People Who Weren’t Really There

Questions not asked – answers not learned.

Are nicknames still ‘a thing’?  They were in small-town Ontario, in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s.  I knew a bunch of people by names other than the ones they were given.  Many of them, I never knew their real name.

In the 20 years I knew him, there was a grocer who my parents always referred to as ‘Pro’ Montgomery.  Did he have a Quaker mother who named him Prophet?  Or a Greek one who called him Prometheus?  As a grocer, did he sell produce?  Or was he just a professional proprietor??!  These, and many other worthless conjectures, are free with the price of admission to this post.

For some years, my Father worked with a man he only called Pru.  Again, thoughts of names like Prudent came to mind.  Years later, I discovered that it is the French(-Canadian) surname Proulx, whose spelling and pronunciation so confound many English-speakers, that I have seen it spelled Prolux.

Hubbie Masterson’s real name was Bill.  He was an aggressive Banty-rooster of a man who showed no signs of being hen-pecked.  His friend, another Bill, was known as Biscuit.  He was a Real Estate Broker whose office was right beside the town bakery, but I’m pretty sure that I heard him called ‘Biscuit,’ before he moved in.

The taxi owner’s son/driver became known as Chink, or Chinky, after the town got a Chinese restaurant, and he was seen there several times a week for meals and snacks.  I once knew his real name, but not 65 years later.  At least twice, my brother being one of them, young men got called Boomer.  Not nuclear-sub commanders, this name is applied to those whose level of conversation is just consistently too loud.  “Okay, boomer” now carries a different connotation.   😯

One of my schoolmates acquired the name Tack, one he still carries today.  It started as ‘Whack-A-Tack,’ because he seemed to have such a fixation on sex, and so little social control that he might be caught masturbating in public.

The town had a Ma Keyes.  This might not seem too unusual….except that there was no Pa Keyes, or any little Keyes kids running around, that she could be a Ma to.  One young fellow became Cobbie simply because one of his friends(?) felt that he needed a nickname, and mangled his last name of McCauley.  The same sort of thing happened when unfortunate Alec, became Ackie.  They tried to attach the nickname Smitty to me, but there wasn’t enough personality to hang it on.

There were two Shular families in town, unrelated to each other.  They each had a boy born in the same year, one, an only child, the other, the fifth of seven children.  They each named their son, Doug.  To keep them straight, we called the only child Boo, though to this day, I don’t know why.

One friend was one of a pair of identical twins, who quickly became un-identical as soon as they were born.  My buddy, Robert, became the bright, outgoing, social, rowdy, daredevil, soon named Butch – by his Mother, and everyone else.  It was so ingrained that I heard a teacher address him as Robert one day, and didn’t know who she was talking to.

Bud Helwig was the flower of his Mother’s eye, who probably had the same first name as his father, David, but if so, I never heard it.  I always knew the adult son next door as Mack.  It might actually have been Mack.  That is an acceptable name, but I’ve often wondered whether it was just Mac, because a Scottish mother gave him a Scottish maiden name – like MacTavish, or MacDougall – for a given name.

Wilfred, the harbor-master, was neither Will, nor Fred, but rather, Wiff.  Although, with his proximity to the fishing boats, perhaps it was Whiff.  My red-headed Scottish uncle became Rusty, even after he’d turned white, rather than the given name, Melvin, which he hated.

Another uncle was named Elmer.  He had 3 daughters, and 6 sons, one of whom he named Elmer also.  Both he and his namesake had the same pronunciation problem.  They could not enunciate the M in the word ‘I’m.’  Rather, they would say, ‘I’n (eye’n) goin’ downtown.’ So they each became known as Iney.  Another cousin with a childhood speech defect pronounced the word snort’, as H-f-nort, and became Nort Brown for the rest of his life.

