My grandmother (Granny) told me bedtime stories. Not the stories of Red Riding Hood or the Gingerbread Man, but family stories. One of my favorites was the naming of my dad and my uncle, her two youngest children. Here is how she told it.
On Christmas Eve 1929, my grandmother was due to bear her fourth child. My grandfather, a preacher, was preparing his message and the church for Christmas Day. Granny spent the day cooking, keeping three children under the age of six occupied with the excitement of Christmas looming and ever-present. She told me she killed the goose, plucked it, gutted it, cleaned it, put it into salt water, and placed it on the porch to stay cool until it was cooked. She prepared the pie and cake, readied the stuffing, and finished all the trimmings while preparing the Christmas tree.
After dinner that evening, she went into labor. The local physician came to the house to help with the delivery. Daddy was born on Christmas Eve. The name place on the birth certificate was left blank as Grandfather and Granny could not agree on the name. She wanted a son to have his father’s name. Grandfather was not fond of the name Clarence. He did not want to give his son this name. Granny said they could talk about it later.
On Christmas morning, the children received a wagon. Granny woke up and found the newborn infant being hauled around the house in this wagon by the three older children. Apparently, my grandfather had laid the baby in the wagon warmly snuggled in his blanket. The children thought it wonderful fun that they could show their new brother the world. Granny said she was scared the wagon would tip over.
Christmas Day, my grandfather gave his message to the congregation and announced the birth of the new baby. He was asked the name of the child. He knew Granny would try to convince him to name the baby Clarence. Instead, he took an opportunity. He had preached from the Gospel of John and one of his dear friends was named Oliver. He announced, “The new baby’s name is John Oliver.” Granny learned of this when grandfather came home.
Granny was a clever woman. Two years later, she gave birth to my uncle. When the doctor asked the name of the child, she asked him to put my Grandfather’s initials C D with space to write the name. It was her intent to convince my grandfather to name the child after him. However, my grandfather circumvented the naming again. My grandfather completed the birth certificate by writing Charles Dayton, giving the baby a name after his favorite writing preacher, Charles Spurgeon, and Dayton after another friend.
As we move forward to much later years, two of my grandparents’ grandchildren bore the name Clarence. One of whom is my brother. Grandfather could not protest these names as these grandsons were born long after he passed away. Granny prevailed and she may have had the last word. She had the ability to wait for the right opportunity. I believe she was very pleased to have this name continue in the family.
We hope to name the branch of our new library soon. Its name should have significance to our community. The library’s Board of Trustees have this thoughtful task in front of them. Just as with the birth of a new baby, I am excited to learn what they might name this branch. Please look forward with me to hearing this news. I am sure we will announce it loudly much like from the pulpit.