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Friday, August 19, 2011

Bad Billies Who Were Bullies


       The story of the "Three Billy Goats Gruff" was one of my favorites when I was a small child.  The term "billy goat" was funny sounding.  Then when you added a silly sounding word like "gruff" to the title you reached the point of absurdity--just the thing to capture a kid's attention.  Round the story out with one nasty troll collecting a toll to cross a bridge and you had a classic tale.

        It seemed odd to me why a goat should be called "billy" or for that matter why a person who lived in a place like the mountains of Appalachia would be called a "hillbilly".   In my earliest years, my main experience with anything referred to as "Billy" was my cousin Billy.

        Cousin Billy was a few years older and I looked up to him not just because he was taller than me, but also because he had some really cool toys.  Since he was older he didn't seem to want to have too much to do with me.  He certainly did not want me touching his toys.  But I accepted that for what it was.  He was diplomatic about the whole situation and I certainly wouldn't call him a bully.

        However, most of the kids I knew who were named Billy came across as bullies.  Actually I only remember two Billies whom I knew when I was young and I don't remember them in a very good way.

        The first one was Billy Lado.  I was probably about five years old at the time.  He was around a year older and lived about a half a block away from my family's house on West 143rd Street in Cleveland, Ohio.  His mother was French--at least that's what my mom said because she had that kind of an accent I guess.

        In my last encounter with Billy Lado, I was visiting him to show off a newly acquired coloring book that my father had bought me at the circus the previous night.  I was especially proud of the picture of the juggler.  We were on his back patio and my coloring book was there on the ground open to the juggling picture which was laying there ready for me to color.  Then, without any warning, Billy stood up and peed on my coloring book. I wailed and ran home to tell my mother.  I don't know what transpired as a result of this, but I do know my mother was livid.  I never hung around with Billy Lado after that.

       The other Billy bully incident came about five years later after we had moved to San Diego.   Billy Blackburn was also about a year older than I and lived a few houses down from ours.  We had a tenuous friendship if one could even say we had any friendship.  I usually tried to avoid him, but there were times when I guess he had no one else to play with and I was his friend for that day--or perhaps victim would be a more apt term.

       It was shortly after the Christmas of 1960.  One of my prized gifts from my parents was a football. I was not particularly interested in sports, but I was proud of my new football.  I made the mistake of showing it off to Billy B.  We played with it for a while.  It was probably one of those days when none of his usual friends were available.  I could tell that he had an eye on my football and his covetousness got the best of him.  I didn't actually see him take it home with him, but I knew he took it and he knew he took it.  My mother made an attempt to intervene through his mother, but to no avail.  I never saw my football again.   The last I ever heard from Billy Blackburn was a phone call where he used words I had never heard before.  I later learned from my mother that they were very bad words that I had better never use.

      I knew a few more Billies after that, but none had much influence.  I also knew some Bills, Wills, and Williams, but they always seemed to be okay.  Maybe it's because Billy is close to sounding like bully and the similarity influences some boys with that name.  I wonder if that's what happened with Billy the Kid?

       All I know for sure is that Billy Lado and Billy Blackburn, if you're out there reading this, you owe me.  I don't want the coloring book replaced or the football back.  I just want to know that you guys turned out okay.  That you had good lives.  That if you got married, you treated your wives right and raised good families.  Maybe you started calling yourselves Bill or William and you were kind and generous to others.  I want to know that people can change for the better.




  1. My husband and I were just talking about names and how they seem to influence a person's character development. My brother-in-law's name is Billy and for many years he bullied my husband. He also had a problem with alcohol but about 13 years ago he checked himself into rehab and then began attending AA. The transformation was dramatic! He is truly a different person. So there is hope for the bullying Billys from your past. Thanks for the post, Lee!
    Pam at

  2. Never knew a Billy bully, but I did know a Pat the Brat who was given that title by other kids, because he was such a bully. Once he tried to hold my head under water just as I was coming to the surface for air. Luckily I was a good swimmer, not prone to panic. I went back down and came up a few feet away from where he was. I never swam or played with him again.

