By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
Yes, it’s time for Stevens Point nicknames again. There’s no getting around it. A lot of the readers keep weighing in with more of them.
Actually, this isn’t really my column. It’s YOURS. The nicknames come from everywhere. Here’s an example: I went into Hoffman’s Hobbies to buy a Carolina Panthers’ stocking cap. I left with the cap … and five more nicknames. Bill Hoffman, the owner, mentioned that his rec league basketball team used to include Marc “Stroker” Wolle, Johnny “Brick Layer” Pelowski, Nate “Glide” Winneger, and Brian “Rabbit” Hintz.
Bill himself was known as “The Rock” because he could always be counted on for ten rebounds and twelve points. When this nickname series started, I thought we might find 50 nicknames around Stevens Point. We’re now close to 400.
The tough part of all this is trying to figure out what exactly qualifies as a nickname. There really are no rules. Now, the late Jim Marko went by “Wingnuts”. Hey, THAT’s a true nickname. So let me ask you a question. Does it qualify if someone’s actual name is simply shortened? Let’s take “Al”. As in Al Warner or Al Zorn. Their true first names might be Allan, Alex, Albert, or Alfred. So is “Al” just a nickname?
For some reason, a “John” becomes “Jack”. And a couple of my buddies really have that one covered. John Jack Ellenz and John Jack Bennett (the former Pointer coach). And don’t get me going with “Robert”. Some Roberts get shortened to “Rob” as in Rob “Kinger” King and Rob Konkol, but other Roberts end up as “Bob” or “Bobby” as in Bobby Sullivan the nephew or Bob “Nipper” Nitka or Bob Tomczak who is called “Bimbo” and sometimes that’s even shortened to just plain “Bims”.
Richard is another confusing name since it often morphs to Rich, Rick, Ricky, or Dick. Lots of them around Point. Dick “Rufus” Konopacki, Rich Derezinski, Rich Spreda, Ricky Higgins, Dick Morton, etc. See what I mean? Or Charles. Charles becomes Chuck like “Chuck” Ulrich or Chuck Roast or Chuck Piotrowski. But Charles can also be “Charlie” Spaar or “Charlie” Rossier.
And why is it that William turns into “Bill”? What’s up with that? Bill Bushman. Bill Berry. Billy “Waldo” Ellenz. And what about Edward? Or Edgar? For some reason, they become Eddie (Meshak), Eddie Bowen, Cousin Eddie, or “Ted”. What does Ted have to do with Edward? On the other hand, Arthur is always “Art”. Art Hawley. Art the Tailor (which used to be down by Cozy Kitchen). Can Ernest be anything other that “Ernie”? Ernie “Bubba” King, Ernie Waltenberg, Ernie “Big Ern” Wanta. But then Donald can be “Don” or “Donny” such as Don Ceplina, Don Shannon, Donny Garski, Don Geiger, Don Clark, or Don “Old Man” Schmalzer who hangs around with Elaine Granger. Elizabeth can get confusing, also. It could be “Beth” as in Bachinski or “Liz” Ball or even “Betty”.
Speaking of names, my all-time local favorite name is Leo Smrz. Did Leo have a nickname? It’s hard to say. The poor guy didn’t even have a vowel. S…M…R…Z… where’s the vowel? Dave Moscinski went by “Mush” which made sense. Mark Maslowski, the former County Board head honcho and also former Fox Theatre usher, answered to “Moose.” He probably knew Terry Sutton and Blaine Reichelt. Moose, Moose, and Goose. But where did Dan Felckowski get “Toast”?
Catie Lewis said she was known as “Basil” since grade school. Alexandra Lemerond of Polito’s is “Lemmy”, and Donovan Schroeder of the same pizza place goes by “Don Cheadle”. And Bob Kostuchowski has always been “Koochie”. “Jake” can befuddle you. Wilfred Hafner was forever “Jake”. Mary Ann Laszewski said: “Nicknames in Stevens Point are so imbedded in the mind. A lot of people only know someone by their nickname and don’t even know the real name.”
