The Arrival of Vallorie

brenda starr, comic strip, baby name, queen vallorie
Brenda Starr meets Queen Vallorie

The name Valerie was rising fast on the baby name charts in the ’40s and ’50s, but the specific spelling Vallorie debuted and spiked in usage right in the middle of that period:

  • 1952: 8 baby girls named Vallorie
  • 1951: 5 baby girls named Vallorie
  • 1950: 49 baby girls named Vallorie [peak]
  • 1949: 6 baby girls named Vallorie [debut]
  • 1948: unlisted
  • 1947: unlisted

Why?

Comics! The Brenda Starr, Reporter comic strip featured a storyline called “Queen Vallorie” during the early months of 1950. Queen Vallorie wasn’t an adult, but a little girl who ran off to America with her dog (Veronica) after the death of her grandfather, the king of Gastovia (a fictional European nation). Vallorie was next in line for the throne.

Generations ago, fewer parents named their newborns right away — that’s how how a comic strip character from 1950 would have influenced the names of babies born 1949.

The main character of the strip, glamorous redhead Brenda Starr, had been modeled after actress Rita Hayworth and named after two things: debutante Brenda Frazier, and the fact that she was the star reporter at her newspaper, The Flash.

Strip creator Dale Messick (1906-2005) ended up naming her own daughter Starr (b. 1942) after the character. And when the character had a baby girl in 1977, the baby was in turn named Starr after Dale’s real-life daughter.

Dale herself was originally a Dalia, but was convinced (by a secretary at the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate) to change her first name to Dale “to get around the blatant sexism of the time.”

Sources: Cartoonist Dale Messick Dies; Creator of ‘Brenda Starr’ Strip, Dale Messick, 98, Creator of ‘Brenda Starr’ Strip, Dies, Another Starr Is Born, Brenda Starr Retires

Where Did Jymme Come From?

roberta shore, mickey mouse club, actress, 1950s
Jymme (later Roberta) Shore

The rare baby name Jymme has appeared in the SSA data just twice: first in 1955, last in 1963.

  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: 10 baby girls named Jymme
  • 1962: unlisted
  • …1957-1961: unlisted…
  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: 5 baby girls named Jymme [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted

Where did it come from? A singer/actress who started her career with one name, then switched to another.

She was born Roberta Jymme Schourup in 1943, but kicked off her career as Jymme Shore. (Jymme is pronounced “Jimmy.”)

As a youngster in the mid-1950s she appeared on 2 televised programs, The Tex Williams Show and The Pinky Lee Show, and also became associated with the Mouseketeers (she was too tall to become an official member of the group). It was around this time that the name Jymme debuted in the data.

While she worked for Disney, though, she changed her professional name:

“When the studio would send out information without a picture, ‘Jymme Shore’ ended up referred to as a he,” she explained. “Walt Disney actually was the one who suggested I use the name Roberta.”

(She continued to go by Jymme in her personal life.)

She worked for Disney a little longer — appearing on The Mickey Mouse Club, voicing animated characters, even yodeling the Switzerland part of the song It’s a Small World. Then she became an independent actor, appearing in TV shows and movies such as Maverick, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and even the infamous Lolita (1962).

Also in 1962, Roberta landed the role of Betsy Garth on the series The Virginian, which would go on to become one of TV’s most successful Westerns. Media coverage of the new show must have mentioned her former stage name, as this is the year “Jymme” returns for an encore in the data.

Roberta Shore played Betsy for three seasons. Then she got married and retired from show business altogether.

What are your thoughts on the name Jymme?

Sources:

The Baby Name Jarma

jarma lewis, actress, 1950s
Jarma Lewis

The rare name Jarma has appeared in the U.S. baby name data just twice so far:

  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 5 baby girls named Jarma
  • 1955: 7 baby girls named Jarma [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted

The influence? Movie and television actress Jarma Lewis, who was at the height of her relatively short career in the mid-’50s. One of her more memorable films was The Tender Trap (1955) starring Frank Sinatra.

She was born in Alabama in 1931, and her full name at birth was Jarma Toy Lewis. According to a 1955 newspaper article, she had “a first name of Czech origin and a middle name of Chinese derivation” despite being “of Irish-English descent.”

(I don’t think “Jarma” is a traditional Czech name, but it may have been based on a traditional Czech name such as Jaromír/Jaromíra or Jarmil/Jarmila.)

Do you like the name Jarma? Would you use it?

