Friday, March 6, 2015

Brighton

Harold Teen, long-running comic strip from 1919 to 1959

Harold Daugherty was not the only boy growing up in America in the 1930s and 1940s with that particular moniker. In 1927, Harold was the fourteenth most popular name for boys. Although it never broke the Top Ten list, it remained one of the top twenty names given to boys from 1899 to 1935. So Brighton's dislike for his given name was certainly not borne out of the misfortune of carrying something unique and bizarre and embarrassing, like Hercules or Hezekiah. It was just Harold.

But the name Harold just didn't suit the young man. He had no other nicknames as a boy that I am aware of, and his mother adored the name she had bestowed upon her baby and favorite child. But it was also name she also used to torment him.

"Harold! H-A-R-O-L-D!!! Harold Snodgrass, get in this house right now!"

Interestingly, I find no reference to a Harold Snodgrass in fiction, radio, or popular culture. Perhaps it was just a ludicrous pairing of names that elicited the mental image of a frumpy old man or a nerdy awkward boy that caused Brighton's mother to giggle with glee when she employed this means of addressing her son, while at the same time causing him to wince, red-faced from embarrassment. Even in the modern world, the combination is used arbitrarily as a source of derision. In an article entitled "The Art of the Pseudonym," from Shelf Actualization, the authors discuss creating a new identity. "Make it cool. It's a pen name, for crying out loud. It's your one chance to throw off the chains of being Harold Snodgrass and become Alistair Gilchrist, Emory Stanton, Thibadeaux Sykes or Jewett McFadden." Harold Daugherty would become quite adept at reinvention, his change of name being just one of the forms it would inhabit.

Harold Daugherty was no Harold Snodgrass, but he wasn't a hip or popular Harry or Hal either. Regrettably, one seldom bestows upon themselves a nickname as a child that sticks. If your mother calls you Harold, your siblings call you Harold, your teachers call you Harold, the world calls you Harold. Whether you like it or not. Harold did not like it.

But as Harold became a teenager and his persona became one of his own making, his dislike for his name intensified. 

"Harold Teen" was an immensely popular comic strip in the United States. Debuting in the Chicago Tribune in 1919, it was the only comic of its time to feature an adolescent main character. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Harold Teen spoke the lingo of the teenagers of his day, coining such slang terms and expressions as "paintywaist," "Yowsah!" and "Fan mah brow!" Harold Teen became a pop cultural phenomenon, spawning movie versions of the comic strip character in 1928 and 1934, and a Chicago-based radio show in 1941.

But as Harold Teen's creator, Carl Ed, aged, his connection to the teens of the 1940s grew more distant. And although the character Harold Teen joined the Navy during the war years, the popularity of the comic waned, and the main character was considered an irrelevant joke for pre-War youth.

When Kate Daugherty moved into a new rental house in South Bend in 1943, all of her children but the youngest had finished school. Harold Daugherty left South Bend Central High School and entered into Washington High School. The school was filled with teenage children of the predominantly working-class Polish west side communities, and a fresh-faced Irish-sounding interloper was a perfect target for testosterone-laden bullies. The boys treated the artistic, fashion-forward Harold Daugherty roughly. He hated it.

And they taunted him with "Harold Teen" Daugherty, a mocking parody of what a teenager was supposed to be.

Harold Daugherty had a middle name, although his birth certificate does not state it. His brother, and his two sisters all had middle names, but none of their birth certificates reveal more than a single first name. Brighton insists that upon his confirmation into the church he was allowed to choose his own middle name. Although choosing a confirmation name is a custom practiced largely in the Roman Catholic Church in this country, the Daughertys went to a Methodist Episcopal Church. There appears to be a custom amongst the African Methodist Episcopal Church where confirmands choose a new name, but it is rarely seen in the modern Methodist or Anglican denominations. But Brighton insists that he chose his own name, although the age at which he did so varies upon the time he tells the story, and to whom he tells it.

I was to find out that Brighton is a master story teller. Sometimes the story is factual. Sometimes the story is based on fact. And sometimes the story is just that: a story, a fanciful tale of daring-do and whimsy. Brighton just happens to be the main character in all of the above.

The middle name that Harold was given by his parents, or perhaps the middle name he chose for himself, was James.

Harold James Daugherty.

The first reinvention of the man occurred when he left Harold Daugherty to his tormented childhood. When Harold quit high school at the age of seventeen to join the United States Navy, he became James "Jim" Daugherty. 

Jim Daugherty was the man who returned home from the Navy in 1946 and met my grandmother, Helen Marie Miller, for at least one very fateful encounter. Jim Daugherty was the young man of the 1950s whose travels and adventures you will learn about at another time.

