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.

Take care,
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, SueƱo, Katinka and a small Korean-American named Nancy in honor of Mrs. Reagan!

Yours truly,
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:


Anonymous said...

From Roslyn Haberman, 1961

I think the names of yesterday were done with more imagination rather then just following what everybody else was doing.I myself did quite a study before my husband and I picked my Children's names. (even the simple names came from Special & Beautiful places)

Anonymous said...

From Michelle Fromm-Lewis 1963

Talk about interesting about Clifford Lance and Michelle Ingrid? My mother says our dad's sister, Aunt Ruth, came up with both my name and Cliff's. In all twelve years of public school I don't remember one other person with our names. Clifford remains rather unusual to this day. Michelle became the rage when the Beatle's sang the song in 1965. An interesting piece of trivia is that they recorded Michelle on November 3, 1965, which happened to be my 20th birthday!

Anonymous said...

Dear Frank "Judge" Barning and Karen Biro. Times change; names change. No, I am not related to either one of you. I too haven't known many Karen's in my life. I still don't. I've always wondered why my parents chose it. I think it was a neutral choice given my background. I don't recall ever being teased because of my last name. Thanks for all the columns Frank. They bring back memories from a long time ago. Best regards. Karen Judge Liazos

Frank Barning said...

Vinette Walsh Coan, class of 1962..

"I was so amused by your discussion of "unusual names". I kept trying to figure out a response, but nothing seemed adequate. My name has been a source of confusion and humor over the years. Not being pleased being the only Vinette, we named our first daughter the same. After that, we went with Mary, Patricia and William (Billy).
I love the blog, makes me smile and brings back such wonderful memories."

June Johnson said...

My parents named me "June" because I was born in June.I didn't know any other Junes when I was growing up. My middle name is Ann, and when I attended Catholic school (pre-Levittown), the nuns would always call me "June Ann", because June is a pagan (YAY!) name.