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 What's in a name? Jean Parker Shepherd Jr.
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Posted - 09/01/2014 :  10:39:53  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The last post on this forum was in 2013 . . . and that was mine. But I understand some folks still regularly check here, so for them I now provide something new to read.

Many of you may already know how Shep obtained his first name. As written in Bergmann's EYF, "Shepherd was named Jean after his father, whose sister, so it is said, had admired the Victor Hugo novel Les Miserables and suggested that her baby brother be named Jean after the main character." (EYF at 43.)

And now for the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey used to say).

I just came across an audio clip of an undated WOR radio broadcast, where Shep tells the story of how his father came to be named "Jean." As with all things Shepherd, one must be wary of accepting it all as fact. But here it does seem to be at least consistent with the historical record.

According to Shep, his father's sixteen-year-old sister -- "Aunt Glenn" -- was in her "romantic period" at the time of the Old Man's birth. She aggressively pushed for her new baby brother to be named "Jean," after Jean Valjean, the protagonist of Les Miserables, the French historical novel first published in 1862. Shep's real Aunt Glenn was in fact named "Glenna," born in Kansas in December 1885. However, her name was frequently shortened to "Glenn." And Shep Sr., Glenna's younger brother, was in fact born in 1902, when Glenna would have been sixteen.

According to Shep, his grandmother relented, and the baby boy was named according to Aunt Glenn's wishes. However, as Shep explains, the original birth certificate read "Gene." So young Aunt Glenn went down to the hospital to have it changed. Further according to Shep, the hospital called home to speak to Shep's grandmother, who said her daughter was correct, and the certificate was changed to read "Jean."

The WOR clip also refers to the Old Man's family living near "55th and Union" on the South Side of Chicago. Prior to the birth of Shep's father, the Shepherd family in fact lived at 4435 South Union Avenue, near 44th and Union. However, by the time Shep Sr. was still a very young boy, the family had moved to 5603 South Union, which is located right at 56th and Union. I note there now seems to be no 55th and Union; rather, there is a Garfield Boulevard located between 54th and 56th South Union.

By the way, Shep's "grandmother" (the Old Man's mother) -- although not named in the clip -- was born Flora Ella Raffety.

Finally, records show Shep Jr.'s birth certificate apparently reads "Jean Kenneth Shepherd," not "Jean Parker Shepherd"! Perhaps Shep folded into his father's story the necessity to change the name on his own birth certificate? The name "Parker," of course, was the surname of the family in "A Christmas Story."

Edited by - Colonel on 09/01/2014 21:24:21
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