Three families at the edge of town constantly bred back and forth, cousin to cousin, until the average IQ dropped to about 90.  When my Father came to town, the dim-witted, oldest (boy) of one family was known as Mooney.  By the time I was old enough to encounter them, the Mooney title had passed to the youngest son, and his now 6’-6” oldest brother, with size 14 shoes (Strong like ox – almost as smart) was known as Boots.

Walter Rogers drove me to and from my summer job at a plywood plant every day.  Of course, he wasn’t known as Walter, or Walt, or Wally, but as Watt.  There was a co-worker at that plant who I had known as Seven Hearn for as long as I’d been aware of him – not Sven, mind you, but Seven.  Apparently he came to work on the short bus.

I asked Watt if he knew why everyone called him Seven.  Some years back, in the lunchroom one day, unprovoked, he suddenly declared that he was number seven to own/run this plant.  His reasoning (?) was – there was the General Manager, and the Assistant Manager, the Office Manager, the Plant Manager, the Department Foreman, and the line Lead Hand.  If all of them died in a van crash on their way to a curling bonspiel, as number seven, he’d be the ‘Big Boss’.   🙄

Our school bus driver in 1958/59 was nicknamed Kaw-Liga, after the 1953 Hank Williams song about a cigar-store wooden Indian.  He didn’t object much, because he was one of several males at that time named Beverly.  I don’t know if girls named Carolyn, Marilyn, and Jennifer, who became Cardi, Marnie, and Jeff, count.

One family in town was somewhat poorer than most.  Because of this, there were many things that they did not possess, things like – Protestant Work Ethic, regular employment and income, as well as respect for laws and others’ property rights.  The son, Carl, became quite famous…. For finding things before they were lost, and getting five-finger discounts at many of the local stores.  The kindly townsfolk felt so badly for Carl, that they finally gave him something – the nickname ‘Hooker,’ which, at that time meant, shoplifter, petty thief.

’20 A To Z Challenge – S

SUAVE
SOPHISTICATED
full of
SAVOIR FAIRE

None of these words apply to me.

I am just a small-town boy with a touch of autism, who has managed to read enough to know how the other half 95% lives, and how they expect me to act and behave.  If the wife hadn’t decided that I needed someone to civilize me, I probably wouldn’t be married.

I have managed to dine at a few somewhat upscale restaurants without embarrassing myself or my companions too badly, but I should not be let loose near anything labeled fête or gala.  I can’t even tell the difference between white ties and black ties, much less how to wear them, when, and where.

For a couple of years in high school I wore a string-, or bolo-tie to the few dances and parties that I attended – and didn’t wonder why the females wanted nothing to do with me.  In the first half of my working life, when I was a number of varieties of cube-drone, I wore clip-on ties.

One day, I stopped for a cooling beverage (or several) after work, at a place artistically nicknamed The Pit, which just happened to have entertainment which involved the removing of clothing.  I got a seat right up front – ‘cuz my eyes were weak.  One of the sluts strippers Exotic Dancers decided that she wanted to drag me up on the stage.  She grabbed my tie and pulled.  She ended up with it in one hand, and a bemused look on her face.  Of course, I had to burn the tie, by the time she was done with it.

My idea of “sophistication” is to order bottled beer that is opened at my table, rather than take my chances of being roofied by on-tap lager.  Don’t get me started about cocktails, or even ‘mixed drinks.’  If it’s any more complex than rye and cola, it’s outside my wheelhouse.

I’ve long since given up the bolo ties but, despite their connotation and connection to County-Western Music – which I abhor – I continue to wear, what other people call ‘Cowboy boots’, through almost 53 years of marriage.  What I wear is not what others might refer to as ‘Biker boots’ either, although they served to protect my lower legs for 25 years, when I rode an assortment of rice-burner motorcycles.

It’s too bad I wasn’t born rich, instead of so God-damned handsome.  Maybe one of the Hilton or Astor families might have polished me a little bit.  More likely, I’d have just wound up like Billy Carter, the embarrassment to President Jimmy Carter.  We could have had a few beers together, only…. Despite endorsing Billy Beer, in private, he drank Pabst.

