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170619 June 19, 2017


A Rose by Any Other Name
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

     I was named Carl Thomas at birth, named after my father Carl Fleming. Why I was named Carl has been a mystery to me all my life, since my father was never addressed by that name by any of his friends and family. When he was young, he was called by his middle name, “Fleming.” He was the youngest of four boys, and his mother died only a few months after his birth. Sometime later in his life, he and all of his brothers picked up nicknames based on some comic strip characters, and he and his brother “Rough” were called by those names the rest of their lives. He was called “Jack.”

    I won’t go into how two of the brothers ended up spelling their last name “Towery” and the other two spelled it “Towry” because this is a story about nicknames and I want to stick to the subject. My brother “Donald” became “Don” and my first nickname was the informal version of Thomas, “Tommy.”

    The only time I was not called “Tommy” in my school days was in the Fifth grade at East Clinton, when the teacher insisted on calling everyone by their given name and so for that one unhappy year I had to answer to the name “Carl.” The next year I reverted back to “Tommy” and had no other nickname until the Ninth grade when I joined Lee Junior High. I retained the primary nickname of “Tommy” but picked up an alias nickname of “T. Thomas” thanks to Mrs. Jane Riddle Parks, who was my homeroom, English, and typing teacher. I believe the name came from a country singer by the same calling. So, up until graduating with the first graduating class at Lee in 1964, I answered to either name without any hesitation. I liked them both equally.

    Moving on, I continued being called “Tommy” throughout college and into the beginning of my Air Force career. I overheard someone ask my first wife when I was going to grow up and quit using “Tommy” and use either “Tom” or “Thomas” like an adult. I let the remark get to me and for about a three month period in those days I switched to “Tom” even though I hated the sound of it. One day I grew a backbone and said to hell with it and went back to “Tommy” and apologized to no one for doing so. I used the examples of “Tommy Dorsey” and “Tommy Smothers” as examples of being okay for a grown man to still be called “Tommy.”

    I do not know for sure when or how “T. Thomas” was altered to “T. Tommy” but believe it happened at a Lee reunion and the alteration did not bother me either. So among my high school friends I answer to “Tommy,” “T. Thomas,” or “T. Tommy” with equal acceptance and no bitter feelings.

    Anyone who has served in the military knows nicknames are part of the game. You consider yourself lucky if you happen to be donned with one that is not derogatory in some way. I was one of the lucky ones, thank heaven. In the Air Force the phonetic alphabet uses “Tango” for the letter “T” and one of my Air Force buddies started calling me “Tango-Tango” for my double “T” name. Eventually that was shortened to just “Tango” and like “Goose” and “Mustang”, “Tango” became my Air Force nickname. I still wear a ring with “Tango” on it and the same word in on my vanity plate on my car. I get a lot of questions about my dancing ability and usually have to explain about the Air Force connection and it not being the trucking company or a dancefloor connection. I still have several Air Force friends who continue to call me “Tango,” using in an elevated tone with the accent on the “Tang,” and the inflection dropping on the “o.”

    Of course I cannot use my nickname for legal documents and I do have an email account using carltowery which I use for mail orders and organizations to avoid my personal email account from getting flooded with spam.

    Every once in a while someone will still call me “Tom” which my mind automatically accepts as a shorten “Tommy,” but when used with my last name, as in “Tom Towery” my nerves twitch like fingernails dragged against a blackboard and I normally reply with “Please call me Tommy.”

My Nickname in School
Mike Smith
LHS '64

    My nickname was “Snuffy” and came from the “Hillbilly” in the funny paper by the name of “Snuffy Smith.”  After all we had the same last name so I am sure we were Kin.  LOL

        Memphis, TN -  Returned from our reunion trip and with only one day's rest became babysitters for our 5-year-old twins.

    Speaking of twins, I can never forget a couple of Mrs. Park's irritants of improper use of the English language. If any of you had her for English, perhaps you might also remember her complaining about people saying "two twins" or "widow woman" because they are by nature redundant. Twins are always two and a widow is always a woman. I also remember her teaching me that "a preposition is a word that shows a relationship between a noun or pronoun and some other word in a sentence." If only other facts had stayed with me all these years as good as those.

    Did anyone else have as much fun as I did in diagramming sentences?

    Thanks to Mike Crowl for sending me in some items to use in next week's issue.

    It was requested by one of our readers that I use black type and not blue on the web page. I explained that I do use black type, but anything that has a link to another web page is automatically displayed in a blue font and I have no control over it. I regret that is the way it is, but the computer does so automatically.