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Somerville Nicknames

Corky Cummings


Somerville is a very small town, but it has produced
its share of characters through the years.  Many of the people that were my friends or just acquaintances had nicknames, and I recently did some reminiscing about the origins of their second identities. Although some weren’t flattering, they did go a long way toward capsulizing a part of each person’s life.

Most of my life I have gone by the name “Corky,” because when other options were considered, it seemed like the best choice. My parents had a warped sense of humor, and I was named Finnie Alton Cummings Jr. after my dad. Had I been a girl my name would have been Tatiana, so I’m not sure that’s an improvement. Since there was more than one Finnie in our home, I became known as “Junie,” a derivative of Junior. My Aunt Betty did not like any of those names, so when I was a youngster, she said we are going to call me “Corky.” The name stuck so here I am today at 68 years old with a name that most people relate to a pet. 

In no particular order, here are some other Somerville people who had nicknames with a brief history of how each one originated.

Miller Bassler---Jimmy Kinser, a friend of Miller’s older sister, Zana, took Miller’s last name and for some unknown reason started calling him “Bow Wow.” In the 7th grade that nickname was downgraded or upgraded (depending on who you ask) to “Dog” by an unidentified classmate.

Mike Welch---as a young kid, Mike had a short blonde haircut and a large head, so he became known as “Onion.”

Bennie Flencher---Bennie was never the biggest kid around; nevertheless, he had a short fuse, especially when he was being teased. Because of his spunky attitude, the nickname “Gallito,” which is Spanish for Rooster, was created by Richard Arrendondo.

Ed Hill---many people may not even know that Scooter’s first name is Ed. Before he could walk, he used to move around on the floor by scooting and his dad started calling him “Scooter” as a toddler. Obviously the name stuck.

Jack Stamps Campbell---he had a couple of nicknames. The one that most people recognize is “Rabbit,” but Jack’s dad, Ed, got into his share of fights at some of the local drinking establishments around town, and my dad started calling Ed “Battler.” Jack Stamps, being a son of Ed’s, became known to my dad as “Little Battler” because he too never shied away from a fight. Zollie Bassler once said that Jack Stamps would light into a buzz saw.

Robert Wayne Thomas---before hippies were identified in the late 60’s as people who had long hair and goatees, they were called beatniks. Robert Wayne was the original “Beatnik” of Somerville.

Billy Hill---during the summers some of the high school boys worked in the fields at the Baker farm outside of town. The Bakers had a full-time employee who was a black man with the last name of Duck (first name unknown). One summer Duck asked Billy who his dad was and when Billy told him it was Bryan Hill he asked Duck if he knew him. Duck replied, “Do I know him, I think I’m kin to him.” From that day on Billy became known as “Billy Duck.”

Gary Curling---Gary’s mom, Nell, was quite a cook, and she did a lot of baking. Gary would take some of her goodies to school to give to his teachers and inherited the name “Cake Curling.” 

LeRoy Thomas---there were a few people in town who called him “Buddy” but LeRoy always had the distinction of being a person whom everyone knew by just his first name (kind of like Elvis, but on a local level). I remember a car LeRoy had that he named Sputnik. In those days TV reception was next to impossible, but when you were able to pick up KBTX in Bryan-College Station, LeRoy would drive by in Sputnik and the television picture would go on the blink. My dad would always say, “Damn, LeRoy is going by again.”

I’m sure there were many others, but since my memory isn’t what it used to be, I will stop here. Everyone mentioned is a good person, and those who are still with us hopefully understand they were included because they are considered a friend. They all made a mark on Somerville in their own way.