Editor’s note: This is the 62nd of a series about growing up in Marysville during the late 1930s and the 1940s written by Bill Boyd. Each article is a snapshot of the people, businesses and activities during that era as seen through the eyes of a young boy.
Boyd was born in Marysville in 1932, graduated from Marysville High School in 1950, and lived the greater part of his life here.
What’s in a name?
I’ve always thought it was interesting how people got their names … not their surnames, but their given names. My first name is William, and I got that name from my great grandfather, William Hudson. My middle name is Thomas, which came from my grandfather, Thomas Tracy. I think that’s pretty common, to name newborns after other family members – maybe even an uncle or a cousin.
When I was a youngster in Marysville, there was a boy about three or four years older than me named King Forrey. I always wondered where he got the name “King.” I don’t think he had any royal blood in him. I bet it’s not easy to be given a name like that. I think people might expect more out of someone with a name like that. I mean, kings are pretty special people.
Years later, when I was in the Air Force, there was a guy in our squadron whose first name was Socrates. I think his last name was Boone or something like that. Wow, Socrates Boone … there must have been a story behind that one.
I think one of the most interesting “name stories” however is how Sarge Chamberlain got his name. I’m sure there are a lot of readers who know Sarge, since he has lived in Marysville about 70 years. He came here in 1947 to work in Haffner’s Dime Store. In 1949, the company wanted to transfer him to another area, but he and his new bride wanted to stay in Marysville. So he left the company and later went to work for Scotts, where he worked for 50 years.
When I first met him, some time around 1958, I figured that “Sarge” was some kind of a nickname he had picked up over the years, thinking he had probably been in the Army or the Air Force, and he may have been discharged as a staff sergeant or technical sergeant.
I figured the guy must have a real first name, maybe George, or Fred, or Jim, or something like that. I would have bet money that he had some kind of a military connection. Then one day I saw some paperwork that he had signed with his full name, Sargeant Chamberlain. That certainly cleared up his nickname, “Sarge,” but where did “Sargeant” come from? Maybe his dad had been a soldier who was a sergeant, and his son could be a second “Sargeant Chamberlain.” I noticed the spelling difference – Sargeant and not Sergeant – but a lot of people, including me, make spelling mistakes.
His dad had, indeed, been a soldier, but the story is much more interesting than that. When his father was a teenager, before World War I, he wanted to be in the Army. He wanted it so much that, although he was underage, he fudged his age on his enlistment papers and went into the Army. But when his true age was discovered, he found himself a civilian once again.
As soon as he reached the legal age, he enlisted again. One of his first assignments was to serve on the Mexican-Texas border during the border dispute of 1916-1917. Then, when the United States entered World War I, he was sent to fight in France.
It was the kind of trench warfare that created a lot of casualties, and Sarge’s dad was severely wounded by shrapnel. As a result, one of his feet had to be amputated in a field hospital.
At the same time, one of America’s most famous artists was a man named John Singer Sargent. He was primarily known for his portraits, and his paintings today hang in galleries throughout the world. The British government commissioned the artist to go to France and paint soldiers who were fighting in the war.
While Sarge’s dad was recovering, the artist came into that same field hospital to do some paintings. While he was there, the two men began talking and soon became friends. As the patient’s recovery continued, the artist talked as he painted, and their friendship grew. And by the time Sarge’s father was recovered enough to make the trip back to the United States and to Walter Reed Hospital, they were fast friends.
They were so close, in fact, that the last time they were together, Sarge’s dad made the following promise to the artist – “If I ever have a son, I will name him after you.” Then when Sarge was born in 1929, his dad kept that promise.
I learned all this only recently, many years after I first met Sarge in 1958. Now, with that mystery solved, I guess I’ll start working on where “King” came from.
(Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can email him at email@example.com)
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