Monday, September 30, 2013

Eastern Pennsylvania

Heck with those western Pennsylvanians!  Everybody knows that all the action is happening in the eastern part of the state. 

Now, unfortunately, most of that action occurs in Lancaster County, primo Pennsylvania Dutch country.  I’m actually going to cover those places next week. 

Luckily, though, there seem to be plenty of candidates in the rest of eastern PA as well.  So, here we go …

10. King of Prussia *

We don’t typically name our towns after taverns anymore, do we?  I guess that explains the dearth of Chiles, Ruby Tuesdays, and Applebees out there on the typical road map. 

Back in the 18th Century, though, taverns were more like pubs – happening places where the whole town congregated.  And naming your town after the local tavern was actually pretty common in the broad area around Philly – and that includes Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey, as well as eastern Pennsylvania.

In addition to the locals, the King of Prussia Inn also catered to a number of travelers as well.  In fact, it was exactly a day’s ride from Philadelphia on the main road heading west. 

The tavern, which dates back to 1719, is still standing today (though moved from its original location). 

These days, the town is mostly suburban sprawl.  It’s known for its shopping, which includes the K of P Mall, the largest in the US. 

Like I say, large

9. Forty Fort

You mean Forty Four, right? 

Well, actually, the town’s founders actually did mean Forty Fort.  Turns out forty people from Connecticut settled the region and then built a fort there.  The fort played a prominent role in the Pennamite-Yankee War.  Surely you remember the the Pennamite-Yankee War?

Where are we?  Across the river from Wilkes-Barre, basically.  In fact, Forty Fort is the location of the Wilkes-Barre Wyoming Valley Airport.  Some of FF’s other neighbors include Plains, Pringle, Swoyersville, Trucksville, and West Wyoming (all of which, see below).

Forty Fort, ca. 1949

8. Korn Krest

Well, this place really does exist.  I was able to find it on both Wikipedia & MapQuest.  I was also able to learn that it’s 1) between Wilkes-Barre and Nanticoke, and 2) is the former site of the San Souci amusement park.

Other than that, though, it appears to be one of those places that have a reality only on the many service directory websites that include a separate page for every friggin’ place in the U.S., no matter how small or whether that place has the service in question or not.  Here are some of the things that came up for Korn Krest:
  • Limousine service
  • Psychologists
  • Italian tutors
  • Bagpipers

My favorite, though, was this one for auto shows, which begins:

If you are looking for a great time then you might want to think about looking up a Korn Krest PA car show to see if there are any local shows in your area.  A Korn Krest Pennsylvania car show can be a great way to pass some time and if you are a car enthusiast then you will likely love spending time at a Korn Krest PA car show.  Therefore, you might want to think about heading online to read up on Korn Krest Pennsylvania car show options in your area.  It is not that hard to find shows if you actually put some time into searching for the right type of Korn Krest PA car show to attend.

7. Shunk

This seems like some obscure swear word.  “Oh shunk!,” one might say.  Or, “You’re full of shunk!”  Perhaps even, “Go shunk yourself, mothershunker!”

Actually, the name comes from Pennsylvania’s tenth governor, Francis Rawn Shunk.  The good folks of Fox Center renamed their tiny burg after him when he died of TB 10 days after leaving office.  The surname means either “long legs” or “piglet” – neither of which seem satisfactorily  august and gubernatorial in tone, to me at least.

This place looks like a couple of dozen buildings in the middle of nowhere, halfway between Williamsport and Elmira, NY.  Everything you’d ever want to know about it you can find right here.

Old Kaiser-Frazer dealer in Shunk
(the company name was obsolete after 1952!)

6. Shickshinny

“I’m sorry, sir, could you repeat that?”  “Shickshinny.”  “Sickskinny?”  “No, Shickshinny.”  “Er, Shinksicky?”  “Shickshinny!”  “Did you say ‘Stinkcity?’”  [silence …]  “Could you spell that please, sir?”

You’re not going to believe it, but this one is Native American!  It means “five mountains,” or perhaps “five streams.”  Who knows, maybe it means “five guys,” or “five easy pieces,” or “five finger death punch.”  Suffice it to say, it’s five of something or other.

The town of Shickshinny has 800 people.  It’s right on the Susquehanna, just south of Wilkes-Barre.

By the way, eastern Pennsylvania has enough Native American names to rival New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut.  My faves include: Towanda (“burial ground”), Meshoppen (“glass beads”), Shamokin, Shehawken, Nescopeck, Tunkhannock, Wyomissing, Nesquehonig, Hokendauqua, Nanticoke, Chillisquaque, Conshokocken (“pleasant valley”), Mehoopany (“place of wild potatoes”), Lackawaxen (“where the road forks”), Wilawana (“big horn”).

Interestingly, one town name that I thought for sure was Native American, Hosensack, is not.  It’s actually German, and means “pants pocket”!

Senior portrait,
Jeff Diets Photography,
Shickshinny, PA

5. Virginville

Why is this one not in Lancaster County?

Well, it is right next door.  And that means that V-ville’s neighbors include such worthies as Kutztown, Shoemakersville, Windsor Castle, Basket, and Moselem.

There are several theories behind this one:
  • It was virgin territory
  • It was named after the Comte de Vergennes, a foreign minister to France’s Louis XVI
  • It’s a translation of an Indian name meaning "virgin" or "pure"

Personally, I wonder if there isn’t some connection to Maiden Creek, which runs through town.

