Where did the baby name Glenalee come from in 1951?

glenna lee mccarthy, glenalee, baby name, 1950s

The baby name Glenalee was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. data in 1951. (In fact, it was tied for 1951’s top one-hit wonders of the year.)

  • 1953: unlisted
  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 9 baby girls named Glenalee [debut]
  • 1950: unlisted
  • 1949: unlisted

Where did it come from?

An oil heiress who eloped with a cobbler’s son!

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. (Which…could 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)?

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4 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Glenalee come from in 1951?

  1. Oh you’re right — I didn’t make that association, but I can see it now. It’s like retrofitting a trendy ending onto a old-fashioned name. :)

  2. Glennalee McCarthy is my mother! She was truly one of the most beautiful women you have ever seen! She is gone to heaven now, passing away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s in October of 2015! Not a day goes by without thinking of her many many times! Our sailboat is named after her! It’s the Glenna Lee 11!

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