But the grandfather I had found after my DNA-laden journey was a man named Brighton Daugherty, and it was actually well over a dozen emails into my flurry of correspondence with Donna that I thought to ask, "Where did Brighton come from?"

The response I got harkened back to his days in Hawaii. In 1963, while living in Lahaina, the villagers of this sleepy but historic town learned to love the haole newcomer, and they called the six-foot Jim Daugherty, "Beeg Jeem," or "Kimo," the Hawaiian form of James. It was not until Jim built his own 40-foot trimaran in 1969, that the other sailors and harbor locals knew him by his yellow-and-white boat propelled by the sail he had made embellished with a giant, bright orange sun. His early morning habits and his conspicuous and oft-sighted boat gained him the nickname "Bright Morning Sun." And so, Bright - or Brighton - was born, and the name became his unofficial designation from that time forward, appearing on all forms of identification and legal papers.

Clever little story, isn't it?

Did I tell you my grandfather was a story teller? Let him tell you how he got the name Brighton.




Wait... spotted doing naked yoga in the early morning hours by an innocent young child? What does this have to do with a big sun on a sail? The only similarity between the two version of the origin of his nickname lies in the phrase "bright morning sun."

In the past, when confronted with such disparate versions of the beginnings of his life as Brighton, he has chuckled, and with his charming smile, innocently asked, "Oh, is that the version I told them?"

Yes, Harold James "Brighton" Daugherty, loves to tell a story.

This writer has been an advocate of seeking the truth long before the players in this drama had been identified. But who is qualified to assess what the "truth" really is? And is one person's truth a fallacy to someone else? As time passes and memories fade, what survives? The truth in its bare-bones form? Or a greatly embellished version of it?

What is the truth?

In 1992, Brighton's wife, Gay, relayed the following:

"Jim became Brighton during the late 60's and early 70's when there was a wonderful revolution in thinking and a shift in societies [sic] values triggered by the Viet Nam war. During that era our names were Bright & Gay Morningsun and our mailing address was ℅ The Seabreeze, Lahaina, Maui, Hi. We enjoyed the whimsy of the times."

Or as his niece told me, 
"...when Jim (his original name was Harold James Daugherty - but he HATED his name)... hooked up with Gay... they decided together to legally change his name. Since she was "Gay," he chose "Bright," or Brighton as the formal name."
Bright and Gay. How cute. Almost nauseatingly so.

But that makes for a terrible story.

I really needed to meet this man.

10 comments:

  1. Michael- Thank you so much for sharing that video! What an amazing grandfather to have! Both of my grandfathers died long before I was born... but I do have stories too!! After following your story for many months.. I am so thrilled you have found who you were looking for and even more thrilled at what you have found.. I can't wait to read the rest of the story!

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  2. Michael, neither Phyllis nor I can now find the email address for you, nor our comments. Kate Forster, forsterk3940@aol.com Phyllisart@w-link.net. Hellup!

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  3. Yes Michael, If I can help you in any way I'm glad to. phyllisart@w-link.net

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  4. In case you lost my original comment....and I can't find it, I know Brighton very well. He is my cousin in law. His wife, Gay, was my most beloved cousin. I first met Jim/Brighton 60 years ago, and have had many adventures with the two of them and with him. Because of their sailing adventures I had my own! I've been reading your blog off and on all day. What a wonderful adventure! Yes, Brighton was a pirate. And I'm sure he still is. He is a multi-gifted, charismatic character. What a find you have made!

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  5. hehe I do wish you would hurry up and meet him, I am eagerly waiting for his reaction! The whole world knows about him, but he does not know about you!!

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  6. Did this story end? I confess I forgot I hadn't had an update but reading something else reminded me so I came to look. Did your mom get to meet him?

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    1. No, no.. the story has not ended by any means. I have just been traveling and lecturing and away from blogging. Forgive my tardiness, and keep reading!

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  7. I'm holding my breath, Michael. Don't be responsible for the probable brain damage caused by lack of oxygen.

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  8. Nancy Lisch DeereMarch 10, 2017 at 1:45 PM

    What a great story I lived in Lahaina in the 70's and I knew Bright and Gay they anchored there boat in Honulua Bay alot were I camped for awhile. Gay was a wonderful women last I heard they were living on Front St in Lahaina in the 70's I often wondered if they were still of this earth.

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    1. Gay was my dearest cousin. We really felt like sisters. I stayed with them in Honolua Bay and followed them onto land. I took care of Gay while she was dying of cancer. She and Brighton had divorced. I spent quite a bit of time with both and each of them and it was always an adventure.

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