A bunch of us from West Point High School class of ‘65 were having a reunion weekend recently and Bill Damron asked me if I was staying with “Cotton.” Who in the heck was “Cotton”?
He reminded me that Cotton was Linda Hazlewood, AKA “Hazel” and to me alone “Awtry“. (Explained below) I guess she was called Cotton because her Dad raised cotton just the way Betty Lynn Webber was called “Swamp Daddy” because she lived out in the boonies.
All this got me thinking about high school and we fact that we rarely called each other by our proper names.
There was Wilson “Pug” Lippincott, Albert “Prince Albert” Rhea, William Earl “Skippy” Taylor, Sonny “Sunray” Wray, Larry “Doc” Mitchell, John “Barney” Rummell, Al “Big Al” Sage, Donald “Bird” White, Doug “Buster” Thompson, Jimmy “Moo” Ellis, Linda “Fluff” Murrah, and Stanley “Tinker” Lautar, Gary “The Big German” Florreich. The girls called him Flomop, still do.
There was Bob “ the Mayor” Marshall, Phil “Dave” Dickerson, Leon “Red” Lawson, Waxie, Ace, Wild Bill, Priss, Fish and so on. Most of these nicknames were assigned by one of the class clowns – Howard “Bud” Bowen AKA Maurice Bobo (? guess it was a guy thing.).
Double names were always big in the South – still are. There was Shara Jane, Billy Ray, Paula Faye, and Norma Jean..
I never really had a nickname (that anyone used to my face) except for Hazel who later became my college roommate. We called each other Gene and Awtry which dates to the singing debut of a duo by that name. During a 1968 talent show we sang “Long Tall Texan.” We were a one shot hit and never asked to perform again, We occasionally still call each other Gene and Awtry though we really can’t remember who was whom.
Life-long nicknames seemed to be common to kids born during the first half of the 20th century. The use of these life-long appellations seems to have faded with time, only reemerging as a strong cultural phenomenon with the mass popularization of the Internet.
Names provide a way of distinguishing between people. Think how frustrating it is when someone you don’t know very well calls and opens with “Hi, this is Linda….”Linda who? Linda was the most popular name of the late 40s and we had at least five in our class. Today, parents seem to bend over backwards to find uncommon names for their children. I think the trend in America today is to shy away from giving their children names that are too common and some are so ridiculous there is no way the kid can learn to spell it before his 12th birthday.
Either way you look at it, nicknames provide an important outlet in close communities like the one where we we grew up and spent every day together from January through December. . It was part of the fun of getting to know our classmates intimately because there weren’t all that many of us. If you can remember others from good old WPHS, would love to hear them.