What’s In A Name?

Take the name, “Kilroy.” Who is he, anyway?

I’m so glad you asked. During WWII, the phrase, “Kilroy Was Here” got scrawled all over the world…wherever the Allied Forces marched, the slogan could be found: Italy, France, Germany. Sometimes it was on a tree, but more often it was found in places like the Berlin Wall, the Eifel Tower, and reportedly in Hitler’s bunker. When a soldier saw the image, he felt some calm assurance that he was not alone, an ally had been there before him.

Ironically, Hitler took “Kilroy” to be some super spy and he was paranoid about his presence.

After the war, The New York Times indicated that James J. Kilroy originated the cartoon and slogan. Kilroy was an American shipyard inspector. After the Amalgamated Transit Union conducted a contest to determine the origin, J.J. Kilroy was credited with the phrase. He would leave his mark on ships to mark rivets he had checked. At the end of a riveter’s shift, he (more likely “she”) would make a chalk mark to show where he left off and the next “Rosie the Riveter” had started.

A few unscrupulous riveters moved the chalk mark back, taking credit for more piece work and more pay than they had actually earned. To stop the practice, J.J. Kilroy wrote, “Kilroy Was Here,” at the site of each chalk mark. No graffiti-artist could have gotten inside the sealed hull of a ship, but Kilroy did! Before it was sealed.

Thousands of servicemen saw the slogan on outgoing ships and engraved the legend in newly captured areas during WWII. The slogan, “Kilroy Was Here,” has a ora of omnipresence. He was everywhere present at the same time.

I know that only the Judeo-Christian God has that true attribute, but if you let your imagination wander, maybe God allowed the Kilroy phrase as a reminder. There is no place where the Lord has not been or where He is not or where He will not be. Of course all analogies break down at some point, but it’s comforting to know that God was there first! He has many names: Almighty God, Saviour, Messiah, Comforter, Healer, and Counselor, for instance.

So much is wrapped up in a name. Knowing that, I try to guard my name. I don’t want anything disgraceful to be associated with my name.  When I leave my mark, I want the people who knew me best to say, “‘Effie Was Here,’ and I’m so glad she stayed a while.”

Apparently Nana Smith of Des Moines, Iowa felt that way. A few years ago she decided to look up Mynita and Effie Groves. I love computers. When my sister and I responded to her internet request, we were instantly connected to our elementary school friend. Nana said that her mother didn’t let her play with just any one, but she liked Mynita and Effie. I’m glad Nana searched for our names. We got to meet her once again and take pictures, even of our old school held in Fort Des Moines on the old military training grounds. Isn’t life strange? And wonderful! It just keeps marching along.

Maybe someday I’ll write about mistaken identity when my husband and his identical twin wore identical Army uniforms with a name label of “Gross” when I was a young bride at Las Cruces, New Mexico. (Okay, this is a teaser, I’ll confess.)

This entry was posted in family, friends, Judeo-Christian, Messianic, military, Uncategorized, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to What’s In A Name?

  1. As always, you have gone beyond the surface, dug deeper and shared the significance of a simple phrase with us. You are a true teacher and historian. Thank you for this post!

  2. Deb,
    Thank you, again, for your insight and encouragement. You are a great friend.

  3. Joe Finnerty says:

    I enjoyed reading your Kilroy World War Two yarn. Nothing else has replaced that iconic image and message.
    Joe Finnerty

  4. Floyd says:

    I love the history lesson and the analogy of God himself. What that symbolizes is not only what you described and how something so small and insignificant can be so big, but also I think it gives us hope in what this nation can be again.

    I’m looking forward to your posts and I must confess your little teaser has me looking forward to your personal history. There is something so powerful in our personal history shared with friends.

    Nice job.

    • You are a man of great wisdom, Floyd, so I really appreciate your comments. It’s always been hard for me to share my own personal history. Usually, I write about family…mostly they don’t seem to mind. I’ll try to be courageous and reveal more of myself. I can laugh at myself, so that’s good. You’ll get a good laugh out of the identical twin piece yet forthcoming. Thanks, again, Floyd.

  5. Mynita Rubel says:

    Effie, I love your stories. You have a wondeful way with words. You bring out all the emotions.


  6. Kaye Bennett says:

    How interesting, and insightful. I knew a bit of the story, but not the whole. Kinda like some know a “bit about God” but not the whole. Keep on writing!

  7. You’re right, Kaye. Even true believers can never know the “whole” until we get to glory and are like Him. Thanks for your reply and for subscribing. In my brain, I have a library full of things I want to write about and feel a “if not now, when?” attitude. Blessings to you, friend.

  8. Rosemarie Malroy says:

    Dear Effie,
    Jason said,” Mom, haven’t you read Effie’s blog? It’s really good.” He is right. I hope when your novel comes out everyone will get it as this is just a teaser of all the interesting facts in it. Also, it is good to know what our parents and grandparents suffered through in WWII and remember that God was there, in all places, as He is today.

    • Rosemarie,
      Your son is quite kind. He surely will be raving when he reads your Revolutionary War novel, too. You’ve given the reader an interesting way to learn history…a subject I never liked as a kid. Funny how we change. I really like your work, Rosemarie. It’s so wholesome, not like a lot of what is out there today.

  9. Hazel Moon says:

    When I was in school we also wrote KilRoy was here on our book covers and other places. Thank you for this trip down memory lane.

  10. Hazel, Yes, those were the days, huh? It must have been fun to see all of the places where Kilroy showed up. He was well traveled!

  11. Shirley Williams says:

    Effie, You never cease to amaze me. “What will Effie get into next!” Now it’s blogging!

    We go ‘way back, Effie, Remember those tired nights, huddled in a restaurant, was it West Des Moines? Fledgling writers, comfortable sharing our meager efforts, nervously critiqing each other’s stuff, cheering the few published pieces.
    Here you are now, well published and pushing the envelope into blogger. My hat’s off to you, dear, gutsy gal.



    • Shirley, The same goes for you, for you are an amazing woman! I’m not sure what will be next for me. The Lord surprises me all the time. Yes, I remember those days of the Des Moines Register interviewing our writers’ group and our pictures in the paper. We had arrived! I miss you all so much. Wonderful days of learning are not ALL behind us. We’ll keep pecking on those keys and see where we end up. Just never quit…never give up!

  12. Tim Shey says:

    What’s in a name? This happened to me years ago when I was hitchhiking in New Mexico:

    “They name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel”

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