What is it with the nicknames in Curtin Village? It seems like no one who ever lived in Curtin goes by the name given at birth. Just a few examples are Pickle Dukeman [maybe Miles Dukeman, the blacksmith], the beau of Elise, who was the Curtin’s maid; Soup Barger, the Curtin’s handyman; and Beany Bathurst (Ref below).
So it was, also, with the Glenns of Curtin, and later of Mt Eagle. Eleven children there were, born to Jeremiah and Rebecca Parker Glenn over a 21-year span. It is likely that some of the nicknames resulted from the attempts of toddlers to pronounce a sibling’s name. Essic (pronounced Essick), for Esther, and Mars (rhymes with farce), for Martha might fall into that category. A few were probably names of endearment: Walter Furst was Hon, short for Honey; Frances = Pedge, pronounced Pidge, maybe short for Pigeon ??? Then there are a couple of real head scratchers.
It was 1917, and Grandma Rebecca was pregnant for the last time. You would think that names would be chosen before the child was born, being that you had 10 previous children and knew the uncertainty of gender. Wrong. The proud parents of a third son couldn’t decide what to name him.
It so happened that Grandma’s oldest daughter, 21-year-old Helen -- never called Helen; rather, Tutz (spelled correctly) -- was doing a big share of the infant care. Tutz didn’t know what to call the baby, so she told her and her baby brother’s parents that if they didn’t name him soon, she would call him Bill. Another few days passed without a resolution, and so it was, that Paul Richard became my Uncle Bill. I don’t know how Harry Parker Glenn was reconfigured to Jack, but maybe something similar happened at the time of his birth.
The tradition passed to the next generation with my dad (Hon, that is). My brother was named Gilbert Keith, but my father called him Clarence. (It probably came from the comic strip by that name.) My sister Leona Joyce was named in recognition of someone my dad had known and admired, but Leona almost never passed his lips. She was always Amy. I called her that, too, and to my children she was never anything other than Aunt Amy.
Then, alas, there is me. Jerry was a name chosen to honor my dad’s dad. You would think he would have called me Jerry. No, it was Knuck, as derived from Paul Winchell’s puppet, Knucklehead Smiff. Not many are old enough to remember Paul Winchell, but he was a ventriloquist and had his own TV show in the 50’s and 60’s. His two most familiar puppets were Jerry Mahoney and a muddle-headed character named Knucklehead Smiff. My dad, forever the comedian, chose the latter’s name as my moniker.
Reference: Katharine Curtin Hodges, cited in Baum, Jane Curtin: The Roland Curtin Family of Centre County, 2002, updated 2020.
Jerry is a retired general surgeon and a new Board Member of the Roland Curtin Foundation. He has Curtin roots extending back to 1831, through four previous generations.