Nicknames are getting a bad rep these days possibly because social media has allowed them to be used anonymously. But “back in the day” when we lived without wire service, having a …
Nicknames are getting a bad rep these days possibly because social media has allowed them to be used anonymously. But “back in the day” when we lived without wire service, having a nickname slapped on you, good or bad, was a time-honored tradition in my hometown as I suspect it was everywhere on the face of this old earth. And it was something we learned to live with because we had to deal with it in public every day of our lives.
Even my old man had a nickname. His sisters-in-law all called him “Sagstugen” after an old Norwegian hired farm worker who came to town with his monthly paycheck, was made fun of, got drunk and in a rage cut his right ear clean off his head. My father had huge ears and was also known to take a cup and quickly drink it up. Harold Wood (his real name) lived by this macabre sobriquet until he passed on to the auraless denizens of the afterlife.
We kids in Whitehall didn’t escape the name callers either. On the west side, near the Land O’ Lakes plant, there was Gale Gabriel, known to all of us as “Goebbel’s” after Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, and George “Judge” Olson, followed by Gary “Putt” Ford, Roger “Bearpuss” Baer, another Roger, “Dizzy” Dissmor” and Allard “Screwbutton” Skovbroten. And there was Johnnie “Poodlenutz” Puchalla, followed by a kid from the east side, Richard “Murder-Baby” Kildahl.
Nor did our long-suffering teachers escape our verbal assault. Mrs. DRAEGER, an elementary teacher who almost daily wore the same ugly dress, gave us “steelies”—a new name for the purple marbles in our bags of peeries and steelies. Everyone began calling the purple monsters “Purple Draegers.”
When Robert Bungum replaced the very popular principal Conan Edwards, some of us soreheads began calling him “Bung (fill in a noun that refers to a bodily orifice). When the new assistant coach Neal Goodspeed turned out to be a sadist who liked to beat up puny freshmen on mats in the gym during lunch hour, we began calling him “Poor-Slow.” When she found this out, my mother, the hot lunch cook, called him a much worse name when she saw “Poor-Slow” slap the female English teacher in the faculty lounge. And she administered our favored appellation to “Bung---” when she found out he declared in civics class that of all workers in the world, bartenders “were the lowest of the low.” (Guess what our father did for a living!)
Before I bid fond adieu to this name game, I would be remiss if I did not mention South American Polo player and Loverboy Porfirio Rubirosa, who also had a nickname after racking up eight wives including billionairess Doris Duke. His popularity stemmed from an anatomical quirk that resulted in his French nickname: Toujours Pret, which means “always ready.” Go figure!
P.S. My dad wouldn’t have been proud of Bungam’s label for him, but he wouldn’t have let it get him down. Rubirosa, on the other hand, might very well have relished his infamy!