However it got started, today it’s now a town of 300, home of the quaint Virginville Hotel, and “a place where it is tough to hang on to road signs.”
Get this on a T-shirt right here

4. Loyalsockville

Just plain weird.  But I have to wonder …  Why did anyone feel that they had to append “ville” to the end of this bizarre combination?  Is there a Loyalsockburg out there as well?  An East Loyalsocktown?  The Villages at Lake Loyalsock?

Well, as it turns out, there is a Loyalsock!  So, I guess Loyalsockville at least makes some sense (though I’m not sure why they didn’t just call it Pleasant Grove or Oakdale or something totally innocuous like that).

“Loyalsock” comes from the Native American lawi-sahquick, which means “middle creek.”  And Loyalsockville is indeed on Loyalsock Creek. 

We’re talking the northern part of the state here, near Williamsport.  I spot a goodly amount of houses and trailers.  Google says the town is known for its tractor show and also for flooding.

By the way, Loyalsockville comes in at 14 letters.  I have no idea why, but Pennsylvania (12) sure does have its share of monsters:
  • Salladasburg (12)
  • Birchrunville (13)
  • Klecknersville (14)
  • Sunderlinsville (14)
  • Sassamansville (14)
  • Fivepointville (14)
  • Montgomeryville (15)
  • Shoemakersville (15)
  • Plumbsteadville (15)
  • Applebachsville (15)
  • Kleinfelterville (16)

Wait, it has three exits???

3. Upper Black Eddy

So, I’m assuming there’s a Lower Black Eddy and maybe just a Black Eddy, as well as a White Eddy and perhaps even an Upper Asian Jose as well.

Interestingly, there actually is some logic behind this one.  First, let’s take a pool in the Delaware River.  That’s your “eddy.”  Next, let’s put a family named Black on it.  There’s your “black.”   Finally, let’s find another one of these pools, a little up the river from that first one.  And that’s your “upper.”  Put ‘em all together …  Voila: Upper Black Eddy!

Oh, almost forgot …  What you’ll finally want to do is build a canal.  That’ll turn your pool and farm into a growing village.  Final result: one quaint, scenic, and historical place.

By the way, there is a Skinners Eddy in eastern Pennsylvania as well.


2. Jersey Shore *

Whoa, I told you we shoulda taken that exit back in Loyalsockville!

It’s hard to believe, but this one actually makes some sense too.  (And, no, it has nothing to do with the TV show.)  Turns out a bunch of folks from Jersey settled here, along the shore of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. 

JS is known for:

By the way, there is also a West Wyoming in eastern Pennsylvania as well.

Local citizens on vacation

1. Wawa

Named for the Philadelphia area’s popular Wawa Marts, this town is famous for its cuisine of day-old hot dogs and coffee that tastes like paint thinner, inhabitants who barely speak English, and extremely high rate of armed robbery. 

I’m joking, of course.  It’s hard to believe, I know, but the c-store was actually named for the town.  Well, to be honest, it was named after Wawa Dairy, which was itself named after the town.  The town, in turn, was named after the estate of some 19th Century dude.  He claimed “wawa” was Ojibwe for goose, and that he named his estate after all the geese that congregated there.  I don’t know – I think they may just be having us on here.

Wawa is an “unincorporated community,” with rather porous boundaries.  A Philadelphia Inquirer article puts the population at between 5 and 265 families.  The article goes on to state that “the most remarkable thing about Wawa is that no one can agree on where it is, really.”  A c-store executive who claims he lives there concludes that “Wawa is a state of mind. If you want to be in Wawa, you can be in Wawa.”  Once again, I think these people may just be having a little fun with us.

“You mean, I hand you this piece of plastic,
and then you hand me that sausage cookie,
or whatever’s it called?”

