Thursday, June 24, 2010

Trivia for a summer’s day

My stepmother’s brother Marvin and his wife, Big Fat Thelma, had a son named Cletis Claude and a daughter named Daisy June, not to be confused with Daisy Mae. The kids stayed confused, though, whenever their parents called them, because their nicknames were C.C. and Sissy. The kids, I mean, not the parents. The parents always remained Marvin and Big Fat Thelma, except Marvin was sometimes called Ed. Thelma was never called Ed.

My goodness, you’ll believe anything, won’t you?

This must be how fiction writers get started. I always thought they made things up out of whole cloth, but it’s a lot easier to take a kernel of truth and parlay it into a whole cornfield of lies and call it fiction.

My dad’s name was Clifford Ray and when he was young everybody called him Ray, except his family, who called him Ted. My mother also called him Ted. He was never called Clifford by anyone, but late in life he was called C.R. by the postmaster in Coppell, Texas, who didn’t know him from a hill of beans (Southern-speak for Adam's off ox). I am not making this up. Once he received a letter addressed to Mr. Theodore Brague, my dad I mean, not the postmaster in Coppell, Texas. People mean well, but sometimes they are just wrong.

Lots of other people in Texas called my dad Yankee because he grew up in the midwest, Wisconsin and Iowa, and talked funny. For example, he said rut instead of root, ruff instead of roof, and crick instead of creek. He also said “Yes, mom” and “No, mom” instead of “Yes, ma’am” and No, ma’am” like everybody else in Texas, so he sort of stuck out like a sore thumb. I always thought he sounded like people in England, where they say “Yes, mum” and “No, mum” to the Queen.

[Editor’s note. Northerners think saying “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” sound subservient and should never be said. Southerners, who were brought up to respect their elders and to be polite to strangers, think they should always be said. Thus was born the famous old saying, “North is North, and South is South, and never the twain shall meet.” The Queen of England doesn’t care whether people are Northerners or Southerners as long as they are part of the British Commonwealth of Nations and stand when she enters the room. --RWP]

The story within the family was that when my dad was just a little tyke, Teddy bears had become a popular toy named after President Teddy Roosevelt, who loved to go out west and hunt big game. One day, three-year-old Ray came down the stairs wearing nothing at all and announced to a room full of startled adults, “Me Teddy Bare.”

My stepmother came from a big family. Russell Sterling Williams and his wife Pearl Cannon Williams had eleven children. There were Cleo, Mildred, J.D., Margaret, Russ Junior, Marvin, Billy, Faye, Kenneth, Freddie, and Sue. Kenneth died in infancy; Cleo named her oldest boy after him. Junior’s wife Dorothy and Billy's wife LaWanda were aunt and niece. Faye married a Junior, but he was Junior Gates. Freddie’s wife Martha and Sue’s husband Jack were sister and brother, so the children in the two families were double first cousins. Only Junior is left now, and he will soon be 90.

There are 22 first cousins in all: Kenneth, Janice, Jerry, Bobby, Eddie, Pat, Billy, Jimmy Wayne, Gary, Mike, Helen, Carol, Brenda, Daisy, Ray, Libby, Danny, Larry, Terri, Jeff, Paula, and Russ. The last four are the double first cousins. Second and third cousins have become as innumerable as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.

My stepmother also had a friend she called Big Fat Dorothy to distinguish her from Junior’s Dorothy, who was neither big nor fat. Big Fat Dorothy was from Australia and used the word “skivvies” a lot.

Where else could you learn such fascinating tidbits of useless information?

That’s right, nowhere else.

Only I know which of the above statements are true and which are false, and I intend to keep it my little secret.

Now go forth and multiply do likewise.

.......................(Copyright Capp Enterprises, Inc.)


  1. Big Fat Thelma really should have been the name of a black blues singer, you know.

    South Mississippians called my grandfather a Yankee, and he was from the Chattanooga area! That's how ignorant a lot of people were, plus he used words like you'uns and we'uns that they didn't know.

  2. Your post proves what English people suspect - that American families like to give their children bizarre names! I mean - who ever heard of a kid called Robert? Ridiculous!

  3. this reminded me of my cousin honorarium post, but you have many more relatives{cousins} than i do>>>i wish i still had conversations with my cousins>>>i wouldn't even mind haveing conversations with my dead cousins

  4. Snow, people from east Tennessee also say things like "I knowed" and "Go, Vols."

    YP, I don't see a bizarre name in the bunch, except maybe LaWanda. If I knew your name, perhaps I would make a rude comment about it.

    Putz, strictly speaking, not one of those people is my relative. They are all my stepmother's relatives. To be my cousins, they would have to be related by blood to either my father or my mother, and they aren't. But many of them are fine folks.

  5. That's a passel of kinfolk, step or otherwise.

    An aside: I always have to write my comments twice, as the first attempt shows only an "x" where the word verification is supposed to go. Fortunately, I have learned to copy and paste.

  6. Pat, I looked up the word "passel" in the dictionary and learned the following:

    pas-sel, noun. A group or lot of indeterminate number: a passel of dignitaries. Origin: 1825–35; alter. of parcel

    Live and learn! I can almost guarantee that my passel of kinfolk will never be a passel of dignitaries.

  7. Did you just go into Billy Ray Barnwell mode there?
    I loved it and don't care what's true and what's not. Wonderful names. The whole cousin thing gave me an instant headache though. Far too complex for my tiny brain.

    My father is called Adolf, he was born in 1923 and lived through the 2nd World War. Adolf wasn't a very popular name during and after that particular war. So people started calling him Dolly. My mother's name is Klaas. Which is a boy's name.
    My sister's name is Anneke and she married a man called Cor. The daughter of my mother's sister is called Anneke. She too married a man called Cor. A different man thankfully. Otherwise it would have been even more complicated and also illegal.

  8. P.S. to Pat re my kinfolk: I also have four first cousins on my mother's side (Joan, Jack, Eileen, and Philip) and 11 first cousins on my father's side (Dick, Shirley, Peggy, Isabel, Sandra, Barbara, Trudy, Elaine, Daveen, Donald, and Evelyn), making 37 in all if you count the step-cousins, and I think you should.

    Carolina, your story about the two Cors reminded me that I know a woman named Betty Wagner who became Betty Corcoran when she married John Corcoran. They had five children and named one of them Betty, who grew up and became Betty Wagner when she married Bill Wagner, who was not related to her mother. So the mother was Betty Wagner Corcoran and the daughter was Betty Corcoran Wagner. I guess stranger things have happened.

    I didn't mean to go into Billy Ray Barnwell mode, and if I did I apologize profusely.

  9. No need to apologize and I'm glad Bill Wagner wasn't related to Betty's mother ;-)