I imagine Jake Weltman was actually Jacob but that’s just a guess.
Some people simply have first names that don’t open up any chance for a nickname. I mean, what can you do with “Clint”? Or Claude? Or Floyd, Chad, Owen, Paul, Scott, Wayne, Mark, Darwin, or Leo? Leo Shopinski will always be “Leo”. They’re not like Joseph which can be shortened to “Joe” or “Joey”. Joey Besiada. Joe Sanders (who is really Colin). Noel Joe. Joe Diedrich. Or “Roy”. Not much you can do with Roy. Jake Roy? But Raymond is different. You can make a “Ray” out of Raymond. Or “Raymush” Klopotek. Ray Deck. Ray Kadonsky. Ray Elliot.
And I don’t think “Doc” Brown was really a doctor.
A Maris Rushevics should not be confused with Roger Maris. Harold’s are “Hal’s”. Hal Hefti. Harold’s Red Owl would seem strange. Rebecca is Becky and Gerald is Jerry like Jughead Krueger or Gil Molski or Jared “Jerry” Redfield. A Chester is usually “Chet” Chet Bembenek. Or it’s a cigarette like Chesterfield. Anthony is “Tony”. Tony Butkus. Tony Almanza of Airport Bar. James is Jim and Lawrence is Larry and Kenneth is Kenny and Thomas is Tom or Tommy. Jim “Tumor” Mozuch and Jim Billings and Larry “Crow” Zimmerman and Larry Fritsch and Kenny Opiola of Opi’s/Skipp’s and Ken “Rufus” Worden and Kenny Kulich and Tommy “Governor” Thomson and Tom Jensen and Tom Elliot and Tom Hatfield. Tom LaBoda said Mike “Sarge” Staley called him “Frenchy” like in a French chef because “Boda” served up another steak or home run pitch in softball.
Nobody can explain how Ray Lepak was known as “Otto”. But we DO know that it’s spelled the same frontwards and backwards. Or why my uncle Ceephus was known as “Zabe”.
Nicknames don’t just grow on trees. Well, unless you’re the infamous Bruce “Prune” Kinney. It’s like Mary Ann Laszewski said. Everyone knows Prune and they know Prune goes by “Prune”. Prune explained he’s called Prune because he used to eat green apples. If you know Prune, that makes sense.
And there’s more. Dave Bisbee was “Biz”. Dave Ingels is “Ingy Dingy”, and his brother is “Chief”. Amanda Pagels Braaten is “Cha Cha” and Amanda Fabich is “Mandy” and sis Rebecca is “Becky”. Kimberly Wroblewski is “Kimbo”. Michaela Terry of Swetz’s goes by “Mickey”. Then there’s Mickey White, Mickey Slowinski, and Mickey “Red Fox” Berard.
Speaking of unusual names, my sister Anita (Neda) had two friends in high school named Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. And nobody confuses “Gunner” Walkush with John “Gunnie” Hobbs. I asked Frank Jurgella, the former owner of Frank & Ernies, if he ever had a nickname. He thought about it and said: “It must’ve been Gimme a beer”. Samantha Koczorowski is obviously called “Sam”, and a Susan turns into Sue (Barsness) or Suzie (Favor) or Suzana Alimi becomes Suzi. Cindy Newby is actually Cynthia. Not sure about Cindy Selig.
Any writeup about names or nicknames wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my neighbor Ronnie “Minnow” Shimek. He used to work at a local pizza place. Minnow said that when someone had a complaint, he would tell them that a lady named Helen was in charge of complaints. Mrs. Waite. If they had a complaint, they should go to Helen Waite.
Gotta leave now with one thought in mind. Leo Smrz not having a single vowel really bugs me. Can’t somebody find him one?
Good night Irene.