One-Room Schoolhouse Practical Joke

Students’ “fruit basket upset” caused commotion in one-room schoolhouse.

Content Tools

When we were kids in the one room country schoolhouse 50 years ago, we had a custom called "Fruit Basket Upset" in which we all participated. It happened only once a year, though if a teacher were quite popular, it might happen twice. It was not an event on the school calendar, for only the students knew about it, and it was planned but a day or two in advance. Looking back, I know it startled the teacher and left her with shattered nerves for a while.

Each of us brought a special fruit, an apple, orange, banana or a small sack of nuts. Older students brought extras in case a smaller child forgot. Just after school had taken up, and opening exercises were done, everyone appearing to be settling down to study, the students furtively awaited the signal. The teacher must have wondered at the mischievous glances circulating around the room, though we thought we were being discreet.

An older student was designated to give the signal. When the proper instant arrived - and all of us were nearly bursting with anticipation - he broke the "no talking without permission" rule by saying right out loud and with enthusiasm, "Fruit Basket Upset!"

Each of us reached into desks or pockets for our various fruits, and started them rolling down the aisles of desks toward the teacher's desk. The fruit was rather quiet, and the bananas didn't roll well, but the nuts bounced and rattled on their way with quite a clatter.

The teacher's eyes widened with shock, first at the student speaking without raising his hand for permission, and next at the commotion of rolling fruit.

The event always ended in laughter, and smaller students nearest the front, especially the lively little boys, scrambled on the floor to help the teacher pick up her bounty. She always managed a weak "thank you" for her gifts, and we students eventually settled our minds down for a day of study.

Elaine Carr
Hayden Lake, Idaho

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.