Stop back in a couple of days, and I’ll have another story about old guys sitting around, drinking beer, and taking over the world.  I’ll lay in some local, micro-brew dark ale that we can share.   😀

Jesus!  More One-Liners??!

I found $20 in a parking lot today, and I thought, What Would Jesus Do?….
….so I turned it into wine.

You know what borders on stupidity?….
….Canada and Mexico

My wife bought me a 2021 calendar….
….My days are numbered now.

Neutering your pets….
….makes them less nuts

Helvetica and Times New Roman walk into a bar….
….”Get Out Of Here!” shouts the bartender, “We don’t serve your type.”

Hear about the new restaurant, named Karma?….
….There’s no menu.  You get what you deserve.

How do you drown a hipster?….
….Throw him in the mainstream.

Why did the hipster burn his mouth?….
….He drank coffee before it was cool.

What kind of exercise do lazy people do?….
….Diddly-squats.

I got my wife a fridge for her birthday….
….I can’t wait to see her face light up when she opens it.

Don’t try to write with a broken pencil….
….It’s pointless.

I was gonna tell a pizza joke….
….but it’s too cheesy.

My wife complained that I didn’t buy her flowers….
….To be honest, I didn’t know she sold flowers.

I’m a social vegan….
….I avoid meet

My math teacher called me average….
….How mean!

Pilates??!….
….I thought you said pie and lattes.

I told my wife that a husband ages like wine.  We get better with age….
….Then she locked me in the cellar.

I’ll tell you what often gets overlooked….
….Garden fences

Don’t start any vast projects….
….with half-vast ideas

Ever wonder if illiterate people….
….get the full effect of alphabet soup?

How was Rome split in two?….
….With a pair of Caesars….
….Nope!  Unintended.

What happens when you play a country song backwards?….
….It gets even more annoying

Be strong….
….I whispered to my Wi-Fi signal

I ran out of toilet paper and had to use newspaper….
….Times are rough

I have a split personality….
….Said Tom, being frank

I failed Math in high school so many times….
….I can’t even count

I used to have a handle on life….
….But then it broke

Don’t you hate it when someone answers their own questions?….
….I do.

It takes a lot of balls….
….To golf the way I do

People who use selfie-sticks….
….Need to take a good, long look at themselves.

 

Change

I took the wife to a nice hotel for a change and a rest.  The bell-boy got all my change, and the hotel took the rest.

The reason I originally came here for a job, was that, for 150 years, this area has been known to be in the forefront of industry – insurance companies, breweries, distilleries, and all kinds of manufacturing jobs, often with companies that were on the cutting edge for their time.  While I bemoan the passing of the manufacturing jobs, the region continues to reinvent itself in the service, and technology theaters.

Despite over 80% public disapproval, the mayor and several councillors continue to midwife the birth of an ego/memorial, street railroad.  They want to be remembered as the visionaries who breathed life back into a downtown area which has been moribund for 30 years, although their project may be years too early.

Even though my taxes will go up, it seems to be working.  New, upscale restaurants and clubs are already opening, down the main street, and an old, ex-Sears store has been converted to apartments.  A block below my auto-parts plant, at a major intersection, the main plant and head office of my bankrupt shoe company has been converted to condo lofts.  Yuppie acceptance was so avid, that move-in dates were delayed for over a year, while they built two more stories on the old four-floor building.

Between the two buildings, a new bus/train/LRT station is going in.  Across the corner, a U-Haul office was torn out, and a ten-floor apartment is being built.  On the final corner, the Community College has erected their School of Optometry, and School of Pharmacy, where the chiropractor’s son is studying.

Up the hill behind them, and over the railroad tracks, across from my old workplace, the owner of the strip-mall property has just announced a complete rebuild.  Gone will be our tacky watering-hole bar, and a Tim Horton’s outlet which died after our plant closed, because of poor access and parking.  Built before drive-throughs, it moved two blocks up the street and took over a failed Wendy’s.

