Many of my friends had cool names we called them, some to the point I wasn't sure what their real name was.
I went to church with “Doc” Rogers for several years, but it wasn't until I saw his graduation invitation that I found out his real name was Randy. Seems his older brother had looked into his crib when he was a baby and with his best Bugs Bunny voice said, “What's up Doc?” So that became his name.
I mentioned one of my best buddies growing up was “Jawman” Heming, a name given to him by our old football coach, “Birdman” Bigham. We never called him Doug. It was always “Jawman.”
Another one of my neighborhood friends was Johnny “Spider” Johnson who lived on the other end of Meadow Lane from me.
I got my first job when I was 14 at the Shake Shack. There were plenty of nicknames there — Tony “Donkey” Edwards, “D.O.” David Orr, Dan “Bozo” Ownby and “Banty” Murray (I really don't remember his real name), just to name a few.
“D.O.” was the one who painted a black “Starsky and Hutch” stripe on my yellow '71 Pinto. He also owned a sweet '55 Chevy that drew a lot of attention at the Shake Shack lot.
One of my my best friends in high school was Bruce Sullivan or as his Cleveland High classmates called him, “Weasel.”
While “Weasel” was a good high school nickname, Bruce changed it to “Dr. W” when he went to Tomlinson College. He loved basketball and was trying to be like “Dr. J” (Julius Erving). It didn't stick as his wife-to-be, “Babs,” didn’t like it.
In my adult life I’ve noticed very few “nicknames” stick with individuals with a few exceptions — “Suds” Barrett, “Chief” Robertson, “String” Kress and “Skillet” Schnebel. Can you match the real first name — Ken, Scott, Tommy, Bill?
Nobody calls Greg Geren or Steve Montgomery “Goob” or Gary Austin “Wires” anymore, except me.
I guess I was always a little jealous. I never really had a nickname to stick very long. The only one I can really remember from my teen years was “Catfish” which I used as my CB handle and referred to my mustache.
I also liked it because one of my favorite pro baseball players was Jim “Catfish” Hunter (during his heydays with the A’s, not the Yankees).
My favorite baseball player of all time was of course “Hammerin’” Hank Aaron. Great nickname. Greatest all-around player in my opinion.
When I first started to sprout a few whiskers, I was like that kid in the new commercial doing everything I could to make them look thicker.
It was kind of weak for the first couple of years, but I stuck with it and my upper lip hasn't been clean-shaven since 1974.
It’s funny to think about now, but the nickname I picked up a couple of years ago also had to do with my facial hair.
I first grew my beard when I was in my early 20s. After a couple of years of shaving it off in the summers, I stuck with it. In the past quarter century, I have only been without it for a couple of weeks right after my 30th birthday.
I started turning grey-headed while I was still in my 20s (something to do with having kids I blame), but when my hair and beard turned more white than grey a new nickname started to emerge.
With an oversized belly and a preference for wearing my hair long in the winter, some of the younger kids on my school bus began to wonder if I was really Santa Claus.
I told them, of course, I was. After all, Santa needs something else to the other 364 days a year.
A few years ago, my friend Faye Dobbs noticed a “Help Wanted” ad in the Banner looking for someone to play the Jolly Ol’ Elf.
When I went to B.J.’s Costumes for the interview, as soon as B.J. opened the door she said, “You’re hired.” Then she asked if I was there about the job.
The first year I got the gig, I really didn’t have time to properly prepare so I was a more clean-cut Santa. The last couple of years I’ve used it as an excuse to revert to younger days. Now, I start preparing for the December activities by making my August haircut the last of the year.
By the time Thanksgiving roles around, my hair is almost as long as I wore it in the ’70s (I want to grow it while I still have it) and my beard is bushier than I’ve ever had it.
Even though in the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t going to get to be Kris Kringle last year, because of my cancer surgery, I still grew my hair and beard out just in case I’d get the chance to do a home visit or party.
I didn’t as I spent the week of Christmas in the hospital, but I was able to keep the Santa look long enough to have the full white beard for my new driver’s license photo, which I got on my birthday in early January.
While I’m used to little children staring at me and whispering to their moms, “There’s Santa,” I recently received a strange request from an adult.
Making a couple of bus “river runs” a week for a Boy Scout camp just north of Blairsville, Ga., during the summer, there is a convenience store at the North Carolina-Georgia state line where I usually stop.
Some new owners purchased the store this summer and one of the gentleman, whose nationality I’m not sure of, made the comment to me earlier this summer that I looked like “Father Christmas.”
I laughed and told him of course I was.
Since my hair and beard are well trimmed during the heat, I showed him my driver’s license photo. He asked if he could make a copy of it to show his children that “Father Christmas” shops in his store.
Without thinking of any possible negative consequences, I agreed. A couple of days later it dawned on me I had given him enough information to steal my identity.
Surely, he wouldn’t risk getting on my “bad list” by doing something like that.
I can’t close this column without mentioning my favorite nickname of all — “Dirty D.”
A former Charleston High School principal, Gary Davis (not the county mayor) was one of my favorite teachers, having taught me in sixth grade at Oak Grove.
He coached girls’ basketball and was one of the nicest men you’d ever want to meet, but he cheated at Chinese Checkers.
Every time we’d play, he’d distract us and take extra turns so we took to calling him “Dirty D.”
He and I stayed friends until his untimely passing. I miss him and can’t look at a Chinese Checker board without thinking of him.