Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Name Game

As we stop and consider the possibilities we can indeed find a real cause for exploration.  Perhaps there is a clue in the spelling of the surname.  Does it end in ‘son’ or ‘sen’?  That spelling will determine it’s country of origin.

It is well to separate the obvious syllables in order to compare them with your past experience of similar names.  Almost unaware of doing so we presume to assign all ‘Mac or Mc’ names to Scotland, O’brien or Patrick to Ireland, and quite likely, Roosevelt or Styssant* points to Holland.

Regarding the origins of my own variety of surnames, I unconsciously assign charastics to each.  My husband’s forefathers tended to have English-sounding names – Park, Paxton and Haws.  As the siblings married we find Gingery, Norine, Jones and Ackerman.

My father’s background includes Harrison, Clevenger, Williamson, and Osborn – all very English.  But a quite different picture appears as I contemplate the revealing assortment of Dutch, French, & English names in my mother’s family.  I find such names as Roosa, Turner, Rappalje, Oakley, and Montayne appearing across the years.  They appear to be all sorts of reasons for the bearers of such arrival in America and for a variety of livelihoods.  Among the ladies teaching stood high with one nurse.  The men were at times carpenters, farmers and a sprinkling of soldiers.  Just possibly some official was notable for having a country named for him.

Adding spice to the interesting subject of names stop and consider the impact of the affect of forms of address.  We feel particular interest in hearing “Congressman”, Judge, Professor, Admiral, General, and Doctor. 1) Just watch the quick increase of interest as the faces of the newly informed that first become alert and responsive.  The expressions of the newcomers can be most interesting.

My husband was a veterinarian, and he was a member of a group of vets employed by the Dept. of Agriculture to test milk cows.  As we were moved frequently nearly all of our acquaintances bore the title of “Dr”.  Our children tended to substitute that word for ‘Mister’ and clearly saw no reason to do otherwise.  Any friend of Dad’s would be Dr.

One of our landladies was so titillated by having two of our group as tenants she seemed to desire special satisfaction by constantly saying, “Doctor Ellsworth is there anything you need?” “Doctor Herndon, it’s so nice to have you men here.  I just know we’ll be the best of friends.”  Doubtless some of us went out of our way to “Doctor” the others in our crew lest someone feel unappreciated.

One of our family stories relates the time that a doctor was called to treat a lady with a critical condition.  She lay quietly, eyes closed, and apparently uncaring.  The doctor was unable to suggest a treatment so he shook his head and whispered, “I’m afraid there is noting I can do.”  From the invalid’s bed came a frantic whisper, “I aint dead, I aint dead!”

Impatiently her husband responded, ‘Hush, Jennie, the doctor knows!”  Here we find the attitude that the form of address used establishes the undeniable profession of the fortunate bearer.

There are, of course, numerous names that do not appeal to the general public.  In fact some are undesirable due to their connections.  In my time the names of Stalin, Hitler, Chang Kai Check, Mussolini, and Castro ring offensive bells.  yet when a person has built a reputation of right living and reliability he has reason to honor the name given on his birth certificate.  He has the privilege and responsibility of keeping its image clear.

My high school class included three or four students with Jewish names.  Young Givirtzman was the son of the shoe store owner.  he was a good student.  At our fiftieth reunion the same man had a totally different name.  Convenience and good business brought about the change.

After a woman marries with the understanding that she will keep her birth name.  Or she may combine that one with her new husband’s.  Children will be able to choose.

My newly married niece might be tempted to cling to the easily written name of Dewy rather than use the more complicated name, Santonasto.  And how will their offspring decide to be – should surnames still be in vogue?

*Not quite sure of the spelling she used on this.  Some of the letters are crossed out and not sure what she was trying to correct.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cowboy Pat

It was during my teaching year on a Wyoming homestead that I became acquainted with Pat.  He was definitely not the type of person a young teacher would consider her ‘dream boat’, but he was well behaved and more than willing to serve as an escort.  The teacher who lived at the next school knew him from the previous year.

When Miss Van developed a chest cold and really needed a caring companion, Pat was there and rubbed some Mentholatum on her chest.  He felt it was neighborly, Im sure.

When Pat was in our area he made himself useful by getting in the kindling for our stoves or supplying water.  In addition he often had some interesting news.  We had no telephones or newspapers so we were eager to know about the other teachers and their families.

At times Pat used a wrong word in expressing his opinions.  I was really impressed when he spoke of ‘compensition’ while meaning competition.

I have no knowledge of Pat’s home base, but in that Godforsaken no man’s land we were pleased to have him as a friend.  I trust that somewhere there was a haven for that well meaning, but unpolished member of the human race.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Neighbor Ananias

No doubt the fellow had a proper name yet in our home be bore the unenviable name of Ananias.  Undoubtedly he had earned that name because of versions of the truth, entertaining though they were.  That natural ability made him a welcome visitor in our farm home.

