Like the name Tirrell, the curious name Gamble appears regularly these days in the boys’ data, but it first popped up as a girl name — just once — in 1961:
1961: 5 baby girls named Gamble [debut]
Where did it come from?
Another runaway heiress! This one was New York debutante/heiress Gamble Benedict, the granddaughter of Henry Harper Benedict (1844-1935), co-owner of the Remington Typewriter Company.
During the last days of 1959, 18-year-old Gamble ran away from home to be with her 35-year-old Romanian-born boyfriend, Andrei Porumbeanu (who already had a wife, Helma, and daughter, Gigi).
Gamble and Andrei first fled to Paris, where they stayed for most of January. (Gamble turned 19 mid-month.) At the end of the month, Gamble was apprehended by Paris police and “flown home to her stern dowager grandmother.”
The pair ran off again in April, after Andrei had obtained a Mexican divorce. This time they went south. They married in North Carolina on the 6th, then took a plane to Florida for a honeymoon.
The story was in the news for months on end during the first half of the year. (Several years later, in 1964, Time magazine summed it up as an “endlessly publicized…runaway marriage.”)
So what became of the couple? They ended up having two sons (George and Gregory) and spent most of their time in Switzerland…before Gamble initiated divorce proceedings in mid-1963.
Though I never found an explanation for Gamble’s unique first name, my guess is that it’s a surname that can be found somewhere in her family tree.
What are your thoughts on the name “Gamble” for a baby (male or female)? Would you use it?
The bride was 17-year-old Glenna Lee McCarthy, daughter of famous Texas oilman Glenn McCarthy. She was a student at Lamar High School in Houston at the time.
(Glenn McCarthy was one of the men who inspired Edna Ferber to write the novel Giant in 1952. It was later made into a film starring James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson.)
The groom was 19-year-old George Pontikes, son of a Greek cobbler. He had graduated from Lamar and was now attending Rice University, where he played football.
In early December, 1950, the pair ran off to Waco to be married by a justice of the peace. News of their elopement broke toward the end of the month — right around the time that Glenna’s older sister, Mary Margaret, was getting married in a much more traditional manner. (That must have been awkward.)
Glenna and George were in the news for several days straight at the very end of 1950. Many papers, including the New York Times, mistakenly called the bride “Glenalee McCarthy.” (Not all did, though, and the baby name Glenna saw peak usage in 1951 as a result.)
Papa Glenn McCarthy was unhappy about the elopement at first, but one paper reported that “trigger-tempered McCarthy” had “calmed down after [the] initial outburst of anger.” Perhaps he was quick to forgive because the situation was eerily familiar: He’d eloped with his own wife, the 16-year-old daughter of a wealthy oilman, back when he was a 23-year-old gas station attendant in 1930.
Do you like the name Glenalee (…even if it started out as a typo)?
“Cobbler’s Son Weds Glenalee M’Carthy.” New York Times 27 Dec. 1950: 38.