Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Love Those Pennsylvania Names

My First Grade Class, Northridge, CA, 1961

1950s and 60s Southern California's San Fernando Valley was pretty much a white bread culture.  Our neighborhoods and schools, unlike my children's now, were not filled with bright Vietnamese--Koreans-- Indians or with Somali refugees escaping unspeakable horrors.  There was a thimble-full of immigrant families in our area: 1 Finnish, 2 from India, and a girl from Japan in my 4th grade class. 

There were a few of us though, with complicated names inherited from immigrant grandparents.  No one had ever heard the surname Bubnash.  No one could pronounce it right on the first try.  Or the second.   Or the third.   Same for my friends surnamed Letizia, Muchowski, Shusett, Milkovich.  I envied all the Wilsons and Rowes and Meyers and Rogers and Sims with plainer English names.

Pennsylvania is an entirely different story.  The draw of industry and coal mining around the turn of the 20th century attracted hundreds of thousands of Eastern and Southern European families with tongue-twister names. 
George, John, Andrew, Michael Bubnas
Pennsylvania 1900
Because my Dad is from deeply ethnic PA I know a lot of people there, so I scan the newspaper and obituaries online to keep up with events.  And the most amazing surnames pop out, and I love every one of them.  No plain vanilla names allowed here.   These are Starbuck's Cinnamon Dolce Crème Frappuccino names, with creamy milk, sweet cinnamon flavored syrup with the homey flavors of butter and brown sugar  topped with sweetened whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkles!

Here's a list of amazingly rich women's names I've collected.  Try saying them out loud!

Mary M. "Marge" Sintich Plovock Bozek
Anna Smertka Sedory
Eva Stanchak Stuckslager
Josephine Suchta Bialousz
Sophia Mscarko Sesco Shwallon
Mary Swancigar Bokat Repko Cihon
Frances Marianne Sozonovich Zuchowski
Hermina A. "Minnie" Pokorny Yasenosky
Helen M. Veshinfsky Fasulkey
Bruna C. Baroni Boldyzar and her mom: Carolina Bugaloni Baroni
Mary Ann Vrabel Latsnic Christoff
Palma Paris Pro
Alta Mae 'Curly' Moats Pidpyryhora
Josephine J. Fiffick Smorada
Bronsilia Bertha Tomalski Vinesky
Anna Shernisky Skrypak
Mildred Honeygosky Presley
Anna Krivenra Yurkncincoz
Irene E. Skovran Guziak Kowalczyk
Helen Szvitih Zundel
Janet Ivadell Junk Sedlock
Elizabeth Gallik Palgutta
Anna Hantosh Bootz Horwat
Mildred Inez LeCorchick Tworzydlo
Elva Noskey Noschese Pacione Grubbs
Kzenia Stefansky Wanzilak


  1. Thank goodness for "Walker". Though "Junk" would be a novel name. The tongue might never recover from trying to say the name Tworzydlo.

  2. Oh wow! What a fun post. And I thought my maiden name was bad enough. Nah, not really! :)

    Ok, which little child are you? I narrowed it down to two, but I just don't know. I was looking for a mini-Bridget or Miriam...

    And how do you say your maiden name? It doesn't seem *that* hard especially if the first guess was wrong.

    Really enjoyed these names. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Suzanne, I'm 3rd row down, 2nd from left--the one with my Mom's favorite haircut, a very short pixie cut. I don't think I resemble Bridget or her girls at all. Bubnash is pronounced Bub-nash, accent on first syllable. It means 'drummer' in Ruthenian. People twisted it up pretty badly. The most unexpected twist was when a substitute teacher pronounced it Burbank!

  4. Burbank? Hmmm! :) Thanks for the meaning, pronunciation and all that.

    Great to know I was able to pick you out after all. That's one of the two I chose. (The first was top row center until I came to your real picture and then I thought that was it.) There is something about you there that does favor Bridget and her girls. Very cute picture! The haircut reminds me of Majd's pixie cut!