Growing Up In Waterford, PA


Just call me Billy
by the late Herb Walden

Fort LeBoeuf Class of 1956

I'm afraid nicknames are going out of style. You just don't hear them much anymore, and it's too bad. It's a nice custom.

Now, I'm not referring to shortened versions of given names such as Tom or Sam or even Herb. I'm talking about names entirely different than what is shown on birth certificates or VISA cards - - - names like "Bud" and "Curley" and "Stub".

It seems to me the best nicknames are comprised of one syllable. Two is kind of pushing it. We went to school with a boy whose nickname was "Pineapple", but it was never widely used. Too many syllables, I think.

Some nicknames are for family use and rarely make it off the old homestead. For instance, I had an Uncle "Pete" whose real name was Stanley. But that's alright, my Cousin "Pete's" real name is Albert. Cousin Howard was "Butch" and Cousin Elizabeth was "Jill" and Aunt Rosamond was "Touts". I'm guessing you have a family full of nicknames, too.

Quite often, nicknames leave home with their owners and last a lifetime. Such was the case with my Dad. Dad's given name was Herbert, the same as mine. (Just a coincidence, I'm sure). But when Dad was born, a neighbor immediately tagged him with the nickname "Bill". It stuck with him for the rest of his life. I doubt if there were over a dozen people who knew his real name.

In the "good old days", "Smiles" delivered ice, "Stub" had a hardware store, "Curley" had a cafe, and "Cap" owned a gas station. "Skip" and "Sonny" were still in school.

Some nicknames were rather unique. "A" (not an initial) had a store and coal yard, and "Shirt" worked for the telephone company. I don't know what "Cuddie" or "Dudge" or "Pealy" did, but "Hoot" worked for the borough.

If you remember, nicknames ran rampant when we were growing up. There were, "Bunt", "Buck", "Bunk", "Bake", Bunny", and "Buster". We all knew a Wink", a "Nink", a "Diz", and a "Duz". "Tuffy", "Fritz", "Spanky", "Nanny", "Tippy", and "Sis".

I haven't the slightest idea where most of these names came from. I never asked --- just took them for granted.

There were at least six "Bud's", one of whom was my friend and neighbor when we were kids. His Dad was one of three or four "Red's". There were four or five "Junior's", some who were further nicknamed "Junie".

I always wanted a nickname, because I've disliked my name ever since I got it. I would have complained at the time, but I had to learn to talk first. It was too late by that time. I tried nicknaming myself, but that doesn't work. It has to come from someone else. I could have been a "Junior", but thankfully, no one ever though of that, because as I mentioned, almost no one knew my Dad's name.

But because of Dad, I almost had a nickname. Ben VanCise was and old fellow who lived a block or so from us. He had known my Dad forever, and he knew me, too, but not by name. So, since I was Bill's boy, old Ben called me "Billy". I liked that. For one thing, it was kind of like my Dad's name, and for another, it fit. I looked like a "Billy". If you'd have passed me on the street when I was around twelve years old, you'd have said, "Hey, I'll bet that kid's name is Billy!" (Actually, it's more likely you would have said, "Kid? What Kid? I didn't see any kid." I wasn't exactly the flamboyant type).

Anyway, the name didn't stick, mostly because no one besides Ben and I ever heard it. He should have called me "Billy" in a large crowd sometime. Maybe then I could have hung onto it.

Nicknames happen to kids, and since I'm not exactly a kid anymore, I guess I'll have to do without one.

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