The man’s work in a slaughter house located three quarters of a mile away allowed him to acquire from time to time some small knife or other tool that he kindly offered to my mother.  She felt some uncertainty  about accepting these ‘maybe’ gifts.  Possibly she offered some small item in return.

When one of her daughters became quarantined with a case of Scarlet Fever, Ananias appeared with a copy of the Sunday comic’s and a magazine or two.  He valued our good opinion, and we saw no harm in showing friendship.  We hoped he would not intrude on our neighborliness.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cowboys and other Interesting Characters

Henry was a sometime occupant of a tiny cabin at Glenrulac, the mountain ranch where I boarded in the early thirties while teaching.  My landlord was the president of the school board and needed transportation for his six year old daughter.  Glenrulac was a lovely spot among Boxelder trees fed by a warm stream.

Henry had served as an Aide-de-camp during one of the wars and when present he was an asset to the establishment.  Fuel for the fireplace which heated the living area was constantly needed, snow had to be cleared away, and garbage needed disposal.  Potatoes needed to be dug and stored and milk was brought from the farm three-fourths of a mile down stream.

Henry was quiet, obliging, and trustworthy.  Two or three of his fingers had been injured, but he was an accomplished handler of some “Bones” at various country dances.  When he was “away” for such events we missed him.

His private domain was a small log building just beyond the clothes lines.  It was so convenient to be able to call on Henry for errands and a bit of odd jobs.  The lighting system was supplied with power from the upper falls.  He understood it and its eccentricities.  There were times when the mail would need to be picked up two miles below the ranch house.  And then three year old Lynette was a very independent young miss whom everyone was aware might fall from the foot bridge while watching the shiny fish below.  Henry would have found tasks to perform near by.  He felt needed and appreciated.

As Mr. Wilder, the owner of the property became more helpless and dependent, I’ve no doubt that Henry kept a close watch on the man whom he respected.  And when the ‘end’ came it was Henry who found is superior officer lying on the floor of his ranch home.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Would you like to take a walk?

Just join me for half an hour tour of my neighborhood.  As a result of having lived in this area for about thirty-five years I feel qualified to act as a guide, relating tales of former and current residents.

As we leave my home I’ll mention the house across the street.  There are two very tall palm trees in the front yard.  Somehow I feel they are lacking a tropical setting.  The pleasant couple living there “manicure” their lawn so the rest of us feel obligated to be in step.

My neighbor on the south raised a family of three daughters and a son.  like many families they had ups and downs.  Both parents were employed though they had arrived with so little that discarded vegetables from the market were gratefully added to their menu.  For several years they had much joy from digging clams.

Across a short street we pass a house inherited from a nice lady whose husband lost his life in a drunken brawl somewhere in the Deep South.  She was unable to adjust to the single life so appeared to “give up”.

Moving along we pass well-kept yards and several homes with changes in their appearances.  Garages may now be family rooms, plain windows have become bay windows, and front porches have ben enlarged or are beautified by grill work.

When we reach the corner we go west to the playground of Adam School.  On Saturday we are likely to see a game of soccer in progress.  In fact there maybe three games in all as Adam Park is just beyond.  I really enjoy watching the young players who are dressed in shorts and knee socks.  They are trying so hard to be the best.  Families sit on the grass eating and talking.

Across the street we see Minami Center.  It’s a popular spot and is used by adults and school children.  There is a baseball diamond, basketball courts, and best of all several tennis courts.  I’ll never understand why my own children neglected to learn tennis.  Yet it isn't any easier to inspire one’s children to be athletic than to force them to develop their musical abilities.  Where is the enthusiasm?

Walking allows us to view the low hills to the west and notice a low-lying fog bank.  One morning when I heard a crop-dusting plane just beyond the park I hurriedly gathered four small grand children to go with me to watch the activity.  The youngest child became frustrated when both feet tried to go into the same pant-leg.  But we were able to see several dustings delivered by the plane.  Children need to experience unusual happenings.

We hurry along till we are past the park and find ourselves opposite the Co. Fairgrounds.  Quite often there are special events taking place there.  Usually we see numerous RV’s, possibly some horse trailers, and a stream of exhibitors.  One group is the Mineral Society and another the Strawberry Show.

We invited a granddaughter and her friend to go to the Circus there.  Each girl had about $1.00 to use for treats but both were shy about asking the “hawkers.”  Finally I asked by husband to get them some cotton candy which solved their problem as well as saving their money.  Probably I would have carried along some food for my own youngsters.

Without stopping we walk along under some eucalyptus trees – the messiest, most unattractive trees imaginable.  They constantly shed bark and there is no one to clean it up.

Back into our own neighborhood we see familiar faces and are greeted.  One neighbor is busy in his garage, sawing, shaping, and finishing a variety of attractive cupboards and entertainment centers.  Another publishes a newssheet for the Lifetime Learning Institute.  I am pleased to live in an area where many are busy just living.