Dr. Stanley Watson: I was born; trust me

Published 12:02 am Sunday, October 16, 2011

By Dr. Stanley Watson/Syndicated columnist

Lately a couple of friends have asked me whether I go by the name “Stanley” or “Jack”. The answer is “both” but let me explain how my name evolved:

I was born in Randlett, Oklahoma when the unpaved main street of Randlett could have been used for the set of Dodge City in the old TV series “Gunsmoke.” The dozen or so wooden buildings had large false fronts. The blacksmith shop was half a block off main on a side street. My Great Uncle Travis Burton was the blacksmith, my grandfather owned the Watson Cash Grocery, and my Uncle Clarence ran the garage.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Mother had no doctor to help bring me into the world. Dad had arranged for Dr. Dice to do the honors, but on July 24, 1920, he was out of town. Mother later explained that he was courting a widow, the mother of two little girls, who later became his wife. (16 years later, when I was in high school I dated Mary Van Ness, the younger of the two girls). Mother explained that Dr. Dice came by the house a couple of days after I was born, looked us over and pronounced us OK. I reckon he okayed Mom, but I must have failed to impress him because he failed to report my presence in the world. Years later, when I needed a birth certificate, I had to use the family Bible and the sworn statements of my parents to prove that I was born.

Will Rogers used to laugh at the idea of a birth certificate. He explained that back in the Indian Territory days nobody had birth certificates. He said it was okay because they were a trusting folk, and if the question ever arose you could simply declare you were born and people would take your word for it. Well, the year I was born was only 13 years after Oklahoma became a state. I guess it took a while for the free and easy Indian Territory days to die out.

There was a positive side to not being recorded. By the time I got my birth certificate I was allowed to name myself. When I was a little boy I asked Mother what my “full name” was. She explained that my full name was Stanley J. Watson. I was named after her greatly admired older half-brother, Stanley Baumgarner. I can’t remember ever seeing Mr. Baumgarner, but he truly made a good impression on his younger sister.

I also asked Mother what the middle initial “J” in my name stood for. She looked a little puzzled then said, “I don’t know. It was Stanley’s middle initial – might not stand for anything.” I remember being very disappointed. To me all initials should stand for something — especially names. Since I had been given the nick name “Jack” ever since I could remember, when it came time to prove my birth and get a certificate I named myself Stanley Jack Watson — legal and recorded. It worked fine until the U.S. Army got hold of me in 1945-1946. They always use the first name and the middle initial and that is how I became Stanley J. instead of S. Jack. The S. Jack was used officially, for example, in my pre-war days. My Oklahoma Baptist University B.A. diploma is for S. Jack Watson. I became Stanley J. for the duration of the war, my G.I. Bill education used it, and it became my official name.

I am known to my family and friends as Jack, but one time the initial “S” was placed behind Jack instead of before it on some legal papers and I become Jack S. It gave me a chuckle but my wife Johnie insisted I straighten it out. She opined that I could be “Jack S.” if I chose but she had no patience with being “Mrs. Jack S.”

Fellow professor Tom Delaughter used to love to tell this yarn when we were with a group: “At the baptism of his second son a Cajun instructed the priest to name this one “Jes plain Jack ’cause las yar when I bring Tom to baptize you name him Tom- as. (Then, pointing at me, he would grin and say, Now dis one is jes plain Jack!”

When I located my picture in our new church directory last week I was shocked that I was identified as Jack J. Watson. Jack J.? Never heard of him.

Let me borrow from comedian Bill Saluga’s act as Ray J. Johnson who become annoyed when he was called “Mr. Johnson” and yelled in a loud voice, “My name is Raymond J. Johnson, Jr. Now you can call me Ray, or you can call me J., or you can call me Johnny, now you can call me Ray J, or you can call me R.J., or you can call me R.J.J., or you can call me R.J.J., Jr.”  before finally ending with, “but you doesn’t hasta call me Johnson!”

Whatever you call me is fine so long as you are friendly. I am Stanley J. Watson. Now you can call me Stanley or you can call me Stanley J. or you can call me Stan, or you can call me Jack, or you can call me S. Jack or you can call me S.J., but you doesn’t hasta call me “Jack J.” or “J.J.” (even when I am wearing a biker helmet) or you can call me “Jes plain Jack.”

Today we no longer give spiritual significance to our names, but in the Scriptures a name defines the owner’s nature and the New Testament identifies the One whose name is supreme. By his life, death and resurrection Jesus’ name is exalted above every name: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9.