They are given to us by our parents, friends, enemies and who knows whom else? Mine include Vampire, Bat and Shelpion, those were given to me in my camp, Chappegat Hill (Chappy), Ten Mile River Scout Camps, Narrowsburg, N.Y.
At SUNY New Paltz, my Tau Epsilon Phi pledge name was, Fudd. My frat jacket has my name sewn into it. Alhaquot Aptonen interpreted, as Stormy Speaker is my Vigil name. That’s because I spoke with bolts of lightning when I played Meteu, the medicine man and how I served as Netami Sakima, chief of Aquehongian Lodge #112.
I love all of these names. I am stilled call many. It doesn’t bother me.
In camp, everyone had one. Some were funny. Some were “insulting”. But we were kids. We had the Dentist, Space Ace, Fireball, Bubba, Rock-N-Roll (R-N-R) and thousands of others. No, we had millions of others. Bucket Butt, the Office Girl (he cleans buckets), etc. We often took people’s real names and made ever so slight changes.
Let’s talk about a few of these people.
The Dentist. I named him in ’87 or ’88. To this day, I do not know what his given name is. My assistant scoutmaster (ASM) and I were on the Kunatah Ball Field. My ASM has many nicknames. Some came from things “My Leader” did to him in the dark ages. My leader could be a novel or a movie. One day. I learned so much from him. I am who I am in many ways because of his teachings.
Back to the Dentist, I said to the ASM that’s the Dentist.” The kid was getting ready to play ball. Just like any other young scout. My ASM said, “why”? I said look at him. He always has a toothbrush in his mouth.
I got my vampire and bat names in 1983. It was my first morning in camp. I woke up an hour or two before the wake-up call. I sat on the picnic table and stared at the snake in the tank. I was near the “Palace”, our office. My ASM was just getting up. He saw me. I was 12. He was very old at the time, around 47. But we all thought he was a hundred. I miss him dearly.
He asked if I was ok. I was fine. He said well then you are our vampire. He announced to the troop. The name stuck with me forever.
Space Ace was a little space. He was a nice kid in camp. He always said, “I am from Erph.” That’s how he got his name.
All of the aforementioned, sans the Dentist, was from my Troop 521 / 721. I knew nothing about him.
As for Rock-N-Roll, he was one of Camp Kunatah’s staffers. Kunatah was one of TMR’s camps. Chappy at one point was its own camp. Eventually became part of Kunatah. Chappy closed after ’88. Kunatah closed a few years later. Sad.
Back to Rock-N-Roll. He was in his early 20s. He’s a strange cat. He used to yell at me for driving the “Truckster,” the Chappy station wagon over 2 MPH on the camp roads. We were able to go much faster. I was 17 and had my license for a few months. I loved the Truckster. I used to blast U2 and Depeche Mode, as I cruised along.
Rock-N-Roll would stand on the podium in the dining hall during meals and rock-n-roll on it. In other words, he bounced back and forth. One day my ASM pulled his socks down. We wore those goofy, way too big green scout socks. I hated them. I still have a few pairs hidden away. The last time I wore them was maybe 30 years ago.
One day, a good friend, an alumni buddy from Camp D1-Kotohke, made a comment about his socks. R-N-R replied, “I know you weren’t talking about me.” My friend yelled back, “Yes, I was”.
Poor R-N-R almost fell off the podium. Laughter burst out in the dining hall.
Some of the names were given because the kids were your traditional awkward teenagers. We were shipped off to camp. Some of us loved it. Some of us couldn’t wait to go home. I think you know where I stand. We all took our share of teasing. We had many laughs. We still do.
Anyway, nicknames are fun. We all have them.
I have a few dear friends that every day sends hundreds of emails and texts reminiscing about these great times.