My mother’s full name was Mary Elizabeth Shonk, and she was Elizabeth to most of her family. To many others, she was “Betty.” My dad’s name was Floyd Daniel Shonk, and his family always called him “Danny.” Because of his hair color, he was known to most of his friends as “Red.” They were known as Mr. and Mrs. Shonk by my pals and the friends of my sister, Kathy.
As a young boy and during most of my school years, I was called “Freddy.” I am still close with some of my former classmates from Edgewood Grade School. We have breakfasts and lunches and just had our second reunion. I am called Freddy at those functions.
I remember being called “Gus” for a few years. The Wilcox girls (Donna, Nancy and Sandy) started calling me that, but it never caught on except at their house.
A few years after we graduated from Southport High School, Freddy and Gus had been replaced by my Fred. In my last couple of years in the Indiana National Guard, I was promoted to platoon sergeant and motor Sergeant. I never got comfortable being addressed as Sgt. Shonk.
Our daughter, Michelle, and grandsons, Trevor, Tyler and Trey, have always called me “Pap,” just like my mom called my dad.
As a school bus driver, especially during my years at Beech Grove Schools, I was known as “Mr. Fred.” The pupils, their parents and the school staff all addressed me as such. Students who started riding with me in kindergarten or first grade still call me Mr. Fred.
A couple of weeks ago I had a chat with a young lady who rode my bus when she was in the first grade. Ali Butler, now a freshman at Beech Grove High, had addressed me as Mr. Fred a couple of times before noticing that her mother, Amanda Upton, called me Fred. Ali then made the change, but she explained that she heard her mom do it first. At some point when we were talking, she said she still didn’t like bugs or spiders. That statement puzzled me for a minute.
She then reminded me that I had always told the students that any flying creature entering a bus window was probably a hornet, which was the mascot of Beech Grove Schools. And as such, the children should be nice to these insects. Riders were also frightened of spiders. Lots of screaming started shortly after a spider was spotted. I named any spider in the bus “Steve.” Sometimes Steve would be small, sometimes larger. I always tried to explain that Steve was a good friend and just enjoyed riding a bus. “Please don’t scream and frighten him,” I said.
I was amazed that Ali remembered the bugs, spiders and Mr. Fred. You know, by whatever name that I’m called, I’m lucky to have so many wonderful friends.