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Serious Pranks, Serious Work: A Family Heirloom

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Serious Pranks, Serious Work: A Family Heirloom

Serious Pranks, Serious Work: A Family Heirloom

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It is Friday, which means once again we bring you StoryCorps, the oral history project that's traveling the country, collecting interviews between friends and family, and giving us the chance to learn about our fellow Americans' lives. Copies are archived at the Library of Congress and excerpts are played right here on MORNING EDITION. This morning, we're going to meet Sean Collins, who comes from three generations of doctors. He's a medical student at Cornell. Recently, he brought his grandfather Richard Collins to a StoryCorps booth. Dr. Collins is 81 years old, a retired country doctor. He practiced in a small town in upstate New York. And here, Dr. Collins tells his grandson about a couple of pranks he pulled when he was a student; first took place when he was in fourth grade in Catholic School.

Dr. RICHARD COLLINS: Sister would go out and ring the bell, and that signified that anybody who came in after that bell was late and got a demerit of some kind, and I was a chronic, a problem I had getting up a little late. And I grew to hate that bell. One time, I stole back to the school and went in the window and stole that bell, and the next day, there was hell to pay because somebody had taken that bell. Sister said it was a sin against the school, it was a sin against the sisters, sin against the faith, sin against the pope, and I knew it was such a terrible sin that I--no way I could bring the shame on my family to confess that. Of course, sisters came and sisters went, and popes even came and popes went.

Mr. SEAN COLLINS: And what did you end up doing with the school bell?

Dr. COLLINS: I still have it. It's by my bedside and I joyfully ring it every now and then.

Mr. COLLINS: What about as you got older, going through school? The story about you seeing a woman who--I'm not sure if she was a psychiatric patient.

Dr. COLLINS: Oh, Mrs. Peppatone(ph). This was when I was a medical student. One of my sisters for my birthday gave me a clip-on bow tie that had a red bulb on each side and a wire that went inside your shirt and down to a battery in your pocket, and if you pressed the battery, the tie would glow red. I thought it was a pretty dumb gift actually when I got it, but we got a patient on the floor named Mrs. Peppatone. Her main complaint was that she was full of electricity and she would tell in this Italian accent, you know, `I'm full of electric.' She was a conundrum for everybody. Nobody knew what to do with her, and one day, we had rounds, and I thought, I'm going to wear my necktie and see what we can do with Mrs. Peppatone.

While they were mulling her case, I suddenly pronounced that, `Mrs. Peppatone, I'm going to cure your electric.' So I walked over to her. I said, `I'm going to put my hand on your forehead. I want you to push out the electric.' So she pushed and pushed and I pressed the battery in my pocket and my necktie lit up, and she says `It's a'going, it's a'going. It's leaving my body.' So she was discharged the next day. And the rounding man came up to me privately. He said, `I don't think I would tell the professor about that quackery.'

INSKEEP: That's Dr. Richard Collins interviewed by his grandson, Sean Collins. StoryCorps has two mobile booths that are traveling the country. One is now in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and the other in Medford, Oregon. And as always, you can find StoryCorps in New York City. To schedule your interview or listen to more stories, just visit npr.org.

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