  3. How well I remember the story of The Three Billy Goats Gruff, That's far too many years I care to remember, I only know of one bad Bill but as it's personal to my daughter can't enlarge on it.
    Have you heard of any bad Yvonnes?

    Have a good week-end;

  4. I went to school with a Billy who drove the teachers crazy. He was considered a "bad" kid and a "troublemaker" because he had a problem with authority, but the other kids thought he was okay. He wasn't a bully. And yes, he totally turned out well. He has a son, is engaged, and has a good job. As far as I know, he's made his peace with authority!

  5. The three billy goats...yes, I remember them. Bullies...we had one in public school named Bruce but he only bothered the boys. We had a ball game once and he broke his leg. Cried like a baby. I don't think he ever held quite the same clout after that.

  6. I had a cousin named Billy. His last name was Bawtenheimer. To us kids, it sounded like Button Hammer. We called him Belly Button. He was a swell kid and grew into a nice man, last I heard.

  7. I wasn't sure where you were going with this post at first...but I love the final message. The way childhood memories follow us through life for no good reason always amazes me.

    My high school crush was my skiing pal and "bad boy"--Billy B.(the first one with pot and the first one to go to jail...) and I, too, still wonder how things turned out for him. Why do we still care after all these years??

  8. Pam -- Maybe their is some substance to the Billy theory? Thank you for a story with a happy ending.

    Bish -- Sounds like Pat was a kid who played with dangerous circumstances. Can't blame you for staying away from him.

    Yvonne -- I can't remember ever hearing a story about a bad Yvonne. I guess the only Yvonne I ever remember in my past was a majorette in my high school and she seemed to be a very nice young lady who always had a smile whenever I saw her.

    Laura -- I happy to hear that the rebellious Billy that you knew grew up and integrated well into society.

    Delores -- One of my best friends in elementary school was a Bruce and he was a nice guy. When a tough guy publicly shows weakness or becomes humililated it can certainly change his image. A bully who cries never seems as tough after that. Great story!

    Jan -- Maybe the unusual name helped your cousin Billy learn to develop a good sense of humor and a tolerance for being teased. "Belly Button" could be a tough name to overcome.


  9. jan (with the second "jan" comment)-- I'm curious about what happened to a lot of kids I grew up with--I lost track of so many of them. Those days of childhood were such impressionable years and for me they seem to be more memorable than a lot of my adult years. I hope the Billy you knew didn't go to jail for pot--that would be a bit extreme for that type of infraction. Why do we care? I don't know for sure. Probably curiosity?


  10. Nice anecdotes. I never knew a Billy. I now know a William, but he's 3 (maybe 2?), so no stories yet.

    From a new follower

  11. Our major tormentor was named Butchie (just an observation: there's probably NEVER been an interior decorator, hairdresser, or priest named "Butchie." I'm just saying). Began with a 'B', though (like Billie) so I'm thinking there IS a connection.
    By the way, I hear that Billy Jean King is a terror on those tennis courts. She'll steal your balls (just ask Bobby Riggs).

  12. Hi Lee .. I know I was bullied - but who or what or why .. I've never found out - but never had that sort of thing happen .. kids: very unfair. I did have an uncle called Bill .. no wonder your not keen on the name .. I hope those two turned out ok. ..

    I like Al's comment above .. Cheers Hilary

  13. I'll bet you've never been tempted to name a kid Billy.

  14. What a cool, cool post. Loved the way you wrapped this up. The last paragraph shows what a class act you are.

  15. Kelley -- William is the dignified version of the name. I can't think of a king or prince named Billy.

    Al -- Butchie definitely has some inference of toughness. Don't forget Billie Jean, the chick that bullied Michael Jackson about her kid.

    Hilary -- We can always count on Al for a witty comment can't we.

    Donna -- Billy was never a name I considered for any of my kids. My daughters probably wouldn't have liked it if I'd named one of them Billy.

    Bryce -- Why, thank you! What a kind thing to say.


