The Apex of Arlynne

arlynne, roller derby, baby name, news, sports, 1950s

The baby name Arlynne popped up a few times in the SSA data in the ’30s and ’40s before seeing its highest-ever usage in 1951:

  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 15 baby girls named Arlynne [peak]
    • 5 in New York specifically
  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted

What caused this isolated popularity spike?

Arlynne Buchmann, a 19-year-old New Jersey roller skater who was voted Roller Derby Beauty Queen of 1950. At least two different photos of her ran in various newspapers in from mid-1950 to mid-1951.

A former model, Arlynne had only been skating for only 14 months in the fledgling National Roller Derby League (NRDL) before being voted “Queen” by fans. At that time, the league consisted of six teams. Arlynne’s was the Jersey Jolters.

In fact, the early 1950s was when Roller Derby itself was at peak popularity. The sport, which had been around since the 1930s, began to be televised locally in New York City in 1948 — back when TV sets could only be found in bars and storefronts. This coverage was enough to kick off a national craze.

For instance, Roller Derby fans included well-known celebrities like Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan, Cesar Romero, Sonja Henie, Eddie Cantor, Marilyn Maxwell, Eleanor Powell, George Raft, Jack Benny, W. C. Fields, Cary Grant, George Burns, and Gracie Allen. Many were photographed either at games or socializing with Derby athletes.

Also notable is the fact that a multi-day “Roller Derby World Series” was held annually at Madison Square Garden starting in 1949. Here’s some video footage of the very first one.

By the mid-1950s, the public had grown tired of the sport due to TV overexposure (ironically). Though Roller Derby continues to this day, it has never again achieved the level of popularity that it had for a handful of years in the middle of the 20th century.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Arlynne? Would you use it?

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