March 7, 2011
Old Levittowners prefer the names our classmates had way back when Brooklyn was the name of a borough, not a girl, and Tiffany was a lamp
Yesterday's blog post ran under the headline "Our Division Avenue High School cheerleaders had grand old names, but these new fangled ones for babies drive me wild."
Judging by the comments, readers related to the topic. Modern names horrify most early Levittowners and we nostalgically recall the days when Tiffany, Savannah, Keira, Zoe, Madison, Addison, Camryn, Chloe, Jada, Peyton and Brooklyn were not in our school.
In the year of my birth, 1942, the most popular girls' names were Mary, Barbara, Patricia, Linda and Carol. For baby boys, they were James, Robert, John, William and Richard. Frank came in at No. 21. If you were a student in the 1950s and early 1960s, you surely knew someone with each of these classic names.
Two letters concerning yesterday's story follow:
By Karen Biro Hewson, 1960
First of all congratulations on your 250th blog post - I've been enjoying all of them very much.
Second, the name thing - I'm glad your mother triumphed with your name - you don't look like a Harry or a Herman. I almost suffered a similar fate with my first name - my father being named Albert wanted my name to be Alberta, no thanks - my mother prevailed also. The name Karen my mother chose from a Hollywood actress named Karen Morley, who I found out later in my life had been black-balled in Hollywood for being accused of being a communist. Great, thanks Mom!
When I was real young no one I knew was named Karen, they were all Carol, Joan, Mary, etc., so when someone yelled 'Karen', I knew I was in trouble. It wasn't until I was at Division Avenue that I heard "my name" - there was Karen Balos and Karen Judge. Now I hear and see it quite often and with various spellings - I have a friend whose middle name is Caryn. It's a common name now and I never turn around when someone yells Karen.
The name Judge made me laugh, as my last name 'Biro' when translated from Hungarian to English is 'Judge', so it was kind of a joke in my family - "here come the Judge, here come the Judge". I often wondered if I were related to Karen Judge in our class.
Most of my family, cousins, etc. have what you would call normal names except for a distant cousin named Colt (don't know if he was named after the beer or the gun, but that's his problem).
I just had to comment because your blog made me laugh as my husband and I laugh at some of these names often and wonder, "is it a male or female".
Thanks again for your insights, thoughts and old memories.
Karen (Judge) Biro Hewson
Note from your blogger: Karen was No. 16 in 1942
Dear Cousin Frank,
With the exception of Colton, which is new to me, I hate every single one of those contemporary names, too! Madison was cute in the movie Splash, when Tom Hanks' and Daryl Hannah's characters agree the mermaid should be named after the Manhattan avenue; otherwise, they're all so pretentious. Tangerine, I like a lot.
I'm surprised my dad didn't take this opportunity to tell you what he wanted to name me: Liquidity. Though I would absolutely love to be named that now, I think I would have struggled with it until I entered college. That's generally when I became less self-conscious but also where, in Middlebury, Vt., I met the likes of Harvest, Laurell, Sueño, Katinka and a small Korean-American named Nancy in honor of Mrs. Reagan!
Karina Tinio Hof
Karina writes and edits for a living and divides her time between New Jersey and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. She is the daughter of Frank Barning's second cousin once removed, Henry Hof 3rd. Her website is: http://karinahof.com/