  16. He peed on your coloring book? How wrong is that?!

  17. Lee,

    no. 1-- I can't believe Billy Lado did that to your coloring book. I'm sitting here with my eyebrows what feels like an inch above my eyes.

    no. 2-- the way you ended this post was really moving.

    I loved it.


  18. That is awful. I always thought about what happens to the bullies of the world.

  19. "The last I ever heard from Billy Blackburn was a phone call where he used words I had never heard before."

    Hmmm, I don't think they were fond utterances in French or Italian!

    I hope that they turned out OK. Kids can be mean & outgrow it.

    You brought back a fond Billy memory for me. 1 of my first crushes in the 5th grade was on a guy named Billy.

  20. Weird. I only remember two Billy's from my childhood. Once was a younger cousin who was and is a great person. But one was a kid who lived a couple houses down from us. He wasn't in a position to bully me (I was older) but he did torment/torture the family dog to the point that the poor thing finally snapped and attacked. Unfortunately, I was walking past their house and it attacked me. The dog had to be put down but we all knew it was Billy's fault.

  21. Long ago memories still have the power to hurt - or to replay the hurt.
    I always had a thing about men called Ray - took against them without good reason. Later I knew a couple of nice Rays.

  22. Alex -- I guess I could dismiss it as a weak bladder and it was an emergency, but no he was probably being a real jerk.

    Suze -- I was shocked when the incident happened. Thank you, I'm glad the writing moved you.

    Ciara -- Maybe a lot of them go into politics?

    Lisa -- I hope the Billy of your crush was nicer than the ones I knew.

    LD -- Wow, how sad about you being attacked and the dog's fate. I wonder what happened to that Billy. You've probably heard what they say about people who tortured animals when they were kids.


  23. Jabblog-- I've known several nice Rays. I have a son-in-law named Ray.


  24. It's so funny how names come with baggage, isn't it? I think this is especially true when they are the shortened versions... William can be Bill, Will, Billy... or someone can stick with the William. I've never known a Billy, I don't think, but your observations strike me as true. I've known a few Bills and the ones my age tend to be very nice. Wills are a little wilder (my son has a few friends who are Will).

    I think choosing the diminutive though, leads to bad behavior. I am married to a Bob, who grew up a Bobby, and I think as a kid tried (and managed) to get away with A LOT... girls, substances, skipping school... Maybe it is that choosing a kid name keeps people from growing up. I've also noticed among Rebeccas that those who choose 'Becca' tend to be unreliable and border on bitchy. Beckys are fine, as are Rebeccas and rebas... But Becca is bad news.

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  26. Yeah, that's true. And look what happened to him!
    Sorry...too soon?

  27. It's odd about names. There is a common woman's name that sort of is the same for me. Someone with that name is always either an excellent friend or just the opposite. There has never been an in-between. Did you know that the most common middle name for serial killers is Wayne? So watch out for Billy Waynes :)

    Happy Weekend!

  28. I didn't know any Billies when I was in elementary age. The only bully I encountered lived across the street from me in Salem, Ohio (80 miles south of Cleveland)and his name was Denny (Dennis) Barnes. Denny Barnes was mean. He would push you around, take things (toys/marbles) that he wanted and then lie. If you ever did attempt to push him back or even try to hit back, he would cry like a scalded cat and run home to mommy crying like a sissie. Of course his mom would come to your mom then and you would get in trouble.

    Finally my mother saw how much of a bully he was and she put Denny on the No Play List, regardless of what steps the FAA took, or how loud the ACLU screamed, or the pressure the Left Coast put on my mom, she didn't budge, Denny Barnes was persona non grata.

  29. It's interesting to compare how names affect a person's attitude--I've known people with the same name who've been very different people. Never met a Billy, though.

    I love the last paragraph of your post.

  30. Hart -- There are always exceptions. I've never known a Becca, but I have at least one frequent commenter who goes by the name Becca and she seems pretty nice. My grandparents used to call me Bobby Lee. I'm glad the name the name didn't stick--I would have felt like a character from a Tennessee Williams play or maybe "The Dukes of Hazzard".

