Where are Debbie, Bobby, Billy and, yes, Kathy?

A class photo from Madoc Township Public School, back in the day. The teacher is Jan (Janice) Bruce, and my sister, Melanie, had about the most exostic name in the class.

A class photo from Madoc Township Public School, back in the day. The teacher is Jan (Janice) Bruce, and my sister, Melanie (blue jacket and long reddish-brown hair, front row and just to the right of the class sign), had about the most exotic name in the class. Maybe the whole school.

I was reading the local papers (as I love to do) when Raymond and I were (briefly) at the Manse last weekend, and I was quite taken by a photo showing children at my old elementary school, Madoc Township Public School, who had been named “Terrific Kids” for the months of December and January.

(I am not entirely sure what the “Terrific Kids” thing is all about, but it seems to be a recognition of children who have been good sports, well-behaved, kind to others, etc. All good.)

What I was struck by – aside from their beautiful smiling faces – were their names. Which were: Mikayla, Memphys, Aylah, Morgan, Mercedes, Megan, Riley, Charity, Justice, Emerson, Lila and Terra.

To which I can only say: gracious! Times have changed. (But then, you all knew that.)

When I was a student at Madoc Township Public School (between 1966 and 1971 – the dawn of time, I realize), we were named Debbie and Darren and Don (or Donny) and Dave (or David) and Diane and Donna; Linda and Larry and Lisa; John (or Johnny) and Jerry (or Gerald); Carl and Connie and Ken (or Kenny) and Kathy (or Cathy) and Karen and Kevin; Janet and Jim (or Jimmy); Mary Anne and Mike; Sandra and Sheila; Billy and Bobby; Allen (or Allan), and Lloyd and Terry and Marlene and Peter… old names; ordinary names. The teachers often had to use both first and last names when they called on one of us, because it was so common for there to be more than one Debbie or Billy or Kathy/Cathy in the class.

Not any more, evidently. All those made-up names the kids have now! Cute as anything, but I await the return of old-fashioned names. It’s bound to happen, you know. And no, I’m not talking about the classic biblical names that’ll always be with us, like Michael and Daniel and David. I am talking about the names a little earlier than my generation – Doris, and Eileen, and Harriet, and Betty. And those of my own generation: bring back Linda, I say! And Debbie. And Keith. And Laurie…

Oops. Speaking of Keith and Laurie, and my generation:

12 thoughts on “Where are Debbie, Bobby, Billy and, yes, Kathy?

  1. The boys and I have noticed the same thing when we see lists of students’ names outside classrooms at their school–especially younger classes. It’s an interesting contrast, since older names like Abby, Grace, Emily and Hannah are coming back for girls, alongside the made-up or creatively spelled ones (Jaxson and Chyvonne, anyone?). But there are also kids named Keith, Malcolm, Charlie, Ellen and even two Megans in Yannick’s class. (The occasional person who’s never been to Quebec and doesn’t watch hockey thinks “Yannick” is something we made up, of course.) To me, this trend is most dramatically illustrated in death notices: the person who’s died is Gladys or Pearl or Joe; their children are Barbara or Kevin; and the grandchildren are Frappuccino and Taylor.

    • I think it’s so nice that those really old names (Grace, Hannah, Charlie) are coming back. But I have to tell you, Nancy, the highlight for me of reading your comment was “Frappuccino and Taylor.” I’ve been chuckling about that all day!

  2. You’re so right about those exotic names – kids committed with no right of refusal to a lifetime of “would you mind spelling that?”. I do think a backlash has begun. Recent christenings among friends and relatives have sent forth children with names like Sam, Joe, Grace and Nancy (the latter two are British grand-nieces, and I do believe they’ve done a better job ‘over ‘ome’ of keeping the old names).

    By the way, Terrific Kids is a character education and student recognition program sponsored by Kiwanis Clubs, in local schools. Check them out.

    It was just lovely to see the two of you in Toronto…what a night. Just came across a nice account in Hazlitt Feb.7…was wondering why I was getting blog traffic via Random House…:-)

  3. Our resident teacher (retired) says she agrees and she can put last names on almost all those students!! How cool is that, Katrina?

  4. I’m from the time when everyone was a Jennifer. Teaching, I see all of those crazy names (seriously, how many ways are there to spell Kaitlyn? Catelyn. Kaitlynn. Katelyn. Caitlynn. – you get the picture – and don’t even get me started on Ashley). BUT, Emma is coming back big, I have an Esther, and I also have a Ruth, two Victorias, one Molly, an Ingrid, two Natalies, and a Mathilda. There’s also a Wilgene. For the boys, it has remained fairly normal. We have a large Hispanic population, so you see many traditional names like Jorge, Roberto, Jose, Ariel, Jonattan, etc. Some of the girl’s names for that population are Francesca, Bhianca, Francyelli, Paola, and Brenda. I have a Declan- his parents are from Ireland. And for the grand finale: We have a young man named Proppy. (Your guess is as good as mine) I agree that some of the old names are coming back – I also think that many of the new parents have hit ‘creative name overload’.

    • Ah yes, Nicole, the Jennifer and Jason years! “J-babies,” someone I know used to call them. I remember a boy from that era named Jabus. Really? Jabus? But how nice that you’ve also got students (I didn’t know you were a teacher – very cool!) named Esther and Victoria and Declan – great old and time-honoured names. As for Proppy – well, words fail me.

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