Whistleberries: My first nickname – #atozchallenge

Whistleberries: My first nickname. Twenty-third of twenty-six posts in the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme “Whispering Chimneys: My Altamont childhood” — where my genealogy journey began. Wish me luck — I’m in the home stretch!

My maternal grandparents lived with our family at Whispering Chimneys — but they had their own set of friends and social life over on their side of the farmhouse.  And it was one of their friends who gave me my first nickname: Whistleberries.

My grandmother (we called her Boom) ran a country antique and collectibles shop down by the road. To keep the shop stocked, she and Gramps went to country auctions. That’s where they met Electa and Floyd, who became regular visitors to the farm.

I called them Aunt Electa and Uncle Floyd — though they weren’t related to us — and they seemed to be another well-matched couple. Electa was outgoing with a hearty laugh and personality as big as all outdoors — while I remember Floyd as more subdued.

At the dining table

During one of Electa and Floyd’s visits, my grandparents must have been babysitting me, because we were all gathered around their dining table together. My grandmother made Boston baked beans.

On my maternal grandparents’ porch at Whispering Chimneys circa 1951. That’s me in the middle on my Aunt Rita’s lap, with my grandmother to my left and my grandfather in front of her, next to the unknown lady in the dark dress. The couple in the foreground looks right to be Uncle Floyd and Aunt Electa. Scan: Molly Charboneau

When Boom brought the steaming crock to the table, Electa said, “Well, what do you know — whistleberries!”

She was referring to the beans’ gas-inducing properties — but the idea of whistling berries started me laughing and I couldn’t stop!

After that, every time Electa visited all she had to say was “whistleberries” and I would collapse with laughter. Over time this morphed into, “Hey, Whistleberries!” when she saw me — and thus my first nickname was born.

The big hug

The other thing I remember about Aunt Electa was her big hug. If my brother Mark and I were around, she’d head right for us with her arms outstretched — and when she hugged you, you knew it!

In fact Mark, who was only about three, used to stiffen up in anticipation as soon as he heard her voice — and when Electa hugged him his little face would turn red!

Electa and Floyd were just two of many friends in my grandparents’ lives — but they were among the most memorable from my childhood.

Canajoharie country auctions

I wondered what became of Electa and Floyd, so I did some research and found Aunt Electa’s obtuary on Find-a-Grave. Turns out they were from Canajoharie in Montgomery County, New York — which is probably where my grandparents them on an antiques buying foray.

Friends, associates and neighbors like these can help us find our forbears in a sea of records — and they can also tell us a bit about our ancestors’ lives.

Aunt Electa and Uncle Floyd are prime examples, and I am so lucky to have met them.

Up next – X-mas at Whispering Chimneys. Please stop back!

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16 thoughts on “Whistleberries: My first nickname – #atozchallenge”

  1. What a cute story and lovely photograph on the porch steps! Being from the south myself I was always taught to address adults as either Mr or Miss with their first name or aunt and uncle; signs of respect!

    1. I think it’s a common term of affection for family friends up north, too. Funny how even as a child I knew the difference between aunts and uncles I was related to and these visiting aunts and uncles. The term is also a valuable family history clue. My dad’s memory of “someone named Uncle Sid” from his childhood helped me find some of my paternal relatives.

  2. The stories of our nicknames often gives insights into our family life. Electa sounds like a character on her own. The nickname as you said, helps keep the memory alive. Thank you for sharing your stories and helping us to think of our own.

    1. That she was! I think the fact that she had a booming voice and was such a presence when she arrived made her memorable to me when I was little.

    1. Thanks, Sara. I used to be amused by it at the time, too. Sometimes I’d warn him, “Here comes Aunt Electa!” if I heard her voice in the front hallway. But there was no escaping the hugs once she was headed our way 🙂

  3. Friends of family would have been hugely important, but when we go back a few generations we don’t know of them. The best chance we have of picking them up sometimes is as godparents. Electa and Floyd sound delightful people to have known.

    My first nickname was podgums as I guess I was a bit podgy. That morphed into possum as I have always liked sleeping.
    My godmother’s daughter was called Bubs as in the baby bubs. That changed to Bubbles. She is called Bubbles by everybody except officially. My daughter finds it funny that a grown woman could be known by such a nickname. 🙂

    1. These are great nickname stories, Anne. I suppose my Whistleberries nickname was partial payback for calling my grandmother Booma (instead of Gandma) when I was little — so she became known in our family as Boom ever after 🙂 So true what you say about the friends of our ancestors — had I not met Electa and Floyd as a child, that connection might have been lost to history.

    1. Not at all! It was the first of several less-than-fuzzy nicknames I’ve had over the years — and you’re right, a very funny one 🙂

    1. Totally! In fact, had I not laughed I might have escaped that particular moniker — but I’m glad I found it funny because it helped the memory of Electa and Floyd stick.

    1. Thanks so much, Fran! Have always meant to thank you for being one of the first to visit my blog when I was just starting out.

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