Frederick Law Olmsted

AVI has a good piece on the famous designer's early travels. I have nothing of value to add to what he says, but I do have a relevant story of roguery and mis-spent youth.

Way back in mumble-mumble I graduated from High School. This was at a school in Atlanta, Georgia. Naturally, we gave some attention to the "senior prank" that might have been better spent on preparing for the SATs. In fact, we planned the thing months in advance. It was decided that we would steal a desk from the school, one of the proprietary ones that obviously belonged to a school, spray paint it with "Kilroy was Here!" graffiti, and then hang it in a big oak opposite the school's main building.

The operation was divided into three phases. Mine was the first phase, the stealing of the desk. Needless to say this had to be done in such a way that the hanging of the desk would later seem to be a tremendous surprise. Thus, it had to disappear long before the prank, and in such a way that no one would be sure where it had come from. For that reason, I arranged to defeat the school's security systems -- both lock and electronic -- so that we could spirit out a desk in the middle of the night, in the winter-time long before graduation. We also rearranged the desks in the room during the operation so that no one would notice a missing one.

That was effected before Christmas. We then had plenty of time to paint the desk appropriately, concealing it for months in a secret location.

Near graduation day we had one of our comrades who was an expert tree-climber sneak into the park opposite the high school headquarters at night, and toss lines over the high tree limbs. Assuming his success -- this was before everyone had a cell-phone -- we arrived about 2 AM with the desk, so that it could be hoisted and secured in position. After that, it was a simple matter of removing the lines and exfiltrating the park before police noticed our activity. It was thus secured well above where anyone would be able to simply remove it.

Here is the tie-in: unbeknownst to any of us, the next day was the 100th anniversary of that park, which was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. The mayor of Atlanta came down to give a speech at the very spot where we'd secured the "Kilroy was here!" desk.

Our comrade the tree-climber was immediately captured, as his hobby was too well-known for him to avoid detection. He was a stand-up guy, however, and the rest of the team escaped unpunished. I'm sure we're well past the statue of limitations now.

1 comment:

Gringo said...

Good story. I am told that my grandfather's generation indulged in elaborate Halloween pranks in the first decade of the 1900s, which usually consisted of the likes of putting a wagon on a roof. This wasn't one of those red metal wagons we pulled around in our childhoods, but horse-drawn wagons which were then the main form of transport.
My father told of less daring Halloween exploits- pulling down outhouses of people you didn't like.

I definitely got the impression that had I been the hell-raiser either my grandfather or father had been, my father would have made my childhood rather unpleasant. But I didn't find out the juicy details until I was in my 30s.