill repute” trying to talk to some of the “ladies”, and of course, we always got fussed at or they would hang up the phone. That was the worst thing we would do..we made the other less harmless calls just like the ones you mentioned. My thoughts are that it is just one of those things that kids grow out of and never give it a second thought after that.

  4. Marcy 4

    ROFLMAO Cathy. I didn’t do alot of crank calling when I was a teen, but still reeked enough havoc to have alot of fun. I had never heard of the Electrocuted Repairman act, I giggling just reading it!

  5. ntsc 5

    My cousins did this, but I didn’t. Not that I was being good, but we didn’t have dial phones. Doing that with an operator on the line would not have been a good idea.

  6. The electrocuted electrician is hilarious! How did you think of that?

  7. Becky 7

    Electrocuted telephone repair guy?! Hilarious!
    And the flour thing, too.
    Never heard of ding-dong ditch, either.
    Not long ago, my son spent the night with some friends and they started making prank calls. Got busted. They called me. I had to call and tell him. It was so funny. But I still had to be the parent. Darn it. I wanted to join in!

  8. I laughed so hard at the flour one. Darn caller ID! The one prank my brother did was to try to knock over a spot-a-pot unfortunately the lady inside did not think it was too funny. We Did!!

  9. I remember doing this with my neighbor friends. We would laugh ourselves silly.

  10. Laura 10

    oh my yes and party lines were a hoot too! times were so much fun back then and I hate that my kids have not gotten to experience some of the things we did… sigh… love the trip down memory lane!

  11. melissa 11

    OMG we did this to only as country kids we would tell people their cow was in our garden…..

  12. Marlene 12

    This post brought back so many memories of laughing hysterically at a slumber party partaking in this Right of Passage…I agree, with the advent of caller id, this no longer became possible.

    Thanks for bringing back all those memories!


  13. I remember making those calls also…boy is that a trip down memory lane…My kids called 900 numbers, and boy were they caught when the phone bill came!
    Been going down memory lane this week taking my 6 year old grandson roller skating. I remember getting those metal skates you put on your shoes and skating on the sidewalk. They don’t do that much now a days.

  14. The electrocuted repair man is HILARIOUS!!! With some creativity (*67 for one, to block your number) one might still be able to get away with that.

    My group of friends and I were prolific crank/prank callers. At one point I actually ended up dating someone for a while that I crank called…well until my parents found out he was 23 and I was only 16.

  15. The electrocuted repair man is awesome. Where did you come up with that one? The flour one was great too. I’m with you, if a kid did that today I’d fall apart laughing.

  16. Mary 16

    You’ve made me smile – big time – this morning. A grateful nation thanks you for your crank calls – you’d have been dangerous on the streets.

  17. Katrina 17

    Ahh, yes, memories! I think our favorite was more the ding-dong ditching and TPing. Gotta love toilet papering! One time we were ding-dong ditching, a man started chasing us and we literally ran and hid IN A DITCH! We were so stinkin’ scared. Either he couldn’t find us, or didn’t bother. We still ditched and tp-ed though, didn’t stop us! Thanks for the rememberies!

  18. What ever brought these childhood memories to the surface? Yes, i also was a wicked child. once we played mail man and took all the mail and mixed it up. when we panicked, we decided to throw it over my fence out onto the hill. The wind blew it every where. Talk about busted! After my mom went and picked up every piece and soothed the furious neighbors she gave me another think comin with a belt I think, ouch.

  19. You were very inventive! I remember doing similar pranks and getting busted. Ah, youth!

  20. ELRA 20

    OMG, Cathy….
    You were naughty naughty girl, weren’t you?
    I LOL so much, though I can not imagine if that happen to me right now…?
    Wow, I would be so mad….ha…ha…ha…

  21. Oh you naughty girls you! that got me to laugh, but oh so naughty of you’s!

  22. Amber 22

    Your kids don’t know what crank calls are. Try this one. When I mention having a party line, all the baggers at work say “oh yeah, a chat line”, which talking more than 3 minutes was unheard of back then. No one knows what a party line is anymore. We even had a separate ring that you recognized because the phone rang at all the houses on that line and back then it still hardly ever rang.
    In jr. high I was into far worse stuff like hitchhiking downtown and then back because I was totally bored. And at 12 years old. God must have been watching out for me.

  23. And don’t forget the one where you called the drugstore and asked if they had Prince Albert in a can…

  24. dawn 24

    I must be the only one that never heard of that crank call. But it was funny, very funny and probably something I would totally go in on.

  25. Refrigerator, check
    Prince Albert, check
    Electrocuted repairman, check
    We also would have a couple different people call & ask for Norman. When they said there wasn’t one there we would say, ok, but if he calls tell him Sue (and Kelly and Meg) is looking for him, then we would pretend to be a man and call and say “Hi this is Norman, did any one call for me”
    I’m not sure how 9 year-old girls thought they could sound like a man, but we thought it was hilarious!

  26. Alisa 26

    Yeah, caller id really takes away all the fun of crank calling doesn’t it?

  27. Oh my goodness, the flour one had me cracking up!! I didn’t do much crank calling as a child, but I sure had fun with that in college. We had these great phones that had speakerphones, but no microphone. So you could dial someone’s number and you could hear them but they couldn’t hear you.

    My personal favorite was “Is Erin there?” And if they said no, your answer was “If there’s no air in there, how are you breathing?”

    Or the time we got my friend who was good at improv to call one of our other friends (who didn’t know her) and she went on and on about how he passed her and didn’t even acknowledge her, and didn’t he remember who she was. Oh my goodness, I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe.

