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John Bracken 'Mike' Bell: Where did all the nicknames go?

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Do you have a nickname? Do your children have nicknames? I bet the only people you know with nicknames are your grandparents or friends of your grandparents.

When I was growing up in Summersville in the 1940s and '50s, almost everyone had a nickname. Some of the origins of the nicknames were known, and, I guess, some will never be known.

Take for instance, Allen "Fain" Fitzwater. His nickname was derived from an old first baseman for the Philadelphia A's by the name of Ferris Fain. Allen always played first base and, thus, the nickname. Or Bill "The Flea" Bright. George Springer, a sportswriter for the Raleigh Register in Beckley, hung that name on Bill.

Brothers in some families had nicknames. There was Jimmy "Chate" Rader and his younger brother, Johnny "Ducksoup" Rader. The McClung brothers went by Johnny "Thuse" McClung and his younger brother Danny "Magoo" McClung. And then there are the Rader brothers that most of you know and still see around town, Jack "Heston" Rader and his younger brother, Bill "Bear Rug" Rader. There were also the Bell brothers, Fred "Bear" Bell and his younger brother, Clyde "Muzzy" Bell. And the Morrison brothers, Eugene "Ivory" Morrison and his younger brother, Raymond "Bascomb" Morrison.

Some nicknames never could be explained -- Ralph "Pishmock" Kincaid, Bob "Mocky" Herold, Bob "Rabbit" McCutcheon, who was also known as "Lamont," or Robert "Buckshot" McCutcheon.

Some were fairly easy to figure out: John Bill "Bathless" Brown, aka "Dumbo," Harry "Sponge" Dooley, Skip "Straightgut" Mearns, Joe Brooks "Power Glide" Boso, Denver "Bigfoot" Thomas, "Jodie" Bill Neil and Donald "Duck" McCutcheon.

You also had the big guys and the little guys: Kenneth "Simba" Strickland, James "Tubby" Wallen, Bob "Humphrey" Young and Darryl "Squee" Bailes. Then the names that could get you chased down the street: Pat "Dirty Butt" Bell, Bill "Stinky" Davis and Eugene "Stoolie" Groves.

There were not many nicknames for girls, as I recall, but a few of them were Anita "Nee Nee" Carter, Paula "Piney" Frame, Norma "Bic" Hanshaw, Elizabeth "Jib" White and Elizabeth "Weebe" Bennett.

I don't want to forget Charles "Buddy" Bickel, John Dyer "Nuge" Vaughan, David "Avery" Lunter, Harold "Hunch" McDowell, David "JayFace" Maloney, Don "Ace" Sweeney, David "Estee" Beirne, Bill "Boo" McClung, Drexel "Tux" White, Bernard "Nemo" Harlow, Charley "Durango" Turner, Ed "Alibi" Bailes or Charlie "Clean Car" O'Dell and his favorite friend, "Cricket" Shelton, and Dr. Jim "Colonel Stoop Shoulders" Peck.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the infamous Dickie "Squirrel" Shafer. Do you know how he got the nickname?

We had the two hangouts in town: Foster "Fuzzy" Walkup's drugstore, with his pharmacist "Gink" Summers, and the place just down the street run by Joe Andy "Mole" Pugh with help, sometimes, from his younger brother, Billy Owen "Buck" Pugh.

There was a department store managed by "Cardboard" Kossie Champe and a hardware store run by Wayne "Curly" Herold, also known as "Goon." If you wandered into the Victory Amusement Co., you would see Claude Echols "Abee" Bell.

Our principal, C.P. Wells, had a nickname; however, no one ever said it to his face. He was affectionately known as "Packrat."

I wonder how "Mike" was derived from John Bracken. Is there a three-beer story here, perhaps?

Mike Bell, of Charleston, may be emailed at BMIKEOF@aol.com.


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