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Rock, Marsh, Plains, Centralia, Central, Middletown Center, Centerport, Homesville, Hometown
  • Short and sweet – Pen Mar *, Mar Lin, Nay Aug, Ono, Oley, Vira, Wila, Zora, Avis, Hebe, Elam, Rye, Rote, Neffs, Yoe
  • Just a little off-color – Butztown, Honey Hole, Balls Mills, Dickville
  • Beaver patrol – Beavertown, Beaver Springs, Beaver Brook, Beaver Lake, Beaver Meadows, Tamaqua (Indian for “beaver”)
  • Numerically oriented – Two Taverns, Five Points, Five Forks, Seven Stars, Mile Run
  • Orthographically challenged – Kreamer, Watrous, Moselem, Hawleywood
  • Atypical adjectives – Urban, Orange, Good, Lucky, Lofty, Bermudian
  • Abnormal nouns – Ravine, Railroad, Panther, Trooper, Windfall, Lawn, Lemon, Media, Chrome, Forks, Furlong, Effort, Obelisk, Overshot, Gravity, Asylum, Brogue, Basket, Pillow (after Mexican-American War general Gideon Pollow), Maze, Drums, Angels, Unicorn, Chinchilla, Seltzer, Stalker
  • Unconventional verbs – Exchange, Rush, Falls, Host, Ransom, Grill, Shaft
  • Give me some sugar – Sugar Run, Sugartown, Sugarloaf, Sugar Notch
  • Fun to say – Shindler, Kunkle, Cresco (Latin for “I grow”), Mongul, Moosic, Paupack, Paxtang, Pringle, Pecks Pond, Paoli, Tioga, Cleona, Zerbe, Nauvoo, Norberth, Dornsife, Wysox (Indian for “place of grapes”), Wassergass, Womelsdorf, Cocolamus, Equinunk, Throop, Fricks
  • Hard to say – Caln, Macungie (Indian for “feeding place for bears”), Pen Argyl (Jayne Mansfield’s grave), Bryn Athyn, Bryn Mawr (Welsh for “big hill”), Quakake, Uwchland, Toughkenamon, Urcildour, Bala Cynwyd
  • Just plain weird – Fairplay, New Freedom, New Era, Old Forge (formerly Mudtown), Mechanicsburg, Mechanicsville, English Center, Nantmeal Village, Longswamp, Standing Stone, Picture Rocks, Ancient Oaks, Trooper Oaks, Cherry Flats, Black Walnut, Walnut Bottom, Hop Bottom, Port Carbon, Porters Sideling, Jobs Corners, Chadds Ford, Lightstreet, Green Lane, Yellow House, Eagles Mere, Birdsboro, Bedminster, Minisink Hills, Sunnyburn, Myobeach, Crackersport, Fearnot, Leck Kill, Rough and Ready, Choconut
  • Too many towns – Flourtown, Fritztown, Kutztown, Quicktown, Hummelstown, Linglestown, Yocumtown, Coffeetown, Cashtown, Bunkertown
  • Too may villes – Lumberville, Factoryville (birthplace of baseball HOFer Christy Mathewson), Friendsville, Shortsville, Stormville, Starkville, Spinnersville, Swoyersville, Koonsville, Krumsville, Trucksville, Turbotville, Airville, Grimville, Bittersville, Biglerville (national apple museum), Flicksville, Frackville, Schnecksville, Schwenksville, Stonersville
  • Too many burgs – Hublersburg, Cleversburg, Wormsleyburg, Mummasburg
  • Pottheads – Pottstown, Pottsville (oldest brewery in US), Potts Grove
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Glen Roy, Rich Hill, Russell Hill, Jim Thorpe, St. Nicholas
  • Ghost towns – Gold Mine, Celestia, Rattling Run, Ricketts, Pandamonia, Free Love Valley

Great article with lots of name origins for this part of the state right here.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Western Pennsylvania

Everyone associates this state with all those crazy Pennsylvania Dutch classics, like Intercourse and Blue Ball and Lititz.  But who says the easterners get all the fun?  Heck, the Keystone State’s got enough crazy stuff to spread over multiple posts.  And those westerners are certainly no slouches, let me tell you.  Here, let me demonstrate …

10. Pleasant Union / Pleasant Unity

Is this one of those slightly off-color Amish deals?

Well, it may be for the first one.  Pleasant Union is just over the MD state line, in the center of the state (i.e., prime PA Dutch country).  It looks like its got about half a dozen houses.
Pleasant Unity is a little southeast of Pittsburgh – so, probably not prime Amish territory.  It looks surprisingly developed.  Be sure to check out this YouTube video of the town, basically stills set to Bach’s Air on the G String (without a doubt the funniest title for a piece of music ever).

BTW, there is also a Pleasant Mount out there as well.

9. Slippery Rock

What’s funny about this one is that there is a major state university associated with the town, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.  In fact, the author knows several alumni (I went to high school and grad school in Pittsburgh).  Pretty much everyone in western Pennsylvanian refers to the school as Slimy Pebble though.

The town of Slippery Rock is named after nearby Slippery Rock Creek.  Google says that “the rocks are indeed deceptively slippery, and throughout the year, there are numerous reports of drowning incidents.”  The creek feeds into the wonderfully named Conoquenessing (see below), which itself feeds into the Beaver [snicker, snicker].
Apart from the university, this town of 3,000 between Erie and Pittsburgh doesn’t feature much else.  Nonetheless, they do like to call their little burg “the town known ‘round the world” (and without giving any explanation whatsoever).

BTW, western Pennsylvania also includes a California Univ. of Pennsylvania and an Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania.  Sounds like some seriously confused people.
Former minor league baseball team

8. Scalp Level

Scalp:  n. the skin covering the head, excluding the face.  v. to take the scalp of (an enemy).

Level:  n. a height or distance from the ground or another stated or understood base.  adj. having a flat and even surface without slopes or bumps.  v. give a flat and even surface to.
Scalp level: ???

Actually, this one may simply refer to a piece of level ground (prime real estate in these parts) that was denuded by the local lumber industry.
SL is a classic “patch town,” built purposely by a coal company for its miners.  It’s close to Johnstown, and is in the wonderfully named Paint Township.  We’re talking about 850 people or so.
Interestingly, the town is also behind the name of a school of American landscape painters from the 19th Century.  As the Hudson River school painters left New York City to discover and capture the wonders of nature in the Hudson River Valley, the painters of the Scalp Level school left Pittsburgh to record the wilds of Western Pennsylvania.  Honest to God, I am not making this up:

There is also a Level Green, by the way. 
I don’t know – looks like something you might find
at the local Salvation Army store

7. Panic

Now, what’s great about this one is that Panic is right next to Desire and also Paradise.  Talk about mixed messages, huh?  Just blame it on those crazy Amish.

Where did the name come from?  Well, as you can imagine, there are no shortage of theories.  The best one I heard was from Passing Gas, which posits that it was named after a 19-Century recession, or “panic,” that was taking place during the time the town was founded.
This crossroads of maybe a dozen houses is just north of Punxsatawney (see below).

