July 9, 2012

I might have been named Harry or Tangerine, but got extremely lucky


Each day in Facebook for the past two months or so, I have posted a question that relates to Levittown, my high school or people of my vintage. Today I concocted the question, "If you could have picked your own first name, what would it have been?"

This got me thinking about my own first name. When I was in the womb, my parents debated what to name their first (and only) child. If it was a boy, my dad wanted the baby to be Harry Herman Barning III.

My mother would not have it, thankfully. Her desire was for me to be Frank Howard Barning, in honor of her beloved grandfather, Frank Howard Reeve. She had a brother Frank Howard Maunton.

Frank is an okay name. Some would consider it strong and masculine. And in my case, it is not short for Francis (not masculine, in my opinion) or Franklin. On graduation day from Division Avenue High School, when my name was called to receive a diploma, it was announced as "Francis Barning". Some fool had decided that Frank was a nickname, or something. My diploma was correct, thankfully.

I have wondered if my life would have been different had I been given the name Harry Herman Barning III. This I do know, some of the wise-ass boys from my youth would have called me, "The Turd", New Yorkese for "The Third".

My mother, the power in our family, used to joke that she wanted to name me Judge Barning. That does have a certain ring to it. Had I been a girl, she kidded (I think) that I would have been named Tangerine Barning. "Tangerine" was a hit song in 1942, reaching as high as No. 1 on the Billboard charts around the time I was born. So, I dodged two bullets, "The Turd" and "Tangerine".

To answer my own question about picking my own first name, to be earnest I am satisfied with Frank and so is my wife. Speaking of dodging bullets, Vivian is not sure that she would have wanted to become Mrs. Harry Herman Barning III.


Frank Howard Reeve is buried in the New Village Congregational Church Cemetery in Lake Grove, Suffolk County, New York. He was born in nearby Selden.


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