By Jim O'Leary
An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.
Nov. 3, 2001
In Waverly, children called adults by their first names and sometimes by their nicknames. Waverly was not normal in some ways.
There were several things which caused this departure from the standard belief that children were inferior and should stay that way as long as possible.
One reason that children in Waverly became so uppity was World War II. Not only did boys and girls have to assume more responsibility, but many a young mom was forced to move back home to live with her parents while Johnny went off to war.
Naturally, she and her parents started referring to "daddy" as "Johnny," and when Johnny came marching home, the tots naturally greeted him with "Hi, Johnny!"
Another reason was that Waverly was a small town and not a city. Cities were more impersonal, so the familiarity of first names was rare to begin with. Class structure was a fact of life in a city, but not in small towns, which are the real democracies of our world.
Another obvious difference was that Waverly was in the north and not in the south. The culture of the south required that youth always addressed their elders as "sir" or "ma'am," although according to a new poll, a majority of women are now offended if they are called ma'am.
It turns out that women find that it makes them seem old to be called ma'am, although all southern children were conditioned to believe it was a term of respect.
The South hangs on to that notion. In fact, a few state legislatures in the south have passed bills requiring public school students to address teachers with sir or ma'am.
Louisiana, in the bill passed there, also required "Mr." or "Mrs." as the proper terms of address. Many politicians in the south use ma'am and sir in their speeches.
Governor Don Siegelman (D) of Alabama said the following in his state of the state address last year:
"Are we making progress in our quest to make Alabama the education state? Yes sir! Are we finished? No ma'am!"
The south is also more militaristic than the north. The military surely requires the distinction between officers (adults) and enlisted (children).
Waverly kids got away with it, though, even with the professionals. Dr. Roholt was "Doc," and so was Dr. Moll. "Good morning, Doc!"
The banker was "Bill." Mr. William H. Boland: "Bill." And they didn't seem to mind.
Waverly was so small you kept running into the same people all day long, at the post office, the grocery store, the bank, or just on the sidewalk.
As a friend of mine tried to explain to his Minneapolis wife at a get together of Waverlyites, "We didn't just go to school together. We lived together!"
Then there was the Minnesota ambience, made up of farmers, mostly, who didn't have time for formalities, and who treasured their neighbors like they were family.
Most of all, though, I think the Waverly children had a bad example to follow, because everybody in town had a nickname. Most of those nicknames were disrespectful.
Names make news
In 1933, these names (and nicknames) made news.
In a burst of whimsy, Marks McDonnell gave us a rundown of the nicknames then in use. This is from his May 11, 1933 "Do You Know" column.
"Do you know that around Waverly there are several gentlemen who are as well known by their nicknames as they are by their Christian names?
"Perhaps the most famous Waverlyite with a nickname is Mike Boyle, whose nickname is 'Umbrella Mike.' He became a famous labor organizer in Chicago ,and he always carried an umbrella.
"Even when he came back to Waverly, he was known as 'Umbrella Mike.'
"In private life, Ed Kingstedt was always called 'Skoog' by his friends, but after he won fame as a pitcher for the Waverly Cubs, the Star and Tribune baseball writers always referred to him as 'the Great Stonehatchet.'
"Bill Boland was called 'Ty Cobb' after the famous Tyris Raymond when he demonstrated to the boys that he was proficient at batting. He ran bases and could field his position like the famous Cobb.
"Fred O'Hair was called 'Red' by his Army buddies, and the name stuck. 'Chin Gowey' was the nickname moniker hung on Charlie Cullen by Ed Kingstedt, because years ago they had worked on a fruit farm in Colorado for a rancher by that name.
"Ed Jolicouer worked for years for the Great Northern Railway, and in Montana several years ago he became so famous for his many trips to the Getz Ranch for water that his fellow workers named him 'Getz.'
"Nicknames are plentiful in the Charles Chevalier family, starting with Charles himself who is called 'Freaky.' Then there is Emil who answers to the name of 'Scoop.' Leo is known as 'Schnig,' Lawrence as 'Pit,' Walter as 'Bishop,' and Edmund as 'Ging.'
William Parren, local jeweler, is better known as 'Buzz.' (Ed. note: In the spirit of charity, I am not going to tell you why we called him 'Buzz.' JO'L)
"Ed Giblin is called 'Swift.' (Ed. note: Probably because he was not.) Malmer Larson is known as 'Bosco,' Hector Perra as 'Heck,' Fred Nolan as 'Sparrow,' Wallace King as 'The Little King,' (after the comic strip that ran in the Waverly Star) and Joe Nuwash, Jr. as 'Sap.'
"Harold Ogle is called 'Sheik.' (Harold, with his blond hair and his good looks, resembled Rudolph Valentino, Jr., He would naturally be called Sheik after Rudolph, who played the part of a sheik in his most classic movie, "The Sheik." His son, Jim Ogle, whom we are presently mourning for his untimely death in the VA Hospital Oct. 16, inherited the blond hair and was nicknamed 'Fuzzy.')