Sources:

  • “Jarma Goes From Dentists Office To Hollywood Studio.” Arizona Republic 20 Mar. 1955: 55.
  • Jarma Lewis – IMDb

The Coming of Cully and Case

TV, western, 50s, 60s
Cully and Case, characters from Johnny Ringo

The TV Western Johnny Ringo, based loosely on the life of Old West outlaw John Ringo, only lasted from 1959 to 1960. But that was long enough for two characters from the short-lived series to boost two new baby names onto the charts.

The first name was Case, which popped up in 1959:

  • 1962: 5 baby boys named Case
  • 1961: 6 baby boys named Case
  • 1960: 5 baby boys named Case
  • 1959: 5 baby boys named Case [debut]
  • 1958: unlisted

The corresponding character was Case Thomas, played by actor Terence De Marney. Case was an older man who spoke with an Irish lilt and owned the town general store. He was also the former town drunk.

The second name was Cully, which debuted in 1960:

  • 1962: 12 baby boys named Cully
  • 1961: 5 baby boys named Cully
  • 1960: 31 baby boys named Cully [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: unlisted

Not only was Cully the top debut name for boys that year, but it’s now tied for 47th biggest debut of all time with Omarian and Yul.

This one was inspired by the Deputy William “Cully” Charles, played by actor Mark Goddard (who later co-starred in Lost in Space).

But here’s the wrinkle: friendly old-timer Cully Wilson from the TV show Lassie (1954-1973) was introduced to TV audiences in 1959. He could have been an influence here as well.

The name Cully, despite its impressive start, never really gained traction among American parents. The name Case, on the other hand, entered the top 1,000 about a decade ago and is currently ranked 601st in the nation.

And while Johnny Ringo didn’t do much for the baby name Ringo, that one eventually showed up in the data thanks to The Beatles.

Source: Johnny Ringo (TV series) – Wikipedia

P.S. Like Trackdown (which gave us Hoby), Johnny Ringo was one of five shows spun off from Zane Grey Theatre. The Ringo episode aired in March, and the series premiered just siven months later, in October. In the episode, Case’s full name is revealed to be “Cason.”

The Surprising Source of Tierney

joseph mccarthy, adopted baby, tierney elizabeth
Joseph, Tierney and Jean McCarthy – Jan. 1957

The Irish surname Tierney first appeared in the U.S. baby name data in 1957. In fact, it was the top debut name of the year.

  • 1960: 18 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1959: 14 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1958: 26 baby girls named Tierney
  • 1957: 46 baby girls named Tierney [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

For a long time I’d assumed that Hollywood actress Gene Tierney was the cause. Then it dawned on me that Gene’s career was on the wane in 1957 — that the peak of her fame had been in the 1940s. So Gene wasn’t the answer.

But you know who was? The adopted daughter of the infamous politician Joseph McCarthy. (This makes Tierney a celebrity baby name, essentially.)

In early 1957, the Wisconsin senator (and zealous communist hunter) and his wife Jean adopted a five-week old baby girl from the New York Foundling Home. They named her Tierney Elizabeth.

Tierney’s first name came from Joe’s mom Bridget Tierney McCarthy; her middle name came from Jean’s mom Elizabeth Fraser Kerr. The name Tierney is based on the Irish surname Ó Tíghearnaigh, meaning “descendant of Tighearnach,” and the byname Tighearnach is based on the Old Irish word tigern, meaning “lord, master.”

The McCarthys brought Tierney home to Washington, D.C., on January 13. The same day, Joseph “announced over a nationwide television program [Press Conference on ABC] that he was a brand new father and invited photographers to his home for a preview of the new arrival.”

A second unfortunate event that gave the name another round of exposure was Joseph McCarthy’s death in May — a mere four months after the adoption. In fact, some newspapers (including the New York Daily News) re-ran the baby photos of Tierney alongside McCarthy’s obituary.

…Despite all this, I’m still left wondering about Gene Tierney’s influence. While she clearly didn’t inspire the debut, she had given the surname Tierney a strong feminine association. Was she the reason why the McCarthys opted for Tierney over Elizabeth as the primary name? Hm…

What are your thoughts on the baby name Tierney?

Sources:

  • Hanks, Patrick. (Ed.) Dictionary of American Family Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • “McCarthy Blasts Eisenhower Palace Guard.” Redlands Daily Facts [Redlands, Calif.] 14 Jan. 1957: 9.
  • “Meet Miss McCarthy.” News-Palladium [Benton Harbor, Mich.] 14 Jan. 1957: 3.

P.S. Baby Tierney was in the news at the same time as baby Sindee.