Research In Motion, also known as the RIM Corporation, was founded in our sister city to the north, and made BlackBerry Phones, until the company name finally changed to BlackBerry.  When they had almost as much money as Carlos Slim, or Oprah Winfrey, they endowed a think-tank known as CIGI, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, who try to show political entities all over the world, how to run their fiefs cheaper, smoother, fairer.

RIM Corp also created the Perimeter Institute, a collection of mathematicians, cosmologists, theoretical physicists and quantum mechanics experts, guys with really tiny wrenches.  Supported by BlackBerry, they’re busily trying to develop things like FTL space-drives, teleportation systems, and quantum computers.

It’s been visited by the likes of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who is bringing Carl Sagan’s Cosmos back to TV.  Steven Hawking has stopped by to bless and anoint it, and is returning this spring.

After RIM/BlackBerry became rich and famous, the two inventive, innovative founders were eased out by the shareholders, and a bean-counter administrator was hired to run it.  Run it he did – almost into the ground.  While it was in its death spiral, he grabbed his $55 million Golden Parachute and bailed out.

The latest CEO seems to be turning it around.  A 3000 unit order by a major US police department is not enough alone to revive it, but is a vote of confidence which may have caused Ford Motors to decide to put BlackBerry technology in their cars.

When they were carving BlackBerry’s tombstone, Panasonic moved into my old auto plant.  Merely a marketing and R&D office at first, they soon made it clear that they were willing to purchase real estate that RIM was selling off and use it to manufacture Panasonic Smartphones locally.

A couple of years ago, Google opened an office in a rehabilitated tannery, a block beyond the new pharmacy school, sharing space with automation and robotics firms.  The area is so promising that they have decided to expand, moving up the street beside Panasonic, into a space where I used to make Jeep parts.

When I started working there, my favorite local radio station played good, solid, baby-boomer Rock and Roll.  Over the years it changed to Soft Rock, and then to Pop, and finally to Bubble-gum, not fit for anyone over 22 to listen to.

A young man at the plant introduced me to his station.  Coming from just at the edge of clear reception, 35/40 miles away, it loudly and proudly called itself The Hawk.  For years it played only Classic Rock!  Sadly, commerce and changing demographics forced it also to change to Soft Rock, and finally Pop, under the inspiring moniker, More Radio.

I don’t think I was exposed to Justin Bieber, but I heard his girlfriend, Selena Gomez, and the entitled and irritating Taylor Swift, who I never, never, ever want to have to listen to again.  One evening recently, the son wanted More information about the ex-Hawk station, so he accessed their website.  He came rushing out of his room and turned the stereo in the living room on.

Apparently, at 5 PM on a Friday evening, without any hoopla, or even a warning announcement, they quietly changed to All-Country, all the time.  I have become my father.  The radios in the house and car have gone silent.  It’s all right though.  If any of you have words of consolation for me, I can’t hear them.  I took a screwdriver and poked my eardrums out.

Some of it’s good.  Some of it’s….meh.  I’d settle for a lot less, “Plus Ça change,” and a bit more of “la même chose”!  Alas, woe is me!    😉

The Rewards Of Radio

When I was a child, we had a radio, AM only, an old Stromberg/Carlson with a large crack in the top of its one-piece Bakelite plastic case.  It had a loose connection, and sometimes stuttered or cut out.  A good whack on the top usually got it going again, but obviously someone had been a little too enthusiastic with a thump.  It had a copper wire which ran out a window to a steel stake in the ground, to use the earth as an assistant receiver.  We even paid a “radio licence fee” for several years, for the right to listen to free, open broadcasts.

Since my father was a part-time entertainer, he listened to it a lot, to hear songs he could use in his once-a-week act.  Later, we got a better radio/record player combo, and I heard much Big-Band sounds, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, The Ames Brothers, and soundtracks from musicals.  As the Fifties wore on, Rock-and Roll replaced Swing.  Dad listened to radio less, and I listened to it more.  By the time I got married in 1967, Canada’s Centennial Year, we owned a radio which was turned on as soon as someone reached the living-room in the morning, and didn’t get turned off till we watched TV, or went to bed.

