Steve Tenney is a former resident of St. James and a long time friend of many residents still in St. James. Here is his tribute to the small town and the quirky traditions he shares with his friends.
St. James and its denizens hold fond memories for me. Many of the people stand out to me vividly by reason of their colorful and varied nicknames.
There was a Gronk, an Iffy, an Inky and a Sailor, Tubby and a Giggs, plus Slough Pumper. Some of these men have died or moved away from our hometown, but many remain. They all have two things in common---they were natives of St. James and all had labels different than their given names.
Some of their monikers haven't a thing to do with their God-given name such as Toupie, Lumpy, Big Al, Hog or Funk and others... like Banno, Bame, Weather Bear and Squid. Some of these infamous names are specific to a time or situation that is nearly impossible to decipher exactly how they ended up with it.
My name is Steve Tenney and I have visited a lot of communities in my 63 years. I moved to Charles City, Iowa almost 30 years ago because that's where I found gainful employment at the time. I have traveled extensively for my job but have never been in a community comparable to my hometown.
I'm not sure why so many people go by names other than the one their parents gave them, but I'm sure each has their own particular story. I believe it has to do with the era that we all grew up in, one where we were very well-acquainted with our neighbors and maybe the size of our town. I do know one thing, though, these men and their aliases make for some wonderful memories.
Having another handle such as Obie, Mole, CY or Hub was almost a requirement for a male growing up in St.James in the mid-twentieth century. It seems like it was part of a cycle of life in our small town. People are born, given nicknames as they grow and that moniker seems to stick with them until they die, even the obituaries refer to them by their pseudonyms i.e. Webb, or Tiny and many others no longer with us.
There is something special about St. James, it is a place where people feel comfortable using monikers such as Fruity, Wacky and Buckwheat.
Lets try one slightly more seemingly inappropriate, but fitting to the man, Maggot---not quite a nickname one would give himself but an endearing one anyway. Maggot fought in Vietnam and was as tough a man as tough could be.
Oh yes, we also have a couple of Pintails, a Cub and a Fox and if you were to ask for a Bob---good luck figuring out who that might be. But if you were to inquire about a Stub, Satch, Putt-Putt or Beans, all would know who you were talking about. Again it's not just the nicknames that make St. James unique; it's a place where people remain loyal and friends are forever. I can call Tom-Cat, Breezie, Odie or Hooker anytime and they know they can do the same---we will be friends to the very end.
Either way the nicknames usually fell into two categories: the straightforward Mac, Smokey, or Butch or, of course, there was the peculiar Stymie, Dobie and Cheetah.
Some labels are really the opposite of who the person is... They may be called Pope or Monk, Mort and even Doc and it has nothing to do with their occupations.
Now if you're Snow Ball or Skinny or Slim, it probably is obvious why they've been dubbed that appellation. Our town also had its fair share of Reds: there was Red-Z Red-M, 2 Red-Bs and Red-R. Oh yes, and I can't forget the Swedes, Dutch, Fritz or the Blackies, Whiteys, or even the Mick.
To have this many nicknames in one small area, well, that's just who we were and continue to be today.
St. James you will always be my home.
-Steve Tenney, aka "Mouse"