Nicknames

Alabama Living Magazine
Illustration by Dennis Auth

Think about it. 

How many friends from then and now do you know, or have you known, by their nicknames?

Some of those nicknames could be logically explained and were proudly carried.

My grandfather was Harvey Hardaway Jackson Sr. He stood 6-feet, 6-inches tall, and in his prime weighed close to 300 pounds. Or so I was told. I never knew him, but pictures confirm that he deserved the nickname “Big Harvey.” 

According to family lore, some Catholics in Montgomery heard of this giant playing football at Holtville High. They wrote none other than Knute Rockne at Notre Dame, who replied that he wanted such a man to play for the “Fighting Irish.” The Montgomery Catholics took the scholarship offer to my grandfather, who got out a map, and found South Bend, Indiana. It was a long way from Slapout, Alabama, so he took a job as a rural letter carrier and married my grandmother. 

With that decision, the family’s future was sealed.

Harvey Sr., begat Harvey Jr. who begat me, Harvey Hardaway Jackson III. 

Then they had to decide what to call me. 

For various reasons, “Three,” “Trip,” and “Tray” were rejected, for which I am forever grateful. 

Then someone said, “Why not Hardy?” and with no other acceptable alternative, that is who I became.

Growing up, I discovered that many of my friends went by nicknames.

William was Billy, John was Johnny, and Howard became Bubba.

Even the girls were nicknamed. Elizabeth became Liz or Betty. Patricia was Patty. The list is long, but my favorite was Mary Charles, who everyone called “Charlie.” 

There were nicknames that harkened back to incidents the nicknamed would just as soon forget.

I had one of those.

It was given to me by my coach, Hannis G. Prim. 

Like most coaches in small schools, Coach Prim coached the three sports we played, taught boy’s PE and an occasional social studies class. He was also responsible for the upkeep of the dressing rooms, the gym and the playing fields.

Now some of us believed that he used those classes to identify and recruit students for his teams. We also believed that he used those classes as unpaid labor for whatever needed doing, be it sodding the football field, laying out the baseball diamond, or waxing the gym floor. 

Then one day, when he was calling us out for a particularly unpleasant task, I protested: “I can’t, coach. I’m too delicate.”

You can see it coming, can’t you?

The next day, as he was dividing up the duties, Coach Prim called out those words that would follow me for the rest of my high school athletic career.

“Delicate,” he barked as he looked at me. “Get over there and . . .” 

I cannot recall what I was ordered to do, only that I did it. And from that day forward, as the seasons changed from football to basketball to baseball, I was always “Delicate.” 

Fortunately, few folks in the community knew of the nickname and those who did never burdened me with it.

As for my coach, after I graduated, we became good friends. Whenever I was home from college, I would drop by to visit him. When I did, it was always “Good to see you, ‘Delicate’.” 

Then we would sit and talk.

Next to my father, Coach Hannis Prim was the greatest influence in my growing-up life. And I am not too delicate to admit it.

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