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Nomenclatura

I got an email today from my lifelong friend Maury who sent a column by Ed Schwartz who apparently writes for wine magazines and newspaper columns. In the column he discusses silly names for cars around the world, like Italy’s Valugrafo Bimbo a tiny two-seater of which he notes “You can have a bimbo in your Bimbo.” Other oddities include Edsel (Ford), Rabbit (VW) and Touareg—whatever that is—VW), Lucerne (US) which is Safeway’s dairy products brand name, and from Japan; Daihatsu Naked, Mitsubishi Lettuce, Toyota Cist, Yamaha Pantry Boy Supreme. And others.

This put me in mind of the early 1980s when I built a tiny golf course here on about four acres. Before construction was even half done, I had the name: Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf and Flubbers Club. Before I could publicly identify it as such, I thought it wise to find out if there was any golf course anywhere that might already have the catchy title.

And even before researching that important item, I had to get permission from two men, Bob Elliot, father of actor Chris Elliot, and Bob’s comedian partner, Ray Goulding. If you lived on the east coast in the 50s you may remember the team of Bob and Ray, comic geniuses who ultimately became the spokesmen for Piel’s Light Beer “Of Broadway Fame.” They were the voices of cartoon television characters who had their names.

Bob and Ray had their start on Radio, lampooning daytime soap operas in daily fifteen minute segments. These led to a quarter hour TV afternoon show with a few side characters. The guys imitated female characters with ungodly falsettos, and had invented a regular character named “Radio’s Beloved Reporter, Wally Baloo.” Wally covered breaking news on air, like detailing the flat tire on a child’s tricycle and ignoring sirens and gunshots as a bank was being robbed behind him.

What this has to do with golf and Italian cars was the word “Flubbers” in the name of my golf course. I lifted the name from Wally Baloo’s coverage of “The Annual Flubbers’ Open Tournament” at some dinky town in New Jersey. A flubber, of course was a very bad golfer, but Bob and Ray had invented the tournament name.

By this time Ray Goulding had died, and the duo had long been off the air on a regular basis but through a contact I was able to get an address for Bob Elliot. I wrote to him requesting permission to use the word “Flubbers” in our name, and promised him number two spot in our honored Honorary Member roster, the first being Charles (Uncle Charley) Kuralt of Sunday Morning TV fame.

I had written a similar letter to Uncle Charley and he never responded (although after his death I got a note from his widow that she remembered the parchment certificate we had sent.) Bob Elliot did respond, however, with a surprisingly lengthy letter telling how honored he was to be voted second best, and that the parchment certificate would be framed and hung in a prominent place on the Bob and Ray traveling exhibition railroad train for people throughout the nation to view.

Of course the train was non-existent, but Elliot, even in his very later years, never lost that wry sense of humor. I still treasure his letter, although it is now buried in a stack of Whispering Rattlesnake memorabilia.

Thus I began research and discovered that no other golf course had the name, but a large number of courses had names that began with the word “Whispering.” What whispered were; Pines, oaks, dunes, clouds, lakes, ponds, winds, leaves, hemlock, and probably another twenty whose names elude me. Point is, no rattlesnakes.

At my first national golf writers convention a year later, the editor of GOLF magazine approached and asked if I was the guy from Seattle who had the rattlesnake course. I admitted to this and asked him how he knew, as we’d never before met. It was written up in a French golfing magazine, he told me, and that made me feel like King of the Boulevard.

7/11/2013


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