A few years ago, I met up with my fifth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Karen, and we found ourselves reminiscing about what it was like for her teaching 46 children in a classroom back in 1956.
She happened to have in her brief-case that day a list of my fifth-grade class and gave me a copy.
Later that year, as I perused the names of my classmates back then, I got to thinking: have there been cultural changes in first names given to children from then until today? After all, in covering high school sports in the Mille Lacs area these past 15 years I’ve certainly come across the first names of many Isle and Onamia students, and I’ve noticed there has been a considerable shift in what parents are naming their children today as opposed to 65 years ago when I attended grade school.
By simply checking the 46 first names of my class in the 1950s with the first names on the class list of the pre-school children at a local Mille Lacs grade school, I found a prime example of this cultural change. What I found was this: there was not one first name among the 27 children in the 2022 preschool classroom which I surveyed in the fall of 2022 that matched any of the 46 children at Holy Spirit grade school in St. Cloud in 1956. Listed below are the names from the past and the names of the present in my findings.
Holy Spirt Grade School - 1956
James, Jean, David, Shirley, Judith, Jeanne, Allen, Carol, Mary, Roger, Betty, Dennis, Mary Ellen, Sandra, Linda, Douglas, Roman, Gayle, Ronald, Daniel, Diana, Rosemary, Mary Jo, Kathleen, Jerome, Patricia, Norma, Bonnie, Sharon, Lu Ann, Terrence, Thomas, Scott, Louise, Lloyd, George, Richard, Christopher, William and Robert (me).
It used to be said that the norm for Catholic parents (which we were all products of at Holy Spirit school six decades ago) was to name their children after Saints in that religion, and one can see there are lots of Saint names among those in the class of 1956.
Dare say, that unwritten rule is no longer in vogue today.
It is almost as though parents for the past several decades have reached as far as they dare to find unique first names for their children.
In fact, popular first names are now kept track of and in the recent past these are the top 10 boys and girls names in America: Boys: Liam, Noah, Oliver, Mason, Lucas, Elijah, Logan, Ethan, James and Aiden. Girls: Emma, Olivia, Ava, Isabella, Sophia, Amelia, Mia, Charlotte, Harper and Mila.
Although, many of the popular names of the past few years are taken from the Christian Bible, there is only the Catholic Saint James, who made the top 10.
And, may I ask, as long as parents seem to be looking for that rare first name, why not Judas or Adolph?
Then again, those of us Baby Boomers may find ourselves lucky we did not get names such as Teckla, Victoria, Alvina, Sylvia or Ignatius. So, we’ve got that going for us.
Bob Statz is a semi-professional photo journalist employed by the Mille Lacs Messenger.
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