I guess I could just go to Dubois instead

6. Wilmerding *

If you’ve ever heard of the phrase, “There’s no Winky’s in Wilmerding,” you can consider yourself a true Pittsburgher (and kind of old, to boot).  Winky’s was a Pittsburgh-area burger chain in the 60s and 70s.  One of their commercials featured a Cookie-Monster-like puppet who read a list of signs with the names of towns where Winky’s were located.  When the monster came to the sign for Wilmerding, he ate it, exclaiming, ‘There's no Winky's in Wilmerding!’"  Great stuff when you’re 12. 

Wilmerding is basically a suburb of Pittsburgh (and just a couple of miles from where I once lived).  It was the site of a huge plant and the castle-like headquarters of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. 
The town was named after Joanna Wilmerding Negley, the wife of William B. Negley, a local squire.  The Wilmerding surname is probably German.  I have no idea what it could possibly mean.
The Castle

5. Zelienople

Putting my extensive knowledge of classical Greek to use, I can safely inform you that Zelienople means “city of the Zeliens.” 

Well, that’s actually not too far off the mark.  Turns out Z-town was name by one Baron Dettmar Basse for his daughter Zelie.  The Baron bought 10,000 acres just north of Pittsburgh and settled there in the early 19th Century.  Now, what I want to know is, who calls their daughter “Zelie”?
This city of 4,100 is right next to the wonderfully named Harmony (see below) and lies along tongue-twisting Conoquennessing Creek (see below again).

By the way, there is also a Coraopolis in western Pennsylvania.  That, of course, means “city of the Coras” (actually, it’s Greek for “city of maidens”).
Yup, this scary guy is based outta Z-town
4. Turnip Hole

Fittingly, this is a minor crossroads in the middle of nowhere with – oh, I don’t know – two houses within a mile or so of it.  I guess it’s seen better times.   It does have its own Facebook page though.

TH is just down the road from Turkey City.  Now, if there were only a Dressingtown, Gravyville, and Cranberry Junction ,,, 

3. Punxsatawney

Sure, everybody knows Punxsatawney Phil.  But have you ever heard of his brother Pete, or his cousin Pat, or niece Pauline?  Yup, there’s a whole family of these meteorological marmots.  Pete’s in charge of whether it rains on July 4th, Pat takes care of how many snow days school kids get, and so on and so on.

Where is Punxsatawney located?

                Northeast of Pittsburgh, in the middle of pretty much nowhere

How many people live there?
6000 Punxsatawneans
Where did it get that crazy-ass name?

It’s a Native American term meaning “town of the sand-flies”
Why would anyone want to name their place that?

I haven’t a clue
How did all that groundhog stuff get started?

It all dates back to the pagan Imbolc festival

Don’t worry about it
Does anything else happen in this place?


P-Phil’s Revenge
2. Nanty Glo

Would you believe it’s Welsh?  Yup, it’s from nant y glo, which translates as the very poetic “ravine of coal.”  There’s a Nantyglo, Wales as well.

Our town was originally known as Glenglade.  That’s a bit of a tongue-twister, but it did have the added advantage of keeping you off the funny town name lists.  Hey, if it ain’t broke …
Population: 2,700.  Location: east of Pittsburgh, about a third of the way to Harrisburg.  Welsh for “My hovercraft is full of eels”: Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod.

Nanty Glo Bikini Contest
(video right here)

1. Foot of Ten

Painting by Salvador Dali?  Obscure indie rock band?  Kind of measurement used by poorly educated early settlers?

It’s kind of hard to believe, but there actually is a legitimate explanation for this.  At one time, this part of Pennsylvania was home to a fascinating experiment to get canal barges over the local mountains.  This involved inclined planes where the barges were put on railroad tracks and then pulled up the planes by horsepower.  There were ten of these planes, and F of T just so happened to take root at the foot of plane #10.  
This tiny town of 670 is just south of Altoona …  You know, northwest of Johnstown?  Er, straight up 99 from Bedford?  Wait a minute – I know, I know.  It’s just to the east of Nanty Glo.  There you go!