I didn’t “listen” to radio, so much as absorb it.  Hear the same song by the same artist a thousand times, and I could soon “Name That Tune” in two notes.  Radio stations began running phone-in contests, to prove to advertisers how many people listened to them.  Finally, my head full of useless trivia became useful.

Actually, the wife was the first one in the family to win something from a radio station.  Pre-Tim Horton’s, a local small doughnut chain offered a dozen high-quality doughnuts to the first person to tell how they were invented….and we were off.  As addicted listeners, we were often able to take a shot at a radio contest.  Sometimes you had to be the correct-number caller, but if we got through, we usually had the right answer.

A brash young DJ came to town, and started on the over-night show.  I often called him at the station, to alleviate his, and my, boredom.  I was the one who called him to show where the mistake in Billy Joel’s song, You’re Only Human, was.  The first Friday night I let my son accompany me on my security job, the young DJ jokingly held a “Guess The DJ’s Lunch” contest, at three in the morning.  My son’s phone-in stab wasn’t even close, but it was amusing enough to get us the chance to meet him in person, for a restaurant breakfast in the morning.  We showed up at a store-opening remote broadcast, and he named us on-air, and described us as “the two-man motorcycle gang.”

The local station was supposed to have run a series of give-aways of tickets for the premier showing of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie, Commando, but forgot to schedule it.  On the Friday afternoon, they suddenly revealed on-air that they had 20 four-packs, for the first people who showed up at the station.  My motorcycle zipped me downtown, and parked easily, while I ran upstairs.  The four of us got to see Arnie mash, crash and bash.

 I was mowing the grass in the backyard one afternoon, when I saw the son hanging out the French door, with the phone to his ear with one hand, and waving frantically to me with the other.  The radio station was offering free tickets to the Michael Keaton, Batman movie, to anyone who knew where Bill Cosby went to university.  The son didn’t know, but he immediately dialled, because, as a Cosby and comedy fan, he knew that I knew, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.  I never stopped cutting grass as he won a night out for us.

As interested in music and radio as I am, the son attended a broadcast-arts course at the local community college, just in time to see automation and syndication scuttle his chances for work in the industry.  He doesn’t even remember what the contest was about, but does remember calling the local Pop AM station one day, and winning a VHS tape, and 12-inch action figure (It’s not a doll.  It’s for boys.) of the kids’ movie, “Indian In The Cupboard.”  Not age-specific for him, he turned them over to his appreciative nephew.

I called in and won an evening for four at a newly opened water-park on the edge of town.  That semi-conscious music osmosis came in handy again, although the question wasn’t really that hard.  The guy who won his four-pack the day before I did, said that the song they referred to had the phrase, “Sorry Baby” in it about ten-thousand times, so that’s what he guessed.

After contaminated water killed 7 people in Walkerton, ON, a benefit concert called Watershed was organized to help survivors, and raise awareness.  On the fourth and last year it was held, I managed to win two tickets, and drove the son 75 miles, to roast in a ball park for an all-day show.  There were a total of 11 acts, the third last of which was Teri Clark, a well-known female Canadian Country singer.  She was followed by Joe Cocker, who was older than I was, but pumped out more energy than I ever could.  We wormed our way right up front to see Joe.  The finale act was the great Canadian rock band, The Guess Who, who made an afternoon of sunburn well worthwhile.

As my grumpy-old-dudeness ossifies, I understand why my Dad turned off his radio in his later years.  “They haven’t written a decent song since before Disco!!”  “What’s Disco Grandpa??”  I used to haunt the second-hand record, and then CD stores.  “Have you ever heard of the Greg Kihn Band?”  Now, what little music I listen to is available for download from the net.  Excuse me; I have to turn my hearing aid….ah, Assistors, up.