    Blue Bell Books-- I'll let you know when my book is ready.

    Al -- I guess the doctor's on trial, so maybe it's not fair to blame Billie Jean for Michael's sad demise. Besides, considering how many times that song got played maybe she got the message and gave up hassling poor Michael.

    Carol -- Interesting factoid. I know of John Wayne Gacy, but I'm not familiar with the others. A Billy Wayne would be one to watch.

    Gregg -- So did Denny go on to found the restaurant chain? When kids don't get along it's probably the best thing to keep them apart if the mothers can't keep things in check. By the way, I wonder what Billy Graham was like when he was a kid?


  31. Golden Eagle-- Thank you for that last sentence about my last paragraph. I guess studies have been done about how names have affected people, but I don't recall hearing any results. It is an interesting topic to explore.

    IBD-- Thanks for stopping!


  32. Lee-

    >I just want to know that
    >you guys turned out okay.
    >That you had good lives.


    I'd want to know that someone in their office is constantly peeing all over their work!

    I kid, of course. I had a "nemisis" from 6th grade through high school, and he kicked my tail. A lot.

    At age twenty, I was in the best shape of my life, and saw him coming the other way across a parking lot.

    It was high noon. I was ready. Today he was gonna get his a## handed to him.

    The distance between us closed.

    As we got closer, I could see his eyes.

    They widended, and he said....

    "Hey Larry, how's it going?"

    And in that instant, the whole grudge from our childhood melted away.

    I always joke that he ruined what would have been the best day of my life, but what he really did (probably unknowingly) was teach me to let go.

    Although kicking his butt would have been okay, too...


  33. I've noticed this phenomena with a few other names and wondered why, so I thoroughly enjoyed this post topic, Lee. :)

  34. I knew a lot of Billys in my day, although only two come immediately to mind:

    There was Billy Burr and his brother George. I knew them for years prior to 5th grade. They were both good kids and I'd like to know what became of them. (I had a crush on their cousin, Mary Ann.)

    Then in junior high and beyond I knew a Billy Hill. That's right. When we kids found ourselves being surname-alphabetized he was Hill, Billy.

    He didn't have to take a lot of crap about his name, however, because A) he was a cool kid and well liked, and B) he was a good athlete and known to be pretty tough so not too many kids were going to risk making fun of his name... to his face anyway.

    Now, I had a little trouble with a Ricky. But then EVERYONE had a little trouble with Ricky. If we'd had such an election, Ricky would have been voted "Most Likely To Do 25-To-Life In A Federal Prison."

    (I never heard anything about him later, but I hope Ricky eventually saw The Light and got his act straightened out.)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  35. Larry -- It's nice to see when situations change like that, but still you can't help but remember. I recall a guy in high school who I found rather intimidating. He didn't bully me on a regular basis, but he tried now and then and I didn't care for him much. A few years later I ran into him at a pool hall. He had returned from Viet Nam with both legs missing and in a wheelchair. Despite that he still came across as kind of tough, but a heck of a lot nicer and I enjoyed that brief time to revisit him.

    Michelle -- The experience probably varies from one person to another, but I have heard similar stories from others.

    StMcC-- Billy Burr sounds like could be a sticky little guy, but anyone who got called off as Hill Billy has my vote for coolness. Kind of reminds me of a name I saw in the Maryville, TN phonebook. John Hard when his name was reversed kind of sounded funny. Probably would have been worse if his name had been Richard.


  36. I've know nice two nice guys called Billy...and mean people with different names. I guess we just all hope that thoughs difficult souls from our past turned a corner somehow.

  37. we do not like Billy bullies :)
    We don't have as many bullies here in our school as I've noticed US schools have, since bullies are usually the product of alienated society and absence of parental guide, but I think modern times bring more bullies than the old ones, so we were kinda happy back in our days.

  38. I can't remember ever knowing a Billy, besides my step-mom's brother. And he's very nice.

    The bully-types I knew as a kid were named Justin and Jason. I used to never trust anyone named Jason. Which is funny because I now have two friends named Jason and I can't imagine either of them ever being mean to anyone.

