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 – R

Now that we have another generation on its way, we have to consider  three words

Rambunctious

difficult to control or handle; wildly boisterous
turbulently active and noisy:
informal boisterous; unruly

Raucous

harsh; strident; grating:
rowdy; disorderly:
(of voices, cries, etc) harshly or hoarsely loud

Roister

to act in a swaggering, boisterous, or uproarious manner.
to engage in noisy merrymaking; revel
to brag, bluster, or swagger

Boy or girl, we don’t plan to sheath the child in Amazon bubble wrap.  The kid will be allowed to be a kid.  We’re just facing the reality that a male child will be slightly more statistically likely to get into some kind of physical trouble than a girl.

It’s not that I, or the son, or the Grandson, weren’t inquisitive, active and adventurous.  We’ve each been warned by police in our youth, but, intelligence, planning and luck kept us all out of Emergency wards…. mostly.

I was 40 before I skidded a bicycle on wet grass in a park, and broke – well, cracked – a bone, a rib, by driving a bony elbow into my side.  My first suture came at 21, when I had a tooth removed.  We can’t really add a fourth ‘R’ word – Rowdy – to the Grandson’s ER visit, when a neighbor kid pushed him and a lawn chair over, and he landed on an aluminum tent peg hidden in long grass.

The son was born with a disproportionately large head, to stuff all those IQ points into.  It affected his center of balance as he grew, sometimes causing him to fall over as he learned to walk and run.  He always tipped his head back, and met the ground with the point of his chin.  By the time he was 6, he had accumulated 23 stitches.  He sports a big, bushy beard now, but hidden in the middle, is a dime-sized bald spot of scar tissue.

I imagine that the Grandson will be laying in a supply of SpongeBob-Squarepants bandages, and some Super Glue ™, something that is common now for treating small cuts and gashes, but did not exist when I, and the son, were boys being boys.

Ahhhh, the luxury of being able to sit back and observe the oncoming mayhem from two generations away.  Do you have any police/doctor stories about you or your kids that are safe to share??  😕