HOWARD WARD: Nicknames: Where'd They Go, 'Buzzard'?
Whatever happened to nicknames?
If you're anywhere near my age, you know that when we were kids almost everyone was called something other than his given name.
My nickname was "Whitey," earned by the mop of blond hair that I always wanted to dye brown or black. I could certainly be called Whitey again now for obvious reason, but no one does that, perhaps out of kindness.
I went to El-Hi in Chadbourn, and we had enough nicknames in that little school to fill a yearbook. OK, it was a small yearbook. My graduating class of 44 in 1955 was the largest in the school's history.
Nicknames back in those days were usually earned by some physical characteristic. For instance, we had a basketball player named Leroy Goins that we called "Buzzard" because when he took his stance on the free throw line, he looked like one of the big birds.
Picture what I mean?
Golf has had its share of great nicknames, although the only current one that I'm aware of is Tiger. No, wait, Tiger is Woods' middle name. Eldrick Tiger Woods.
Wow, can you imagine what kind of career this guy might have had if everyone had called him Eldrick? I doubt he could've won even one Buick Open.
It seems that nicknames have pretty much gone the way of Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch. Just run right out of the picture. Where did you go, "Night Train" Lane? How about "Satchel" Paige? Or one of my personal favorites, "Puddin' Head" Jones?
Heck, you don't even get stuff like Sonny or Buddy anymore. Rusty and Red have disappeared. I do know a Spike, but I haven't heard anyone called Hoot since 1955.
If it's Michael, you don't call him Mike. Charles is no longer Chuck.
As one of my (very) old friends once said, there's been too much water under the dam for me to remember all the nicknames of guys I grew up with. But there are some that will stay with me long after "Whitey" has turned to "Slick."
Some of the memorable ones are Harry "Possum" Newell. He was a neat guy, slick as they come. He played end for the Chadbourn High football Panthers.
There was Lester "Blossom" Carter. Carter got his name from his ruddy complexion. An offensive lineman, "Blossom" always looked like he was embarrassed about something.
One of my favorites was Charles "Burp" Boyette. This guy could rock the auditorium or the gym. A star in baseball, basketball and football, he earned a Morehead Scholarship and went on to become a doctor and a mayor.
We called Frank Thompson "Horse" because he was as big as one. Frank played end in football and center in basketball. He almost ended my career in football my junior year when he pancake blocked me three times in a row one afternoon. Oh yeah, "Horse" went on to make All-ACC as a tackle at Wake Forest. I went on to limp.
One of my best friends growing up was Walter "Buck" Jolly. He was big and strong, and I was glad he was on my friend list. "Buck" was a catcher on the baseball team, a fullback in football and a forward in basketball. He also played center for Wake Forest.
There was Richard "Cotton" Wilder (I already owned "Whitey"), and his brother, David "Pretty Boy" Wilder. We called Ellison Edwards "Feets" because he wore size 13 shoes. Duvall Norris was "Highpockets," because well, his legs went all the way up to his shoulder blades. We called Archie Clewis "Lover Boy" because he was always dating the prettiest girls. S.W. "Snuffy" Andrews was one of my favorites, and his brother Earl was aptly dubbed "Mule."
I don't understand why nicknames have disappeared. Maybe it's because of this political correctness I keep reading about. But honestly, do you think you'd rather grow up with a bunch of guys named Harry, Lester, Leroy, Charles, Frank, Walter, Richard, David, Duvall, S.W., Earl and Archie, or some kids called Possum, Blossom, Buzzard, Burp, Horse, Buck, Cotton, Pretty Boy, Feets, Highpockets, Snuffy, Mule and Lover Boy?
But, as my old friend said in another of his memorable lines, "That's a horse of a different story."
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