What's in a name?

Editor’s note: This is part three of a four-part series, where author Steve Mueller has categorized nick names of Hermannites by genetic phenotypes, juvenile behaviors, and quite possibly, genus and species. It was first published as “A different look at Hermann history—nick names,” in The Guardian, the News of Historic Hermann, Inc., in the Spring 2019 Volume 10 Issue 1 edition. It is reprinted with permission.

Butch's are scarce on the list, but we do have one. Butch and Arnold Meyer were bachelor brothers who lived on a "gentleman's farm" west of town. Arnold worked for the Corps of Engineers on the river enjoying the popular schedule of 30 days on and 30 days off. It fell to Butch to tend to the chores at home. Of course on Arnold's 30 days off, he focused on hunting, fishing, partying, and playing cards with his friends and things of that nature. Sometimes (perhaps nearly always) when it was time for Arnold to get back to the river, a little mess was left behind for Butch to put back in order. Eventually he had enough! The next time Arnold came home and began to invite his friends, he encountered an attractive painted sign along the driveway. The message was, "Notice! Everyone brings pleasure, some by coming, most by leaving!" Good job, Butch. Steamboat Bill Heckmann (William) needs no explanation. Steamboat Bill and his five sons, all dedicated, accomplished steam boaters, lived and wrote a large chapter of Hermann history for nearly two decades. Their accomplishments, escapades and antics are well recorded in the three books written by granddaughter, Dorothy Heckmann Shrader. These are a must read for any Hermann resident who retains even a hint of interest in local history. The steamboat era and their dreams were terminated by construction of the railroad. Greeley Heckmann (Sam Sr.) Do you suppose he may have subscribed to Horace Greeley's advice, "Go west, young man, go west!" Gummy Becker (Kermit) was another accomplished and well known riverboat captain from the later age of diesel power. I don't remember why they called him "Gummy", but he deserves credit for helping to save the German School and beginning to convert it to a successful museum. Of course he focused on the River Room and he had the broad range of associates who were able to attract the wealth of memorabilia we have on display. In the beginning there wasn't much interest and I know he spent countless lonely hours hoping someone would come to hear his stories and look at his treasures. Gummy, thanks to you, they do come to look and listen today. Knolly Boehm (Walter) was a bit of a musician, played the mandolin which is now on display here in the museum. Unfortunately, I don't know the basis for his name. When performing, Knolly was usually accompanied by one of his guitar playing friends, either Harold Fricke or Tack Nagel (Lee), depending on which one was available. I don't know the origin of Nagel's nick name either. None the less, Knolly and his friends became so popular that by the mid 1950's they had an hour spot on KWRE radio beginning about 9:00 am Saturday mornings. Remember, in those days, censorship, particularly of the media, was severe by current standards. They would begin the program by playing a few tunes. Then Knolly would engage a dissertation about some matter of current interest and would eventually involve his partner in dialogue. One rainy Saturday Spring morning around 1956 or '57, Dad had already left to do something with his friends, Mom was cooking in the kitchen, the radio was on, as always, and since it was a cold and wet morning, I was just "hanging around". Knolly began his show. Fricke was with him this time. After the introductory music, Knolly began an impassioned announcement about the alarming, rapidly increasing price of beef. For emphasis, he occasionally gave Fricke the opportunity to concur with his concern. Finally he explained that just this very morning he had stopped by the grocery store to check and today the price of ground beef had skyrocketed to 17 cents per pound! Then he made the fateful inquiry of his friend, asking "Ain't that something, Fricke?" Poor Harold, obviously without thinking, responded, "You ain't a s******n, Knolly". Immediately we heard a "click", then dead silence and that was the end of Knolly's relationship with KWRE. Instead of saying "kidding", Fricke used the fateful "S" word. That was censorship in the '50's. Today no one would blink an eye. As we see and hear some of the trash on radio, TV, and movies today perhaps we have gone too far in the other direction? Lump Helmers (Lee) was a large man with a full, round face and casual demeanor. Perhaps some thought he looked like a lump. He owned and operated Lee's Tavern on 4th Street just east of the Showboat Theater. As a young boy, Dad and I had a dog, a beagle hound named Champ. When we moved up to 2nd Street, we didn't have a good place for Champ so we gave him to Mr. Helmers who often rabbit hunted and was looking for a new dog. Champ was a great rabbit dog, one of the few that would catch and retrieve a crippled rabbit. Mr. Helmers hunted with him for many years and I often got to go along. When we were hunting with a larger group, I always stayed near Lee because he seemed to enjoy letting me shoot the rabbit more than shooting it himself. Plus, he always carried a quart bottle of excellent homemade wine, would stop every hundred yards or so to take a sip, and let me have one also. Those were great days for a young boy! He was well educated and well read, a descendant of A. C. Leisner who was the proprietor of the local White House Hotel during its heyday. He often talked about his older brother, John, who moved to southern Arizona and became a cotton farmer in the Gila Valley. He told me his brother's fields were so large, he would plow in one direction in the morning and back in the afternoon! I was skeptical, but years later when I worked in Arizona and saw the Gila Valley, I realized this was certainly true in the days of farming with mules, horses, or even early tractors. Those are big fields. They still raise premier, long staple Pima cotton. John Helmers is buried near Safford, Arizona, in the shadow of Mount Lemmon.

Porter Meyer (Ray) was a local barber and his shop was just east of Lee's Tavern. Porter liked to dance. I doubt that he ever missed a big band Saturday night dance. His wife never went along, but he was a good dancer and always found a few ladies who were pleased to dance with him. In those days, Porter's Barber Shop was the unofficial city news room, the place where you could get the lowdown on everything and everybody, like Hardee's and the bakery are today. For some years, Sam Weigand was the Justice of the Peace in town. As a young boy, I was around Sam a few times. Some say he was illiterate and based on my limited observation, I think that could be true. Word was around town that Sam and his wife were getting a divorce. One day, Sam's divorce was the topic of concern in Porter's shop. One of the men waiting for a haircut noticed Sam just walking by, so Porter told him to tell Sam to come in so they could find out what happened. When Sam came in, Porter asked him how the divorce turned out. Allegedly Sam said, "Oh, I guess all right. I got the divorce, she got the kids, and the lawyer got the farm!" Seems like some things never change! Two Bits Klos (Allie) ran a Five and Dime Store, an early version of Dollar General.

Chip Block (Melvin) was clearly off the old block. Cocky Leibach (Clarence) was less than 10 years old among five siblings when their mother died. Their father worked full time on the railroad so the children were often forced to provide as best they could, even when it meant leaving school. Clarence was determined to do what had to be done and approached his tasks, emboldened and fearless, like "a cocky little rooster"! Polly Poeschel (Frank) had a penchant for repeating what he heard.

Mooney Kendrick (Belt) had a rare given name, but it looks like we may have had "mooners" back then also.

Buster Berends may have derived from the Buster Brown shoe character?

Some claimed Bull Bundrick (Clyde) and Bully Elsenraat (Emil) were strong as bulls. Schooly Fleisch (Chris) operated a small general store on Washington Street near the old High School that catered largely to the students. Porky Hoffman (Virgil) raised hogs. Speedy Lieneke (Alfred) probably wasn't. Snaky Berend (Herman) liked to gamble, really liked to "shoot craps" and, of course, too often shot the dreaded snake eyes (double singles). Boots Bierwirth (Lester) inherited the name from his father who worked on the railroad construction crews during the 1920's when they laid the double track through this area.