Peter Warland (1927-2022) was a writer, educator and mountaineer, and a long-time columnist for the Cranbrook Townsman. He passed away April 23, 2022, but was working on this piece in his last year. It has been finished from his scattered notes by Jack Loeppky and is edited and published here posthumously. It is a great honour to print Peter Warland’s last column in this space. A memorial for Peter Warland will be held Friday, July 15, at the Eagles Hall in Cranbrook, between 2 pm and 4 pm.
Years ago we did have a friend called Nick, but his family was “Kamage” so we forgot the Nick and called him “Damage”, and that’s the way names go. From our parents we get a surname and sometimes this hangs on grimly, but often there will appear a nickname that, although lurking in the shadows, will suddenly appear and attach itself to us.
When I was born the nurse attending my mother called me “Tarzan”. This is because I was covered with hair. However when my father came to visit and got over the shock of his nursing son, he explained patiently that to his knowledge the original Tarzan was a human being who was raised by apes. My mother apparently lost interest in that conversation, as she had other matters to contend with.
However, when I attended school, my friends decided to call me “Warhorse”, a derivative of Warland. Incidentally, my daughter found herself called “Wartland”, but not by those lads courting her. They had other ambitions.
The young lady, who when she became involved with my ambitions, already had a nickname. Apparently, she had been named Jean but when she too attended school the teacher discovered that several of the new girls were labelled Jean and so Jean was nicknamed “Jim” or “Jimmy”. Her father apparently called all youngsters “Sonny Jim”. She died, still a Jimmy to almost everyone.
Her mother, who came to stay with us was an Alice, but was soon labelled “Nan”. I have no idea what I was nicknamed when I was in the RAF. Some drill sergeants and other officials must have had nicknames for this clumsy oaf.
By the time we had beaten Hitler (or he had given up) I left the RAF and met several other youngsters, no longer much in uniform. They were called Wendy (“Tigger”), Richard (“Dick”) and, of course, the delectable Jean (“Jimmy”). She never called me Warhorse, but according to our children, I did have some sentimental names for Jimmy. Recently my daughter told me that I did call her mother “Wiggy” and that apparently it was a term of affection, short for Earwig. I don’t think I ever called her “Hon”.
Take the case of the local women who opted one spring to organize a celebratory lunch for their golf club. Naturally the spouses sneered at the meeting and, if they acknowledged it at all, called the event a giggle-fest and promptly forgot it. Elizabeth liked her golf outings and tried to organize the lunch, but Muriel got wind of it. Always with her nose to the ground like a blood-hound and also as member of the school board and city council, she took over. She chose a place a little too ritzy for the other ladies, who wondered if they had made a mistake.
Muriel swept in early and caught the diminutive waitress off balance. Muriel, quietly known as “Bossy”, waited for the others to arrive and take their places. Betty sat with Maureen, called “Mo” for years. ”How are you, Maureen?” asked her majesty, who knew that Maureen was an elementary teacher like her companion, Betty. But Mo had recently seen a TV show about Queen Elizabeth and Frances Drake. She sipped her wine, grimaced a bit, and said, “Did you see that show on Knowledge Net?” Betty had not, and said, “Bet Francis Drake did not call the Queen ‘Betty’. I’m going to change my name back to Elizabeth. I hate being called Betty. Wasn’t the Queen called ‘Bess’? I’d prefer that.” (I wonder if our present noble queen might have called her spouse “Flip” on his centennial).
Then in came Dagny and Ethel, often called the Terrible Twins and suspected of occasionally cheating just a tad on their golf scores. Scary Mary came in late. She was called “Scary” because, she was. Then Jacqueline, called “Jackie”, waltzed in and was in the midst of a “very important announcement about pregnancy.” Several of the others sat up and took notice, but Betty was still pre-occupied with Francis Drake. “Wonder if she called him “Duckie”, she said, “I would’ve.” Then, walking carefully with a cane, “Cedilla” entered and looked around carefully, selected a seat and eased herself down. Cedilla taught French at the high school and was engaged to another teacher who hadn’t yet found out why his fiancé was called Cedilla. But her aunt Eloise explained patiently that Cedilla was a crooked twisty sign under a letter C in French. Cedilla’s romance had died suddenly. Diana, once nicknamed “Princess” by an ardent admirer and who told him not to be so stupid and just let herself be called “Die Hard”, determined never to marry. But she changed her mind when Basil popped the question. She called him “Bazz” and he referred to her as “Di”, like the princess.
Bossy, who was hardly bovine, but a lady few people opposed, even her husband. She was not a good golfer, but put on a fine show and wished she might be club chairperson. Few of the other members were friendly towards her, and thus labelled her “Bossy”, in fact were inclined to dislike the woman. Frankie, who owned several dogs and was inclined to have dog hair on her clothes was called “Esau” and had recently left her husband, John. So chins wagged and names were slandered, the way things go. Also included were Jessica (“don’t call me ‘Jessie’ — that’s a boy’s name”), and Esther, called “Pester” by some brave people who would duck when she appeared with golf bag on her shoulders, and Nicola, named “Nicky”, who could blow a fuse if anyone dared get in her way.
When the giggle fest came near to ending, the club members started to part. Bossy was tired of the incessant chatter and the waitress had had enough. Her feet were tired and George, her cranky husband, would be wanting his evening meal. Ella, who had once been dubbed “elephant”, but had shed pounds of fat and could play a round of golf with aplomb and excel at it, jostled with several women and tried hard to remember their names. She eased past Daphne, who was usually called “Daph”, and “Fliss”, apparently Felicity. Dorothy pushed by with her friend, Carole, called “Caz”, who was wed to a plumber who was doing well, but didn’t think too much about golf, “Too much tramping around and looking for lost balls”; he was inclined to say too loudly. He and his buddy watched too much golf. Then Roberta also took off. She was called “Robot” because she did have jerky movements.
And then it was over, connections having been re-established and names reaffirmed, with some having had a good time, and others not so sure.