The Height of Harolyn

Harolyn, 1945

The baby name Harolyn saw peak usage in the U.S. in 1945:

  • 1947: 28 baby girls named Harolyn
  • 1946: 19 baby girls named Harolyn
  • 1945: 45 baby girls named Harolyn
    • 13 born in New York
    • 6 born in Pennsylvania
  • 1944: 12 baby girls named Harolyn
  • 1943: 13 baby girls named Harolyn

Why?

Because of a pint-sized beauty queen from New Jersey named Harolyn Cheryl Meyer.

It all started the year before, in May of 1944, when the men aboard the USS New Jersey (at that time involved in WWII and stationed near the Philippines) decided to hold a beauty contest. The crew “wrote to the New Jersey state Chamber of Commerce proposing a pinup contest among girls from the state whose pictures would be posted on the battleship’s bulletin boards.”

On May 17th, the request was published in the Newark Evening News. The crew soon ended up with about 75 entrants. All of them were young women…except for one. The odd one out was a smiling 5-month-old baby in her birthday suit.

That was baby Harolyn Meyer, born in December of 1943. The photo had been taken for her father, Army Air Forces pilot Lieutenant Harold Meyer, who hadn’t yet seen her. Harold’s Flying Fortress had recently been shot down over Europe, and he was being held as a prisoner of war in Germany.

The photo was submitted by Harolyn’s mother’s mother, who thought entering the baby’s picture in a pin-up contest as a joke would lift her daughter’s spirits.

The crew of the USS New Jersey took a vote in November, and, surprisingly, Harolyn won the contest with 555 out of 1,376 votes. One crewmember later suggested that “his fellow seamen may have been captivated by the photograph of the infant because she reminded them of home and family.”

In December, Mrs. Meyer was notified by letter that Harolyn had become the ship’s official pin-up girl. The win was also announced in the papers.

More importantly, though, an updated photo of Harolyn — now 15 months old — ran on the front pages of various newspapers starting in March of 1945. (The photo appeared as late as July in some papers.) It showed Harolyn and her mother meeting with New Jersey governor Walter E. Edge, who was presenting Harolyn with $3,200 in War Bonds “through donations by the crew of the USS New Jersey for use in obtaining her future education.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name Harolyn?

Sources:

  • Journal Page 7b – Battleship USS New Jersey BB-62
  • “Bonds for Pin-up Baby.” Record [Hackensack, New Jersey] 16 March 1945: 1.
  • “Pinup Baby Given War Bonds” Mount Dora Topic 17 May 1945: 1.
  • “Pin-up Girl Poses in Birthday Suit.” News-Press [Fort Myers, FL] 14 Dec. 1944: 2.

P.S. A secondary influence on this name may have been Harolyn (b. 1943), the daughter of Dorothy Dandridge and Harold Nicholas.

P.P.S. Harolyn’s middle name, Cheryl, was very on-trend for the mid-1940s.

2 thoughts on “The Height of Harolyn

  1. I never heard of the name Harolyn before your site :) It’s looks and sounds nice. H names for girls are rare, especially girly sounding ones. I usually love names like this – names that are popular but have the twist with a new first letter (like Ziara as a spin on Siara/Sierra) – and this is one of them.

  2. I thought “Harolyn” was such a cute way to feminize Harold. :)

    I guessed that there also might be a “Carolyn” in the family tree somewhere, but the baby’s mother was a Vivian, and her grandmothers were Lillian and Madeleine. (All these names do have that final n-sound in common, though, so maybe this was a factor in coming up with the baby’s name.)

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