Foot of Ten, shown in inches of feet

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Wood, Wall*, North East, State Line, State College, Center Road, Centerville, Central City, Midway, Townville, Home Camp, Home
  • Short and sweet – Odin, Enid, Mina, Dora, Cito, Cloe, Nolo, Van, Day, Dott, Todd, Rew, Rea, Ohl, Boltz
  • Just a little out of place – Moon*, Halfmoon, Mars, Venus
  • Just a little off color – Keisters, Climax, Hooker, Blue Knob
  • Beaver patrol – Beaver, Big Beaver, Shy Beaver, Beaver Center, Beavertown (Monkee Davy Jones museum), Beaver Falls, Beaver Dam, Beaverdale.
  • Orthographically challenged – Boquet, Chrystal, Starr, Tyre, Erly, Erie
  • Numerically oriented – Twin Rocks, Three Springs, Five Points, Seven Springs*, Ten Mile, Eleven Mile, Eighty Four
  • Native American mouthfuls – Loyalhanna, Tidioute, Nemacolin*, Aliquippa*, Shelocta, Wapwallopen ("where wild hemp grows"), Monongahela, Sinnemahoning, Daguncahonda, Conoquenessing
  • Atypical adjectives – Windward, Sandy, Metal, Mammoth, Universal, United, Brave, Lovely, Tidal, Distant, Gayly
  • Abnormal nouns – Candor, Amity, Harmony, Prosperity, Industry, Energy, Economy, Emporium, Wampum, Bullion, Dime, Time, Sergeant, Surveyor, Sturgeon, Pigeon, Pansy, Plum*, Nectarine, Newcomer, Bitumen, Tuna, Torpedo, Roulette, Cyclone, Confluence*, Congruity, Crucible, Coupon, Crates, Custards, Mustard, Smock, Snow Shoe, Laboratory, Library, Lover, Cypher
  • Unconventional verbs – Transfer, Force, Drifting, Muse, Paint, Point, Echo, Desire, Hunker, Ogle, Ache
  • Fun to say – Frink, Skelp, Sewickley*, Sabula, Saluvia, Lycippus, Petrolia, Revloc, Fertigs, Fombell, Munderf, Dunkard, Blawnox*, Arbuckle, Acmetonia, Hepburnia, Sterrettania, Orbisonia, Ohiopyle* (Indian for "white, frothy water"), Langeloth, Bunola, Vowinckel* (the author camped here), Holsopple
  • Just plain weird – Stone House, Fallen Timber, Burnt Cabins, Warriors Mark, Water Street, Black Lick, Dry Tavern, Trade City, Turkey City, Sportsburg, Star Line, Starbrick, Breezewood*, Shinglehouse, Karthaus, Grassflat, Gibbon Glade, Carter Camp, Centre Hall, Whig Hill, Tire Hill, Bully Hill, Spankle Mills, Guys Mills, Manns Choice, Andrews Settlement, Martha Furnace, Burning Well (oil well, that is), Chest Springs, Smoke Run, Dry Run, Nu Mine, Purchase Line, Spaces Corners, Little Corners, Little Hope, Fair Chance, Good Intent, Cornplanter (an Indian chief), Coon Hunter, Panic Plug
  • Too many towns – Daisytown, Barneytown, Gastown, Gabtown, Shimpstown, Stifflertown, Frogtown, Jollytown, Puzzletown, Stonerstown
  • Too many villes – Burtville, Coneville, Lowville, Lickingville, Mingoville, Tusseyville, Teepleville, Normalville, Slickville, Whiskerville, Weedville
  • Too many burgs – Shirleysburg, Marklesburg, Fryburg, Steamburg, Blandburg, Riddleburg
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Pocahontas, Casanova, Raymilton, Sandy Lake, Lawrence Park, Glen Savage, Glen Campbell
  • Ghost towns – Dravo*, Zanmore, Stringtown, Pithole City (check out the visitors center), Windy City, Crumb

* - author has visited

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Any state whose major universities have mascots of Beavers and Ducks is okay by me.  Looks like they’ve got some pretty weird town names too.

10. Milton-Freewater

Wasn’t he that economist?  Or am I thinking of Maynard Keynes?  John Kenneth Galbreath?  Trygve Haavelmo (real guy)?

Well, as you’re probably guessing, there were originally two towns, one called Milton and one called Freewater.  As for the name origins of the individual towns, well, they’re equally as boring.
Milton, originally Freeport, changed its name to Milltown when a mill was started there (and somehow lost an “l” and a “w” over the years).  Freewater, once the priceless New Walla Walla, changed its name when the town offered free access to water to new homesteaders.

Put the two together, and you get … the one-time Pea Capital of the World.  M-F is in the wonderfully named Umatilla County, just south of Walla Walla, WA.  It’s got a little over 7,000 MFers.
It’s also famous for its frog statues
(locals jokingly call the place Muddy-Frogwater)

9. Drain

In Massachusetts, they talk about going “down the Cape.”  I wonder if they ever use similar phraseology for this place?    Nah, that would be too perfect.

Why, of course it’s named after a Mr. Drain.  What did you expect?  In particular, we’re talking about one Charles Drain, an early settler and politician.  Possibilities for the surname are endless:
  • A Danish word for a yeoman farmer
  • Someone who lived along a ditch
  • Someone who dug ditches
  • A lazy person
  • An Anglicization of the Irish O’ Dreian
  • An Anglicization of the Scottish O’ Druachain
  • From the French derain, or “last,” for the last child

This town of 1,100 in the southwest part of the state includes such local landmarks as the Drain Public Swimming Pool and the Mildred Whipple Library.

Decisions, decisions

8. Remote

Truth in advertising?  Or commemorating that very important milestone in the history of the couch potato?

Well, it’s the former.  Remotes weren’t even around in 1887 when the town was founded.  Everybody knows that. 
Looks like the town’s still pretty isolated even today.  It’s smack dab in the middle of the Cascades, on the upper reaches of the Coquille River.  I count a couple of farms.  I’m not totally sure why they even bothered, though there is a pretty cool covered bridge.
And a cool old store too

7. Riddle

I give up.  What is it?

Why, it’s a town of 1,200 people, right along 1-5, halfway between Eugene and Medford.  It owes its name to early settler William H. Riddle.  And that surname denotes someone from the village of Ryedale, a spot along the river Rye, in Yorkshire.
Riddle is known for its:
  • Timber industry
  • Having the last nickel mine in the US
  • Being a “bedroom community” of Roseburg (?)
  • Being part of the “banana belt” of the Northwest (??)

Riddle, OR
an artist’s rendition (???)