  39. Oh my, you're a much better person than I. I try not to think of those who bullied me and when I do I certainly don't wonder about how they turned out.
    Yours was a touching story.

  40.'re really forgiving. I'd want a replacement football. Its sweet of you to worry after their families, though.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  41. Liza -- It would be comforting to know that bad kids became good, but probably not always the case.

    Dezmond -- I'd say bullying is rooted in anger, frustration, and bad examples at home. There's probably a lot of kids that have to deal with this.

    Karen -- When I was a kid no one was named Justin or Jason--at least I never heard of any of them.

    Mary - Thank you. I guess I'm just curious.

    Raquel -- If they were bullies as kids no telling what they could have become as adults. I hope they became good people--the world needs more good people.


  42. The only Billy I knew was a shy nerd.


  43. I remember you telling me these stories. I loved the pee one, but now that I'm hearing it I can't believe that meany did that.

  44. I have known several Bill's throughout my life thus far and can only think of one that was.....wait, that was a Bob. Nope, Bill's are bad. The whole lot of em'.

  45. Joyce -- Better a Billy who was a shy nerd that a bully.

    Emilee -- It was pretty mean. And I was so proud of my new coloring book.

    ib -- Oh, I don't know. I like to have a whole lot of Bills, especially if they were all hundreds--that wouldn't be bad.


  46. The only Bill(ie) I can think of was a handsome one I knew in highschool and he sure could kiss sweet. LOL

    Glad you stopped by my Blog for GOOD NEWS Friday. Have a wonderful trip to see your Grands!

  47. Maybe this is the reason I have never been fond of that name!
    I feel so sorry for the young you!
    Blessings, Joanne

  48. Shame. I hate bullies. Although I can't tell you if it's a connection to the name. I actually don't know any Billy's.


  49. What a great story. I know that I will always remember the part of Billy the Bully #1 peeing on your coloring book. That was super bad.

    Thanks so much for stopping by to say hello the other day. I hope that you have a great weekend.

    Kathy M.

  50. I love what you write in the last para Lee. I too hope that some of the bullies I knew in school have not turned out to be bullies in real life.

  51. I was fortunate not to have to deal with bullies while growing up. But we lived one town over from where I went to school because my mother was a teacher there. It made it a little odd because all the people I knew were over there and I didn't know anyone in the town I lived.

  52. Ah yes silly billy is a term we often use in our household. I loved the 3 billy goats gruff too.
    I've had to deal with bullies all my life. Rceently I attended a knitting group where bullying was thick in the atmosphere. I implored the group leader to change venues, but she wouldn't. In the end I voted with my feet and have found a different group with a healthy, fun atmosphere. The feeling of release is enormous. You think when you become an adult that the bullying will stop, but the bullies just grow into adult bullies...! :O)

  53. I'm glad I didn't name my son Billy! Not a good choice. I had a student named Billy who was nice. Other than that, I can't think of any others whom I know.

  54. I knew a Bully Bully who was a girl. Eeep, not fond memories. =D

  55. That brought back a nice memory - 3 Billy Goat's Gruff was one of my son's favorite stories :-)

  56. I'm sorry Lee that you were bullied as a child by those two "Billy the kids."

    I hope they turned out to be as understanding and forgiving as you.

  57. I hope those two bully Billys have read this blog and feel bad about what they did. Kids are so cruel. But I know what you mean about names. I once taught an extremely naughty boy called Kyle and I hate that name now.

  58. I'm sorry but I laughed when I read that he peed on your coloring book. It's mean and funny at the same time.

  59. I totally believe names can influence the behavior of an individual. that's why I don;t label people. I try very hard not to judge them. Glad to hear the Billiams turned out okay and were good family men,

  60. Never naming my kid Billy now. :P

  61. Many thanks for the wonderful comments. I am now limited on my daily computer use until I return home next week so I will have a difficult time visiting many of your blogs. I do appreciate you staying with me.



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