Stupid Wonderful Nicknames Pooh Bear, Bimbo and The Alligator Farm

Standing in the bank, moving money around,  I hear a voice, “Hey Pooh Bear”! I look over and see a 60 year old man, gray hair, lovely suit, waving at me on the far side of the bank lobby. He’s actually the bank president and he was my brother, Granger’s, buddy, forty five years ago. He’s a handsome bank president and he still calls me Pooh Bear.  He gives me a big hug and for a warm moment I’m home again with my brother and all his friends. But Granger has been dead for almost a year. Still, I feel loved because he used my nickname.

Nicknames are a double edged sword.

 By the time I turned 25 I despised being called Pooh Bear with a red hot lava like hatred. Now, when I hear Pooh Bear I just smile because I know it’s someone who knew my family and loved us. It’s a sweet sound.

When new friends use my old nickname it sounds wrong, almost offensive.  If they weren’t part of the history and story they shouldn’t use the name. It’s not their story.  Nicknames are personal, kind of like a secret handshake. If you aren’t part of the club you shouldn’t try to use it.

I have a cousin, handsome and smart guy named Daley. But growing up EVERYONE called him Bimbo. And I thought Pooh Bear was bad.

Growing up in Hot Springs, Arkansas my best friends when I was really little (4 to 7) were Pinky and Squampy. Pinky was probably 7 when I was 5 and Squampy was 3. Our moms ran in a local theater group, The Community Players.

 One Friday evening,Pinky, Squampy and I were left alone, again, at the Community Players  while our moms directed and stared in A Street Car Named Desire.

There was a tourist attraction next door to the theater,The Alligator Farm.  It’s a little place with a lot of gators in shallow pools. But there was a big fat tree growing out of the parking lot and it stretched out across the gator pools.

While our moms were busy with Blanche and Stanley,  Pinky convinced us to crawl out on the tree branch, over the alligator pools.

An hour later the adults started looking for us. We’d shimmied out on a thick branch and were staring at dozens of alligators. But Squampy, the youngest, was afraid to shimmy backwards, so we couldn’t get off the branch.

All three of us  were clutching the phone pole sized branch, waiting to get eaten or  for grown ups to find us. If I’d died that day  the newspaper head line might have read “Alligator Eats Pooh Bear!”

Mary, my oldest daughter, is gorgeous now, but when she was little she was kind of silly looking. We called her Buddy Hackett (I swear she looked like him),  and we called her Murry. Why Murry? Because when we went to the beach she refused to keep her top on. So we decided if we called her Murray, everyone would think she was a little boy.

Nicknames…they suck, they embarrass us, we hate them. But now, that I’m an adult and fairly confident, and feeling like I have nothing to prove, Pooh Bear doesn’t embarrass me. It makes me feel loved. Murray makes Mary laugh because she knows how beautiful she is and it’s a great story. 

Once you grow up and figure out who you are, nicknames are pretty wonderful. They are part of your story.  Pinky, Squampy and Biimbo, I still love you.

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4 thoughts on “Stupid Wonderful Nicknames Pooh Bear, Bimbo and The Alligator Farm”

  1. Great story and I guess your stories kind of prompt us to remember ours. I had a good friend in high school we were both managers for the Trojan football team that won the 1970 state championship. I was small and Kelly was smaller and the coaches nicknamed him Goober. We all fell in line with the coaches and he didn’t seam to mind all being called Goober. Ten years later turned out to be a different story. A decade after graduating I had not seen or heard from Kelly except for a party or two in Fayetville during his first two years of collage. I knew he had finished law school and had become a lawyer and several years later word was that he had become a powerful tax attorney solving problems for the rich and famous.
    So it is about 1981 and I’m walking down Central Avenue when walking toward me are three men in very expensive suits with big fancy brief cases. They were about 50 yards away from me and I recognized the short man in the middle it was, Goober so with a automatic reflex action , I yell at the top of my lungs GOOOOBBBERRRR!!!!!!!!! So they came closer and closer, I’m grinning like a possum eating muskidines and we soon are face to face Kelly reaches his hand out to my outreached hand and leans in very close with a dramatic two seconds of silence. Then through almost clenched teeth he whispers, “It ain’t Goober any More”. Kelly went on to sit on the Federal Court bench for many years in Atlanta. The good thing is all was forgiven and we have had many good times visiting through the years at Reunions and on other occasions. But Kelly made one thing real clear that day, “It ain’t Goober any more”!!!!

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