"Harold Ogle's brother Allan is called 'Pie.' There is 'Boots' Davo and 'Boots' Klingelhoets. Frank Litfin is called 'Mike.' There are 'Crete,' 'Stub,' and 'Red' Fitzpatrick and, of course, 'Happy' and 'Puzz' Pususta and yours truly, 'Marks' McDonnell."
I had the privilege of greeting some of these people by their nicknames.
In my generation the tradition of nicknames continued. Perhaps nobody got his name in the Waverly Star more often than "Little Hartvig Roholt" but Marks never called him by the name we knew him by, "Ding."
In the same issue as the nicknames article, this item appeared under School News: "Hartvig Roholt, fifth grader, won first prize in the spelling contest for fifth and sixth grades of Waverly Public Schools, Miss Dugan, teacher." Although he went on to become a most respectable physician people did know at the time why we called him "Ding."
There was also "Beans" Roban, named such because he had "let one" in chemistry class one day, a most appropriate setting for such an expression. The class knew right away that it wasn't sulphur.
Wayland "Gramps" Kuka, according to John Althoff, was called "Gramps" because he was alleged to be slow going around the bases. The last time I saw Wayland was at my brother Myles' funeral. He had also attended my sister-in-law's funeral in Dassel, Betty Bergquist O'Leary.
At Myles' funeral, Wayland asked me if I remembered him. How could I ever forget? He was a wonderful, wonderful man, the kind only Waverly could produce, I think.
Wayland, as you know, had a long and honorable careeer in banking in Willmar.
About "Umbrella Mike" Boyle. All of the Mike Boyles I ever knew were called "Mickey" except for the "Umbrella Mike" noted above. My own Mickey Boyle contemporary never married, drove a truck, and was a Waverly fixture. He had a vague resemblance to Mickey Rooney.
When he was about 14, he told me he would never work for less than $1 a day. I thought at the time that if I could make a dollar a day, I would drop out of school then and there, and become incredibly rich.
Of course, I used to see Mickey everywhere, but the two places I never saw him were at church and in school. One of the nuns cornered Mickey one summer for catechism class, but he told her he didn't have time because he had to help his mother feed the chickens.
Everybody liked Mickey Boyle a lot. He was the closest thing Waverly ever had to a Huckleberry Finn, and Mickey was just as independent as ole Huck himself.
The Le Pages had as many nicknames as the Chevaliers. "Carrots," "Sonny," and "Johnup" were just three of them. Today we have our own "Poochie" (Val, Jr.) Le Page.
There were all kinds of other nicknames. My brother Myles was called "Champ" because he was chronically tardy for basketball practice. When he showed up late for the 100th time, Ches Ogle, the exasperated coach of the St. Mary's basketball team, said, "Only a champ can show up late."
So, from then on, Myles was "Champ." Robert ("Penny") Copeland was called "Penny" because he was always selling something, whether it was The Saturday Evening Post or cans of salve for cow udders called "Bag Balm."
I need readers to send me in nicknames, even if those names are still embarrassing. My editor lets me get away with all kinds of things.
On names, from Dan Vaughan
I had asked Dan which grandfather he had been named after.
"Jim, you asked about my name. My paternal grandfather was Dan Vaughan and my maternal grandfather was Dan Jansen. My paternal great-great-grandfather is also believed to be Dan Vaughan.
"I don't have definite proof of that yet. I am hoping that someday I can get back to Montello, Wis. where he lived and died, and go through the church records there.
"It appears that he couldn't read or write, because the documents I have seen have an "X" on the signature line.
"My great-grandfather was Martin Vaughan, who came with his parents from County Clare, Ireland to Wisconsin when he was 10-years old. He fought in the Civil War, and as a veteran was able to buy land in Janesville, Wis., near Waseca after he was discharged.
"That's where my grandfather, Dan Vaughan, was born. He later moved to Birch Coulee township near Franklin and Olivia, and in 1919 he bought the Dignan farm, now known to many oldtimers as the Vaughan farm.
"My old childhood playmate, Tim Youngren, now owns the farm. It is interesting to note that my grandfather paid $26,000 for the farm in 1919. During the Depression, when he was 65 years old, he lost the farm to the mortgage company because he couldn't make a $270 interest payment.
"They lived as sharecroppers on the farm for two years after that and my Uncle Barney was able to buy the farm back for about $8,500.
"After my dad took over, when Barney got killed in a car accident at the underground railroad crossing on the west end of Waverly in 1938, he made many improvements - electricity, indoor plumbing, a new barn, and many other things.
"We sold the farm in 1947, 28 years later, with all the improvements, for $26,000. Isn't that ironical? We still had not fully recovered from the depression, and it was 1947. Your friend, Dan Vaughan"
Readers tell me what they like best are items such as the one above, which Dan Vaughan just sent. Names do make news but they also make good stories. This column is only as good as the readers make it. So please.
Let nobody tell me you are too busy feeding the chickens either.
Quotes for the week
Give me the strength to meet each day with quiet will. Give me the faith to know Thou art my shepherd still.
From the Hebrew Union Prayer Book
Corpus Christi, Texas 78412
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