6. Umpqua

The first time I ran into this name, I was doing some research for my employer.  I work for a bank, and was researching how our competitors did something or other.  Imagine my surprise when, among the Citibanks, Chases, Wells Fargos, and Banks of Americas of the world, I found Umpqua Bank (“the world’s greatest bank” – just Google “Umpqua bank,” if you don’t believe me).

The “Umpqua” name actually applies to quite a bit – a bank, a river, a national forest, an Indian tribe, and our little town of 100 people.  Not too sure what it means, however, though I did find some netizens out there who were more than willing to give it the old college try:
  • “This is the place”
  • “This stream”
  • “Thunder water”
  • “Loud noise”
  • “Canoe”
  • “Full tummy”
  • “Satisfied”

5. Clackamas

The sound you make when you drop all the billiard balls?

No, it’s actually a suburb of Portland, and boasts a population of 7,000.  Based on what I could find on Google, it looks like the town may be most famous for a shooting at a local mall.
By the way, there is an Umpqua branch in Clackamas.
Go Clavaliers!

4. North Powder

Try as I might, I could not find a South Powder, nor an East Powder, West Powder, or just plain Powder either.

This unlikely moniker comes from the Powder River, whose name comes in turn from the powdery, sandy soil along its bank.
NP has 400 people, and is in the northeast part of the state, right along the Oregon Trail.  No Umpqua branch, I’m afraid.

One happenin’ place

3. Brothers / Sisters

If this were merely one or the other, I’d probably include it in Honorable Mention, below, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t give it its own spot, let alone make it #3.  Put ‘em in the same state, though …

My only question is whether they are related.  Alright, let’s start with Sisters …
This town of 2,000 is the central part of Oregon, not too far north from Bend.  It was supposedly named after the nearby Three Sisters Mountains. 

The local high school has over-compensated for this incredibly girly name by calling their mascots the Stallions.  Yup, the Sisters Stallions.  Don’t laugh though.  This is where Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts got his start.
As for Brothers, there’s a story out there that the town was named for the Three Brothers Hills, which appear in front of the Three Sisters Mountains.  Now, the Three Sisters are huge, but Brothers and Sisters are an hour apart, with Brothers out in the flat, flat desert southeast of Bend.  I also couldn’t find anything on the Three Brothers apart from stories about the town name.  So, the name origin of this 100-person podunk might just have to remain TBD.

Interestingly, Brothers’ main claim to fame 
is as a place to launch model rockets

2. Zigzag

Here’s one that’s pretty standard for most funny town name books and blogs out there.

This one comes from an early explorer, who had to make many switchbacks to cross a canyon and river here.  The name has been applied to the town, the canyon, the river, a mountain, a glacier, and a brand of rolling papers (just kidding on that last one).

Zigzag the town is in Clackamas County, down the Mt. Hood Highway (the old Barlow Road), heading into Portland. 
Click here for a nighttime sighting of a sasquatch in the nearby woods!
Two for one!
(see below for Govt. Camp)

1. Boring

Truth in advertising again?    Or just some guy’s name?

Well, this one’s the latter.  Willam H. Boring was an early settler who came out West after the Civil War.  According to, the surname probably comes from the personal name Bor, which may have something to do with pine trees (and which would be very appropriate for Oregon). 
Like Zigzag & Clackamas, Boring’s close to Portland.  They have a Boring Post Office, Boring Fire Department, and Boring Middle School, as well some boring topless dancers (wait a minute – have I been there?) and the Not So Boring Bar & Grill.

The folks here seem to take it all pretty well.  In fact, they made Dull, Scotland their sister city.  And the Oregon legislature got in on the fun by officially declaring August 9 Boring and Dull Day in the state of Oregon.
Boring Washington city to the left

Honorable Mention:

  • B-o-r-i-n-g – Woods, Fields, Bridge, Midland, Halfway (formerly, Junction City, Central Point, Oregon City (end of the Oregon Trail)
  • Short and sweet – Dee, Bly (bombed by the Japanese in WWII), Van, Vale (be sure to stay at the Bates Motel), Ada, Bena, Zena, Noti, Hebo, Keno, Ruch
  • Just a little out of place – Santa Clara, Phoenix, Dallas, Austin, St. Paul, Peoria, Detroit, Saginaw, Toledo, Dayton, Pittsburg, Elmira, Albany, Nashville, Charleston, Selma, Jacksonville, Ontario, Glasgow, London, Waterloo, Denmark, Norway, Florence, Rome, Troy, Sparta, Damascus, Lebanon, Madras, Paradise
  • Just a little off-color – Beaver, Beaver Marsh
  • Numerically oriented – Tri-City, Three Lynx, Four Corners, Sixes, Tenmile
  • Orthographically challenged – Shedd, Agness, Milwaukie, Owyhee (an old spelling of Hawaii) Corner
  • Native American mouthfuls – Yachats, Molalla, Yoncalla, Umatilla, Tillamook (world’s largest wooden structure), Siltcoos, Scapoose, Clatskanie
  • Atypical adjectives – Green, Golden, Sandy (world’s tallest topiary bear), Nonpareil, Dairy, Plush, Paisley
  • Abnormal nouns – Enterprise, Monument, Outlook, Friend, Flora, Alfalfa, Fox, Wren, Crow, Lime, Timber, Trail, Mist, Rainbow, Bonanza, Cornucopia, Talent, Tangent, Helix, Sublimity, Steamboat, Fossil, Greenhorn, Nimrod
  • Unconventional verbs – Bend, Echo, Post, Spray, Wonder, Promise, Glide
  • Fun to say – Hebo, Wasco, Dufur, Philomath, Imbler, Zumwalt
  • Just plain weird – Lee’s Camp, New Era, Green Acres, Christmas Valley, Mt. Angel (tallest glockenspiel in US), Bridal Veil, Aloha, Sweet Home, Alkali Lake, Medical Springs, Pistol River, The Dalles, Swisshome, Wagontire, Yamhill, Gearhart, Barview, Government Camp
  • Just plain weird, -ville division – Butteville, Sodaville, Susanville, Wilderville
  • I’d like to introduce you to – Joseph, Donald, Otis, Eugene (world’s largest rubber band ball), Cecil, Merlin, Rose Lodge, May Park, John Day
  • Ghost towns – Mabel, Waldo, Richmond, Bohemia City, Narrows, Antelope, Apiary, Izee, Champoeg (pronounced "shampoo-ee"), Bayocean, Blitzen, Horse Heaven, Jawbone Flats, Idiotville
  • Sunday, September 8, 2013

