Saturday, October 13, 2018

Fantastic Names (And Where To Find Them): Historical Edition

A while back, I was perusing a list of recently-published novels when I noticed a strange trend. It seemed that many of the books' main characters had names that were kind of... quirky. From "Cedar McLeod" to  "Eyelet Elsworth" to "Petunia Beanly," colorful names seemed to be all over modern literature. So, naturally, I blogged about the phenomenon. I also came up with a few reasons why writers might bestow such monikers upon their characters.

But unusual names aren't limited to fictional characters. They're all around us. Within the past month, I've actually met people named Dy'Nastie (dynasty), Destaney (destiny), and Phaith (faith). And before you start fretting about "parents nowadays," you should know... I recently came across a whole bunch of strange, awesome, quirky names, in a rather unlikely place...

The 1920s.

Yes, those 1920's. That decade of jazz, prohibition, and what should have been an acute sense of impending doom.

These names were found in three yearbooks, from 1924, 1925, and 1926. If my math's correct, that means these graduates were born in the Edwardian era, so I guess we can blame (praise?) their parents, who would have been Victorians.
To be fair, some Victorian parents kept to traditional names. These yearbooks feature plenty of Johns and Marys, Williams and Margarets... and, to my surprise, a whole lotta Dorothys.

But the rest... the unusual names? Well. Below are actual names of actual high school students who graduated between 1924 and 1926 in Portland, Oregon.


Actual Names Of Real High School Graduates From 1924-1926

Talmadge Rose

Melba Stebbins

Jack Winklebleck

Carolyn Octolony Jones

Millard Grimm

Oral Read

Irma Lindercrantz

Lela Van Groos

Florence Riffle

Margaret Micklewait

Gus Utter

Artiola Tethrow

Lloyd Goodwill

Priscilla Villa

Myrtle Skooge

Lucille M. Umbdenstock

Leif Sandberg

Retha Brill

Sterling McAlpine

Veola Hoselton

Guertin Carroll

Ethel Sylvester

Hugo Klingbeil

Autumn Sprague

Faun Peret

Jack King

Jewel Hall

Mildred E. Weed

Wayfe Hockett

Zella Halley

Concordia George

Herbert Eisenschmidt

Boatner Chamberlain

Marion Merservey

and introducing the heroine of my next novel:

Adelaide Embody!!!

Rest in peace, fantastically-named folks....

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

1939 Yearbook Photo Subjects Are Up To Something

It's yearbook photo time again!

Yes, kids, this is it! You've worked hard. You've gotten the grades. You've completed the extracurricular activities. Now you're mere months away from graduating!

So smile, won't you? You have a lot to be proud of!

Uh oh. Phyllis, what's on your mind?

Phyllis: "Nothing. I'm just tired."

Why are you tired, Phyl?

Phyllis: "I was up late last night. Doing homework."

And by 'homework', you mean...?

Phyllis: "I WAS HELPING TO ROB A BANK, OKAY? Ugh, leave me alone."

Okay, okay... so maybe Phyllis was a perfect angel in high school. But something tells me there was something else going behind those hazel eyes. Something a bit more sinister.

In fact, a lot of these students' expressions have me curious... and a little afraid.  So I'm going to do what any normal person with an overactive imagination would do... 

I'm going to surmise some crimes for them.

Because I'm totally normal.

But were they?

Name: Wilma Tyler

Accused Of:  Running up a huge tab at the soda fountain and never paying a dime.


Name: Leonard Geare

Accused of: Posing as a high school student, but actually being old.

Verdict: Innocent. He just looked old. Movies and TV shows of the 80s and 90s would justify him at last.


Name: Frank M. Hubert

Accused Of: Sneaking onto campus after hours to use the Linotype machine to print his underground newspaper, the GeeGolly Gazette, circulation: 14.


Name: William Hughes-Pippin

Accused Of: Spiking the punch at every single school dance, even after he graduated.


Name: Doris Atkinson

Accused Of:  Shenanigans involving chewing gum and slide projectors.


Name: Robert Luff

Accused Of:  Placing a garter snake in Mr. Lerner's desk drawer and laughing maniacally while Mr. Lerner screamed.


Name: Walter Jameson

Accused Of:  "Liberating" 30 frogs from the bio lab.


Name: Judith Dernwell

Accused Of:  Abundant truancy.

Note: Irving Perkins down at the local bowling alley has confirmed that Judith was there a lot.


Name: Elizabeth Trunkett

Accused Of:  Served as the getaway driver for numerous robberies and heists.

Note: Not only was she guilty, but she was actually the mastermind behind the schemes as well.


Name: Juliet Dougal

Accused Of: Embezzlement of the Sophomore Class treasury money.

Note: Juliet vanished shortly after this picture was taken.


Name: Dirk Pruitt

Accused Of: Involvement in the disappearance of beloved Janitor Mr. Hemsworth.

Oh, sorry, I meant the disappearance of Mr. Hemsworth's mop and broom.


Name: George T. Johnson

Crime: Taking the "class clown" shtick just too, too far.


Name: Leona Paulington

Accused Of:  Finding a lost wallet and not turning it in.

Note: She openly admitted to spending the wallet's $1.22 at the local automat. "It was enough to buy me an entire lunch and then some," she would later tell her grandchildren. "You could get a lot more bang for your buck in those days. Lord, but I miss automats."


Name: Tom "The Bomb" Bachman

Crime: Forcing freshmen to turn over their milk money, so that he, in turn, could buy enough milk to quench his insatiable thirst.

Verdict: Guilty. The milk mustache did him in.


Name: Horace Williams

Crime: Stealing from the church offering plate.

Verdict: Not guilty. He wasn't in church that day. He was parked up on The Hill with Norma Lamont.


Name: Dena Joraldi

Crime: Hot-wiring the principal's car and driving it to Reno.

Note: She maintains it was her twin sister whodunnit, and that she has an alibi for the night of the 15th. "Wait, which night was the car even stolen? I mean, what car? I don't know what you're talking about."


Name: Burt Hopkins

Accused Of: Licking library books

Verdict: Guilty of that and so much more.


Name: Katherine O'Shea

Accused Of:  Deliberately flooding the girls' locker room.

Verdict: It wasn't deliberate.


Name: Louisa Dunning

Crime: Too innocent to be accused of anything, Louisa still regularly practiced her mug shot, just in case.

Verdict: Boring.


Name: Elton Quagmire

Accused Of:  Stabbing a fellow classmate with a compass, and not the kind of compass that tells directions; no, the pointy kind.

Note: "My sweetie Eltiekins would never," responded his grandmother, Helen A. Quagmire. "He's as innocent as a dove and wouldn't hurt a fly!"


Name: Nancy Caldwell

Accused Of: Poisoning Principal Snard

Verdict: Motive? Yes. Evidence? No.


Name: Ralph Wertz

Accused Of:  Starting the Great Lower Bedford Fire of 1939.

Verdict: Guilty... and yet... legendary.


Name: John Vickers

Crime: Pouring tomato soup in the band's tubas.

Note: "I play the tuba -- why would I want to ruin my own tuba?" he protested, as his stomach growled ominously.


Name: Janet Elmira Stevens

Crime: In progress

Right now.



Note: The photos here came from a Portland, Oregon-area yearbook dated 1939/1940. Names, as well as crimes, are fictionalized. My apologies if one of these photos is of your grandfather.