Small girl and Flub-a-Dub by the author

Mad in Pursuit Notebook

Flub-a-Dub: How I Got a Silly Nickname

A family love story

No doubt "Flub-a-Dub" was my first alter ego. The nickname attached to me in three steps involving a favorite aunt, a bossy cousin, and a loving grandfather.

Subscribe to get my newsletterPart 1. The secret name

I must have been three when Aunt Mary Ann came over to our Penrose apartment to babysit. It would have been after she married Uncle Pat (March 1951), but before she had her own baby (December 1952). She was about 21 and one of those adults who could see the world through a child's eyes. I would have been three. She asked me if I had a secret name. Hers was Spook. I told her mine was Flub-a-Dub, because my favorite meal was meatballs and spaghetti.

Flub-a-dub was a marionette character on Howdy Doody, a children's TV show (aired 1947-1960). She was a whimsical mix of eight animals, with the bill of a duck, whiskers of a cat, ears of a cocker spaniel, neck of a giraffe, body of a dachshund, flippers of a seal, tail of a pig, and memory of an elephant. At first, she loved munching on the flowers that grew in her hat. But when the producers heard reports of children mimicking her—eating flowers!—they changed Flub-a-Dub's favorite meal to meatballs and spaghetti. [1]

I don't remember her eating flowers, but on meatballs and spaghetti, we were soulmates.

Part 2. The bossy cousin

I have no direct memory of this incident, but my dad loved telling the story.

There was a family gathering at Grandma Price's on Theodosia. Let's say it was 1952. I was four. There were nine grandchildren at the time and I was number five. The first six were girls, all of us born between 1946 and 1949.

Also at the gathering was our second cousin Mary Frances. Born in 1947, the only child of an only child, she wasn't the oldest but she decided to take charge and have us play school or something. She made us line up in age order. She commanded us to say our names.

My dad reported that the responses were meek.



"Mary Beth."


When she got to me, I yelled, "Flub-a-Dub!"

Shouting my secret name broke the spell of compliance. Poor Mary Frances. But my dad thought it was both hilarious and wonderful. His little girl wasn't going to be pushed around. She had a voice—even if she had to use an alter ego like Flub-a-Dub.

Part 3. The dear grandfather

Where did my grandfather Ewald learn my not-so-secret name? Was it from my dad telling the story? Or did I declare it over a bowl of meatballs and spaghetti?

Whatever, it stuck. He (and only he) called me Flub-a-Dub, later shortened to Flub, till the day he died, in 1988.

It was an ironic nickname for a scholarship girl and I have to say I'm glad it didn't catch on. But every time I heard him say "Flub," every time I heard him say, "Hey, Flub, what d'ya know?," I heard, "I love you," even in my silent teen years, when he'd drop me off and pick me up from school and my only answer to his question was "nuthin.'"

I guess the whole saga is about the loving moments of childhood. My aunt took time for a thoughtful exchange with a three-year-old. She added depth to my existence: an alternate identity that gave me voice at four and made my dad confident I'd never be cowed by a bossy power-grabber. And my grandfather—he accepted me as mysterious and complicated, but knew I'd always be his Flub-a-Dub.


[1] Source: Four Fascinating Facts About Flub-A-Dub, on Scoop and "The Howdy Doody Show", Part Two Quiz on Fun Trivia

Image. This January I decided to get out my art supplies and play around with illustrating in color. Conjuring a stunning image in AI has its charms, but my wonky hand-painted illustrations are more me.

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Books from Mad in Pursuit and Susan Barrett Price: KITTY'S PEOPLE: the Irish Family Saga about the Rise of a Generous Woman (2022)| HEADLONG: Over the Edge in Pakistan and China (2018) | THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) | TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) | PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008). Available at Amazon.