    Oklahoma L-Z

    Oklahoma is OK, huh? Just like Arizona is AZ, and Minnesota is MN, and Virginia is VA, right? Well now, that is imaginative.

    Wait.  Hold on a sec … Is this a double-entendre (and did I spell that right?)? Ohmigod, that’s so clever! This is exactly the kind of stuff I read the New Yorker for. I take back all the bad things I’ve said about you, Oklahoma. 

    10. Medicine Park

    In the west, “medicine” often means “magic,” or “healing.” And that gives us such great stuff as Medicine Lodge, Medicine Lake, Medicine Springs, and Medicine Park. I think it has something to do with Native Americans. 

    MP is an old resort town. It’s in the Wichita Mountains, in the southwest part of the state. Former well-known visitors include Will Rogers, Wiley Post, Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Les Brown, and Roy Rogers. The town is famous for its cobblestone architecture.

    Some of that there architecture

    9. The Village

    I had a friend in grade school who had a dog name “Dog” and a cat named “Cat.” He’d probably fit right in here.

    Officially known as City of the Village, this village / city / whatever is almost entirely surrounded by Oklahoma City. There are 10,000 people in The Village. Yup, that’s 10,000 Village people. Sorry.

    The Village is the corporate headquarters of Love’s Travel Stops, which you may be familiar with if you’ve ever traveled on an interstate in the United States of America. The town was incorporated only in 1970.
    8. Slaughterville 

    Wow! What kind of terrible massacre must have happened here? 

    Well, actually, I’m afraid Slaughterville owes its name to nothing more gruesome than a local grocer named James Slaughter. And he had a store at some crossroads here.

    Like Fishkill, NY, Slaughterville was once asked by PETA to change its name. PETA offered to give $20,000 worth of veggie burgers to the local school if the town changed its name to Veggieville. Honestly, I could not make this stuff up if I tried (see here for proof).

    We’re in the Oklahoma City area again, just a little to the southeast. There are 4,000 Slaughtervillians, though they all appear to be rather spread out.

    Thanks Internet Photoshop user!

    7. Scraper

    You know, to get the ice off your windshield. Where did you think it came from?

    Actually, it’s from some dude – namely, one Captain Archibald Scraper, of the 2nd Regiment, Indian Home Guard. He was a Cherokee.

    This one’s got 475 people, and is in the northeast part of the state. It has one famous son, Wilson Rawls, author of Where the Red Fern Grows.

    Oops, wrong scraper

    6. Slick

    Noun: an oil slick. Hmm, I don’t think so. Adj: smooth and glossy. Probably not. Adj: operating in an impressively smooth, efficient, and apparently effortless way. I like it!

    Well, wouldn’t you know. It’s actually named after another dude. Thomas B. Slick was a legendary Oklahoma oil man, and drilled the first oil well in the area here in 1920.

    Slick the town actually once had a population of 5,000. These days, not so much. It’s down to about 130. Ah well. The oil giveth and the oil taketh away. Great YouTube video on this almost ghost town right here.

    As for the surname, it means “smooth and glossy.” Not. It’s actually an Anglicization of Schlick, a German name that means “glutton.” Take your pick: Slick, Schlick, or Glutton – they all would have made it into this post.

    Haunted high school, Slick, OK

    5. Loco

    Crazy / I’m crazy for feeling so lonely / I’m crazy / Crazy for feeling so blue …

    Well, actually, I’m crazy because I ate some locoweed. Yup, that’s where this town’s name came from. 

    There is another theory though. This one leads back to the Latin word for “place” – you know, like in the word “locus.” I don't know ... I ain't buyin' it.

    Loco the town has 150 people and is in the south central part of the state. 

    And, as with all towns whose names are adjectives, Google returns some great results. In our case, these include loco divorce lawyers, loco singles, and loco cardiologists.

    And loco tankers as well

    4. Pumpkin Center

    Don’t laugh. This is actually a fairly common name. In fact, would you believe there are more states with a Pumpkin Center than there are without? Yup, I count 29 with and 21 without. 

    Now, why is this name so popular? That is the question. 

    Well, interestingly enough, I may have just found an answer. Turns out there was a comedy team by the name of Uncle Josh and Aunt Nancy who cut some early records at the turn of the 20th Century. And can you guess what fictional podunk they hailed from? Yup, good ol’ Pumpkin Center.

