Why The Name?

“Smith and The Jones Girl”?

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My father, who was born in 1926 and passed away 2003, was known to me and everyone one else as Raymond S. Myers. I knew the “S” in his name stood for Smith, but I always thought that was a strange middle name. Nobody else in our family had that surname, to my knowledge, so why did my father have it as a middle name?

Raymond S. Myers’ signature fascinated me. Unlike mine, that kind of resembles a scribble, my father’s signature had character. It was the kind of signature a man means when he says, “Put your John Hancock here”. A signature that you can read. It was nice to look at. I remember how he used to cross the “S” … not really like a dollar sign, but resembling that. I was impressed with my father’s “John Hancock.”  His signature was something he didn’t just grow into using, but rather – it was a work of art; something he had apparently spent time developing. There was a day when folks cared about such things as penmanship. Even my teachers tried to stress that with me, but I do believe I was at the end of a “dying breed” of teachers who taught that your signature (your handwriting) was something to take pride in. In these days of computers and keyboards, I guess that’s probably old thinking – but it always impressed me that my father was a man who took pride in his penmanship and signature.

I was impressed, and a little surprised after my father passed away at (as the late, great Paul Harvey used to say) “the rest of the story…”

After my father died, going through some of his papers, we came across things like birth certificates; marriage licenses … the usual legal stuff. Well, as it turned out – this “usual stuff” revealed a lot more than we were expecting!

My father had saved many letters his mother had written (many to attorneys over trivial nothings like tree branches hanging over her fence) – ah the things you learn about the “fruits and nuts” in your family tree…  There were also letters she’d received from authorities in response to ones she’d written looking for her son, (my father’s oldest brother who was about 20 years older and from a previous marriage). And letters from my father’s father to him … little “Buddy”.

Buddy? My father? Raymond S. Myers? His name wasn’t really “Buddy,” that is just what his father called him. We came across my father’s birth certificate and no, my father’s name was indeed not “Buddy” his birth certificate had recorded his name quite plainly. It was “Buster” – Buster T. Smith.

And his father’s name – also duly noted on a copy of his birth certificate – was Otis T. Smith. (Kind of reminded me of that old character on the Andy Griffith show.) What??? Smith? So now we know where the “S” came from. My grandfather’s name was Otis T. Smith. I had never known him. But there were letters here from him to my grandmother, and to “Buddy”.  Some of them were written from prison!

As we read along through the correspondence, we learned that my grandfather didn’t feel that “prohibition” should apply to him. One day, during the height of Prohibition, my grandmother, for whatever reasons she had, decided to use the occasion of him having a little moonshine in the house as a convenient way to get rid of Otis T. Smith. So she called the local authorities and had little Buddy’s Pa thrown in jail. While he was locked up, she took little Buddy and hightailed it out of there. It appears that, in order to maintain her anonymity, and make herself harder to locate by any possibly unhappy ex-husbands – she went back to using the name Myers (which was her first married name).

My father then began living as – “Raymond S. Myers – a name he did not formally make legal until some time after he had married my mother – even after my older brother was born. Whether he was aware of his name change, or just hadn’t gotten around to the formalities of recording it remains a mystery. His children knew nothing of all of this until after his passing.

A few interesting hilights about my father’s mother “Dolly” (Myrtle) Myers/Smith.

My grandmother, whose maiden name was Dix, married and divorced her first husband, Frank Myers, and then married him again in 1913. He passed away in 1920. Then she married my grandfather, Otis T. Smith in 1924, and apparently left him only four or five years later. She eventually married another man named Alvin Morley in 1932 but had that marriage annulled in 1934. When I knew her, she was not married. She really did not even know who I was. My father and I used to go over to her house on South Burkett in Stockton every spring to do “spring cleaning.” I never understood why she didn’t know me, or why we didn’t see her more often, I just knew something wasn’t right. It seems that she could be a tad bit difficult and she was virtually estranged from her offspring.

My father had waited to marry until he was 27. My grandmother didn’t want him to – and she never accepted my mother… and that, as we all know, is almost always a losing position for a mother to take. So, that is probably why I know my grandmother only by what I can piece together from papers my father had kept of his mother’s.

The Jones Girl

Cathi was always called “the Jones girl” by her paternal grandmother. There were no Jones’ in the family (and still aren’t!) … but her grandmother called her “the Jones girl”, and that kind of became a nick-name. The first day of Kindergarten, when the teacher asked each of the pupils to introduce themselves, Cathi stood up and introduced herself by all three of her legal names as well as “Jones”. When the teacher questioned her about it she simply replied “That’s my WHOLE name.”

So, we decided to use these bits of family history and silliness to come up with the new blog name: “Smith and the Jones Girl”.

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