Names

In my family, names have been an interesting phenomenon. My oldest sister apparently suffered from being named after an uncle, Sam. She was Sammie, but that always had a masculine sound, so they called her, outside the family, by either her first and middle name as a unit, Sammie Sue, or simply by the middle name.

My younger sister is Virginia Ben, always called Ginger. By the time they got to me and her, they had, apparently, given up on most of the habit of being cutesy with names. We all are named for individuals within the family, though I am the only one who bears no nick name. However, the most interesting is my older brother, Bud.

My father’s name was Fred Drake. There’s actually a story even with that. He may not have had much attachment to the name. Within the family he went only by “Daddy.” His middle name was Artie, which he disliked so much that he always went by Fred A. Drake, if he must spell it out. Bud’s name is really Fred A. Drake, II. He has no middle name, except ”A.” I.e., only the initial.

At this point, though, the story gets more interesting.

First of all, you may note the use of “II,” instead of the more standard “jr.” Of course, having deserted the middle name altogether, I suppose no fealty to tradition needs be expected. Still, it seems a little strange. But my family’s roots are in rural Oklahoma, so the finer points of higher society were unlikely ingredients in our history anyway.

But then Bud had a son he named Fred A. Drake, III. But everyone in the family has called him “Nick” or “Nicky” since he was a baby. According to legend, his favorite nursery rhyme back then went something like “Nicky, Nicky Tim bo, no so rymbo, omma omma guchy, gamma gamma guchy.” “Nicky” was pretty natural.

When Nick had a son, the name, of course, was “Fred A. Drake, IV” His birth announcement came with additional information, however. It read “Fred A. Drake, IV (Mac).”

My wife’s comment on receiving the announcement was, “ if they don’t like the name 
 ‘Fred’ why do they keep naming their kids it?”

Good question.

A better question, though, might be, “What is going on when a family from rural Oklahoma buys into the idea of a family dynasty like this?” I mean, Fred A. Drake, IV gives no hint that the great, great, grandfather was an ex-fireman who lost his job when the Southern Pacific Railroad broke a strike in the early 20th century. He never quite recovered.

Probably the dynasty thing all started during the Great Depression when my family never went hungry because of my father having the good foresight to learn a very salable skill as a telegrapher. He not only never went jobless during the depression, he was exempt from the draft throughout World War II, when the nation needed all the Train Dispatchers it could get.

But moving to California in the early fifties probably contributed largely to the rebellion. This was when the recollection of the dust bowl and the migration that followed to California was still very fresh in everyone’s minds,  The naive may not recognize the dynasty as rebellion, and it probably no longer maintains any claim to that word. But I suspect it applied when it started.

Daddy probably would never have made an issue of it, but Mother was incensed by the way native Californians treated the Okies. And she was the boss of the family. It didn’t help, I’m sure, that she shared the Oklahoma accent with all her compatriots from the region, and frequently encountered the same discrimination that they did.

Daddy had bid on numerous jobs in California during the Depression, and he, Mother and Sammie had bounced around the Bay area for much of the thirties chasing assignments on the Southern Pacific before Bud was born. Mother went back to Oklahoma specifically to be sure she was never saddled with a native Californian as an offspring. It would be just like Mother to start a dynasty by naming her first-born son the second, even if you had to fudge it a little.

Mother came from a pretty good family, from what I’ve heard. The Douglas’ were apparently quite well off when she was growing up, and falling in love with Daddy must have been quite a step down for her. He was not only from a lower class and uneducated, but he drank a lot then and was apparently uncouth as well. She got him off alcohol early in the courtship, but he only stopped spitting on the floor from the bed after she saw him do it.

Knowing Mother, that was probably on the morning after the wedding. But watching Back to the Future too many times makes me wonder.

Anyway, that’s about it for names. Except maybe that I kind of like the name “Fred.” Since I don’t have a nickname, why don’t you just call me that, from now on? I’d be the only one in the family.

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2 Responses to Names

  1. Fred Drake says:

    Not sure I posted my comment so here it is again. I never thought of it as a dynasty , just a tribute to our father. But I couldn’t believe poor Mack got stuck with the IV. lol Have a great Christmas “Fred”

  2. Fred A. Drake IV (Mack) says:

    Thanks George! Learned some good family history from this post. Pretty cool to be a “4th”.

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