    To confuse things even further, though, would you believe there are four possible places with this name just in Oklahoma alone? For the sake of time, however, let’s go with just one. My particular favorite is near Lawton, in Comanche County, in the far southwest part of OK. They’ve got a restaurant called the Dry Beaver Supper Club, which certainly deserves a plug with a name like that.

    3. Non

    Non: the town that wasn’t there!

    Actually, I was able to find it, on MapQuest. It looks, though, more like it’s barely there. I count about a dozen houses or buildings of some sort or other.

    So, where did the name come from? Well, all I could find was a story that it was from the last syllable of the surname of the first postmaster, one J.W. Cannon. That makes me assume that 1) there was already a Cannon, OK, and that 2) J.W. was not a particularly imaginative person. As it turns out, there is not a Cannon, OK, so I guess it’s #2 then. Alternatively, though, perhaps A.J. was just a little bit unusual.

    I could find next to nothing else on the place, but I did get some interesting hits on Google nonetheless, including:
    • What you need to know about Oklahoma non-compete agreements
    • The non-conference schedule for the Oklahoma State basketball team
    • How to start a non-profit in Oklahoma
    • That it’s OK for Christians to apologize to non-Christians
    • That nonok is Malay for “vagina”

    2. Slapout

    Believe it or not, there are a few Slapouts out there too. In addition to Oklahoma, Alabama and Texas claim one as well.

    The typical story is that there was a general store at some crossroads that was somewhat lacking in inventory. So, whenever someone would ask for something, the store owner would have to admit that he was “slap out of it.” Perhaps there’s some comedic basis to this as well. Maybe Uncle Josh and Aunt Nancy owned a store. Who knows?

    At 8 people, the Oklahoma Slapout may be the smallest town in the state. Not much there other than a store and a couple of houses. It’s located right at the beginning of the Panhandle.

    Photo tip: always be sure to make things sprout
    directly from your subjects’ heads

    1. Nuyaka

    So, dis guy comes out west. I dunno, he’s from Flatbush, or someplace like dat. Anyhoo, he buys some cows or steers or whatever, and he starts dis farm …

    You’re not going to believe this, but this place is actually named after The Big Apple. Seems a bunch of Creek Indians met George Washington there, and were suitably impressed to name a town after it when they came out west.

    You won’t have any trouble distinguishing between the two however. Ours has about 15 buildings scattered over three blocks, a bit south of Tulsa. The name itself has a little more traction, with a creek, winery, mission, high school, mall, and various other Nuyaka kind of things scattered about the greater Okmulgee area.

    Not to be confused with …

    Honorable Mention:

    • B-o-r-i-n-g – Woods, Oklahoma City (American Banjo Museum), Midwest City
    • Short and sweet – Taft, Tom, May, Meno, Nebo, Ord, Orr, Vici, Vian, Wye, Zoe, Zena, Stapp, Prue, Roff
    • Just a little out of place – Peoria, Pittsburg, Yale, Utica, Tupelo, Washington, Pensacola, Orlando, Miami, Santa Fe, Yukon, Panama, Lima, Prague, Troy, Lebanon
    • Orthographically challenged – Wheeless, Picher (former site of world’s largest zinc mine), Rufe, Purdy
    • Numerically oriented – Twin Oaks, Three Sands
    • Native American mouthfuls – Pawhuska (nation’s first Boy Scout troop), Pontotoc, Weleetka, Tahlequah (Mr. Ed the Talking Horse burial site), Tullahassee, Oologah, Oktaha, Okmulgee, Okfuskee, Muskogee (site of first Girl Scout cookie sale), Sallisaw, Sapulpa, Wappanucka
    • Atypical adjectives – Loyal, Noble, Valiant, Mutual, Little (and Little City), Long, Pink, Okay
    • Abnormal nouns – Victory, Model, Mounds, Lookout, Sentinel, Snow, Shamrock, Pharoah, Wildcat, Sparks, Verdigris, Rattan, Platter
    • Unconventional verbs – Page, Muse, Roll
    • Fun to say – Milfay, Lookeba, Ponca City, Panola, Inola, Yahola, Yuba, Yanush, Skedee (Chief Baconrind monument), Swink, Spavinaw (Mickey Mantle’s birthplace), Tuttle, Tussy, Tushka, Tamaha, Talala, Quapaw (“downstream people” – a tribe), Uncas
    • Impossible portmanteaus – Texola, Texhoma, Texanna, Tunkahoma
    • Just plain weird – Loveland, Oil Center, Sulphur, Sunkist, Sunray, Stillwater (home of OSU), Stringtown, Strong City, Sacred Heart, Pyramid Corners, Pauls Valley, Richards Spur, Rubottom, Retrop (Porter backwards), Red Bird, Lone Wolf (as well as just plain Wolf), Radium Town
    • I’d like to introduce you to – Martha, Maud, Mazie, Velma, Vera, Olive, Stella, Ramona (formerly Bon Ton), Spiro, Milo, Oscar, Homer, Norman (home of the Univ. of Oklahoma), Wayne, Leonard, Luther, Milton, Vernon, Virgil, Remus
    • Ghost towns – Santa Fe, Yonkers, Oak Wall, Little Chief, Wildman, Whizbang

    Wondering what happened to all the OK towns from A to K?  Well, check right here.