  28. You forgot my favorite. You have several people dial the same number and ask for “Joe Blow” (or whatever name you can come up with) and then call the number and say, “This is Joe Blow. Have there been any calls for me?”

  29. My dad’s name is one of the Beatles….enough said:D

  30. Marjie 30

    I have had kids crank call, although less than once a year. I always call the number on the caller ID (after punching *67, of course) and tell the adult on the line to put a leash on their kid. Oh, yes, and then there were the teenage girls I told they should give their phones to their mommies because they need adult supervision, since they were obviously morons.

  31. Linda 31

    Oh my, you brought back some memories there. We thought we were so clever and funny doing the exact same pranks. Where were my parents when I doing this? I don’t think my kids could get away with it. Good times huh?

  32. melly~ 32

    OMG too funny. we did the SAME thing. all. the. time. i don’t remember ever getting caught but if we had. . . oh boy.
    thanks for the memory prompt, Cathy. Your crown roast looks spectacular!

  33. tipper 33

    One crank call we use to do-call late at night and say “oh daddy/momma my car broke down and I’m a gas station will you come and get me?” Sometimes they said yes they’d be right there!! If they said they didn’t have a daughter-we ask them to call our daddy cause we’d just used our last quarter! Mean girls we were!

  34. Thank God for caller ID.

  35. imom 35

    Caller ID is a bummer for young crank callers these days… My daughter did some bad language crank calling and I got a call back from a very angry mom saying how relieved she was that her 6 year old didn’t answer the phone. I then explained caller ID to my daughter, who was mortified that she was found out. She never crank called anyone again.

  36. *67–you can prank call away!!

    I did my fair share of prank calls–but I’ve never heard of the repairman one–love it!!

  37. Laura 37

    This is so funny. My friends and I love to talk about how “nice” we were back in the day…but really we were serious stinkers.
    We did everything you did …plus some more.
    Great post.

  38. That was also a favorite pass-time of my childhood, but we asked if the water was running…same result.
    Thanks for conjuring up lovely childhood memories!

  39. I just commented and it’s disappeared. My internet connection stinks!
    Wanted to say, thanks for the memories…we also spent a good amount of time pranking, but in our case, the water was running.
    Thanks for the memories!

  40. Oh, that was funny. Of course I did the SAME thing when I was young…..

  41. I have laughed so hard at the story involving the flour! That’s a good one! Sweet mercy, I wish my friends and I had thought of that one. We’d have been way too afraid to try it. Well, maybe….

    Hope you had a great Christmas!

  42. Pam 42

    I used to do the refrigerator one too. Good times!

  43. Flea 43

    You are a hoot, girl! And evil, to boot! I admire that. :)

  44. I was never such a big crank caller myself. Not because I was such a well behaved kid – more so because I lacked the creativity.

    There was a show for a little while where comedians would make crank calls and it played out via puppets on TV. HILARIOUS!

  45. I love carrot cake. Listen, if things don’t work out with you and the Wild Boar, I am totally willing to try out lesbianism if it means you’ll cook this awesome shit for me.

  46. sara 46

    I just read this to my husband and I started laughing and told me that he still has AUDIO CASSETTES of him and his buddies crank calling people when they were teenagers. How fun would THAT be to listen to?

    I had never heard of the electrician one, but he had. He also just told me that you should find and watch the movie, “I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did.”

  47. Louise 47

    The electrocuted repairman is simply classic! As a kid, actually watching all of your neighbors falling for the flour joke must have made you feel on top of the world.

  48. Liz C. 48

    Oh Yeah! We used to call stores and ask if they had Prince Albert (tobacco) in a can. Then, we’d yell “Then let him out!” Laughing hysterically.

    The other one was: we’d call people, claiming to be from The Acme Roof Company, and asked if they had any leaks in their roof that we could repair. When they said “No.” we would yell into the phone saying “Then how’d a big drip like you get in?” We would be laughing so hard & thought we were hilarious.

  49. Tanya 49

    Oh my god! Your crank calls were SO much better than me and my friends calls. We were worse though in that we called back the same person about 5 times in a row until they were raging mad and threatening to call the cops!

    Those were the days before Caller ID. Now, I don’t think crank calling is as common. Even if you block the call before calling, most people still won’t pick up.

  50. Mrs. L 50

    Oh man, I do remember crank calling when I was a kid. Used to just open the phone book and pick out strange names. I guess kids are too busy texting to crank call these days. Or maybe it’s easier to track :)

  51. Egghead 51

    One time one of my friends and I crank called a man and he left the phone off the hook all night. Back then it wouldn’t disconnect and my friends mother was furious with us. We were in such trouble. Fun memories you brought back.

  52. unmuse 52

    Oh man.. I haven’t thought about this for awhile.. but when I was in 5th grade, there was this girl that lived down the street my friends and I didn’t like so we’d watch the infomercials and sent her thousands of dollars of COD stuff. (Cash On Delivery – something companies stopped doing about a year after the 3 months we spent torturing that girl.

    I have tons more of stories because back before the days of caller ID and *69, the phone lines were completely anonymous and my friends and I would spend hours harassing strangers.

    Now adays, when I get a text from a wrong number, I engage them in strange conversation.

  53. Oh yeah, I remember those! That was a funny walk down memory lane!

  54. Paula 54

    Oh. My. Lord. I laughed at the electrocuted repairman act of 1980. I’d not heard that before … I’ll be thinking of it the next time the phone rings!


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