It wasn’t until my father showed up for first grade (they didn’t have kindergarten back in the 1920s) that he discovered his name. Not that his parents hadn’t bothered to give him one, mind you.
It’s just that, in our nation of immigrants, accents have a way of perhaps not being paid attention to so much by the bureaucrats (something that is, unfortunately, still true nearly a century later).
Anyway, they went around my father’s classroom that first day calling out names one by one for attendance and at the end, my father was the only one who hadn’t dutifully raised his hand. His name hadn’t been called.
“What’s your name, son?” the teacher asked him.
“Well, we have a Bernard Gura. We don’t have a Seymour Gura.”
Actually, they did have a Seymour Gura, except someone at the hospital where my father was delivered had somehow interpreted my grandfather’s Polish-accented “Seymour” as Bernard. Or maybe someone’s handwriting was off. But my grandparents never knew what the people at the hospital had written down, and in those days, you stuck to your own neighborhood, kept your nose down and no one got Social Security cards at birth.
So my dad lived his first six years as Seymour.
Thereafter, his teachers and school chums called him Bernard and his relatives knew him as Seymour, the latter of which went on well into adulthood.
Except for the Pete part. Somewhere around the time he was 10, my father, playing the street sports common in New York City, picked up the tag Pee Wee, because, well, he was short. And then, between his teen years and military years, Pee Wee morphed into Pete.
Which is how my father was known as an adult. Unless you happened to remember him as Bernard. Or Seymour. Or Pee Wee.
Today would have been his 98th. Happy birthday, Dad!