Most subjects now become obsolete the moment you finish writing about them. Six months ago “essential businesses” weren’t even discussed. Today, due to a virus, what is an essential business” is a controversial and hotly debated topic. Ruth & I can’t get our garage door fixed while all around us employed construction workers bustle about and a woman in Texas is in jail for opening her hair salon.
I found a scrap of paper on which I had written a funny nickname for Saltair. This resort on the Great Salt Lake in Utah was called “The cursed Coney Island of The West”. This made me laugh and wonder if Saltair is still opened. Research began. I learned that this once-impressive, lake-surrounding resort was a project for the Mormon Church. They nicknamed it “the Coney Island of the West” but it fell on hard times and hasn’t been opened since the 1970s.
The internet is full of funny town names, but I read that Youngstown, Ohio, is or once was nicknamed “Murdertown USA”. Not Chicago? Wilmington, Delaware! I got to wondering if this was still true about Youngstown or years old info. The source of that nickname told me that Youngstown has the highest murder rate in the US and that, if you go there, you have a 1 in 136 chance of becoming the victim of a violent crime. I looked for and didn’t find anything recent so assumed this is an old nickname that may no longer be true but probably still hurts this community. The most recent statistic I could find was from 2019 when Youngstown experienced 15 homicides for the year by October 15.
I continued to search for funny nicknames for towns and places, and I laughed when I read that 2 towns I know well, Champaign-Urbana, IL, is nicknamed “Shampoo-Banana” and Berleley, CA is referred to as “Berzerkeley”.
I read that a town in Kansas named Jennings invites me to “Czech It Out”. Last year I wrote about a relatively new Czech museum in La Grange, TX and am now wondering how many Czechs emigrated to the USA and now want attention?
Probably the US city with the most nicknames is Portland, OR. Ruth and I live near Portland and laugh when we hear “You have to have a tattoo to live here” or come across the ubiquitous phrase “Keep Portland Weird”. Less humorous but still often applied are The City of Roses, Bridge City, It’s Always Raining, and Beervana, which is decreasingly true. Probably the state with the most nicknamed towns is California where Del Mar is called “Where the turf meets the surf”, Solvang is the “Danish Capital of America”, and Berkeley is also referred to as “The Peoples’ Republic of Berkeley”. We used to visit Ruth’s aunt in Fallbrook, “Avocado capital of the world”. Chicago has many nicknames as does New Orleans. New York has fewer familiar nicknames than both of these cities for some reason.
Oberlin, Ohio, is nicknamed “The town that started the Civil War” and I wondered why. Oberlin has the reputation of having been an abolitionist town, but then I learned that a man named Nat Brandt wrote a book by that name published in 1991.
May 7th, 2020 at 3:13 am
Dear Hank and Ruth, having lived in Champaign-Urbana for most of the ’70s, your reference to Shampoo-Banana brought back many pleasant memories. Garcias Pizza in a Pan with their famous hot air balloon, REO Speedwagon performing at the Chances R Saloon, 50 cent cover charge, and the Fighting Illini playing(mostly losing) football at Zuppke Field. Thank you for mentioning it!