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Can You Believe The Names Of These Towns
ByNicole Frehsee Mazur|Aug 28, 2017 6:41AM
What's it like to live in a town with a weird name? Fun, it turns out.
From Goobertown, Alaska, to Ding Dong, Texas and Cranky Corner, Louisiana, there’s no shortage of strangely named cities across the U.S. Though some may verge on cringe-worthy (imagine saying you hail from Slickpoo, Idaho), the truth is that towns with unique names generally tend to inspire a similarly unique pride in the folks who call them home. We took a close look at six towns with “special” names and talked to locals about what makes them love their hometowns (beyond the welcome sign).
1. Rough and Ready, California
Despite its macho name, this former mining town about 65 miles northeast of Sacramento at the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas seems like a pretty warm-and-fuzzy place. (It’s named after the Rough and Ready Mining Company of Wisconsin, whose members were sent to pan for gold in 1849.) “We’re a small, close-knit community,” says Craig Ashcroft, director of Rough and Ready’s Chamber of Commerce. Dotted with historic buildings like an 1850s blacksmith shop, it’s the kind of town that hosts an annual Christmas potluck (Santa makes an appearance), monthly pancake breakfasts (six dollars buys you eggs, sausage, pancakes, and coffee), and a free bluegrass concert by hometown band the Rough and Ready Fruit Jar Pickers every Sunday morning.
The biggest local celebration happens the last Sunday of every June, when residents gather to commemorate Rough and Ready’s short-lived secession from the Union in 1850, a move sparked by the desire to avoid taxes and a ban on booze. (Fun fact: They rejoined because foreigners were prohibited from buying alcohol on July 4th.) “We’ve celebrated our history of secession every year since 1950,” says Ashcroft. “We’re committed to keeping our history alive.”
2. Accident, Maryland
The origins of Accident’s name are a mystery, but the most popular story involves a misunderstanding in 1774, when two land surveyors laid claim to the same few hundred acres “by accident.” Centuries later, the spot in Maryland’s northwest corner—where the median household income is $51,156 and the median sales price for a house is $192,500—is a “small little town where everybody knows everyone else,” says Ida Maust, who’s owned a farm in Accident since the 1960s. “It’s very rural, with a lot of farms and woods. The churches are probably what you notice more than anything else when you drive through.” In other words, not exactly a hotbed of activity—but locals don’t have to go far to find excitement. It’s only about a 20-minute drive to Deep Creek Lake, a recreation area offering a 3,900-acre lake, 35 ski slopes and activities from fly fishing to hiking.
3. Boring, Oregon
Let’s set the record straight: Boring isn’t actually boring. (The city, about 25 miles outside of Portland, was named for William Boring, one of the area’s early farmers.) Take a typical Saturday night, for example: “Most people go out and sing karaoke at one of three bars we have, or go out to dinner,” says Kaelynn Johnston, who runs the aptly named Not So Boring Bar and Grill. While the town’s name doesn’t ring true, residents still take pride in it, even celebrating Boring and Dull Day every August 9th. (Boring became a sister city to the Scottish village of Dull in 2012, and recently partnered with the Australian community of Bland Shire.) “We have a huge celebration in the park with ice cream,” says Johnston.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Boring—where 83 percent of residents are homeowners, the median household income is $73,208 and the crime rate is basically nil (there’s only been one count of arrest in the last year)—has a friendly, everybody-knows-your-name feel. “It’s a tight-knit place,” says Johnston. “You can’t go out for dinner and not expect people to join you to catch up on the latest gossip.”
4. Oatmeal, Texas
Most people in this farming-and-ranching community about 50 miles from Austin are “generationers,” says Kayla Schreiber, a lifetime area resident. That is, their roots in Oatmeal—which was settled by Germans in the 1840s and reportedly got its name from the area’s first gristmill owner, Mr. Othneil—stretch back decades. “Now, they’re straddling an appreciation of the past while facing a new dawn.” The town hasn’t changed much over time—today, it doesn’t include much more than a schoolhouse, community center, church, and cemetery.
Another thing that’s remained constant in Oatmeal: hometown spirit. In the 1970s, Texas officials removed Oatmeal from the state map because it didn’t intersect with any main highways. Locals wanted to keep it on the map, so they decided to create a festival there, complete with a parade, beauty pageant, and barbecue. Decades later, the annual Oatmeal Festival, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this September, is still the hottest ticket in town. “It’s the only community event that gathers a crowd in Oatmeal,” says Schreiber. “The festival has become the only constant memory shared by many people, from grandmas to millennials.”
5. Pass-a-Grille, Florida
Population: Unknown (The town has around 550 residential and businesses addresses.)
It’s not surprising that this quaint, quiet beach town just outside St. Petersburg is the perfect setting for a BBQ. In fact, according to local lore, Pass-a-Grille, a 31-block-long, one-block-wide strip of land nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and Boca Ciega Bay, got its name from the French phrase passe aux grilleurs, or “passageway of the grillers,” a nod to the French fisherman who would cook their day’s catch on its shores.
Today, Pass-a-Grille—one of 11 communities that make up the city of St. Pete Beach—is home to restaurants, art galleries, rows of pastel houses and killer sunsets (best observed from Hurricane’s Rooftop Bar with a cocktail in hand). “It’s very much ‘old Florida’ in terms of development,” says Bill Knepper, a longtime Pass-a-Grille resident and realtor. “We have strict zoning and a good historical board so there are no high rises, just a few mom-and-pop hotels. We’re protective of the heritage here.” So protective that many homes in Pass-a-Grille have never been on the market—owners simply hand them down to the next generation. (For houses that are sold, the median sales price is $711,500.) “Prices have always been at a premium, but now they’re gaining and gaining,” says Knepper. Thankfully, that hasn’t affected the town’s laid-back, egalitarian vibe. “There are people with tons of money and people living paycheck to paycheck,” he says. “But we all eat at the same places and drink at the same bars.”
6. Hot Coffee, Mississippi
Population: Unknown (Covington County, where Hot Coffee is located, is home to 19,569 people.)
“Do you remember when it was safe to walk down the road? It still is here.” That’s according to the Facebook page for Hot Coffee, an unincorporated farm community about 70 miles southeast of Jackson, Mississippi. In the 1800s, the owner of an inn halfway between the trading posts of Natchez, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama, touted the “best hot coffee around” and hung a huge coffee pot over his door to drive home the point. Road-weary horse-and-buggy travelers began asking each other, “How far until hot coffee?” and the town’s name was born.
These days, locals get their caffeine fix at McDonald’s Store, a gas station/mini-mall that serves as the town’s unofficial hangout—partly because it’s the town’s only hangout. “My store is the only one here,” says owner Lynda McDonald Sanford, whose parents bought McDonald’s in 1967. (Restaurants, shops, and movies are located about 30 minutes away in Laurel.) “I get to know people from all sides of Hot Coffee. Everyone’s friendly and helpful to one another, and most people have good manners. It’s a tight-knit community.” What Hot Coffee lacks in excitement (and residents), it makes up for in beauty. “We’re in what they call the piney woods, with lots of pine- and oak-tree forests and trees and rolling hills,” says McDonald Sanford. “It’s very pretty.”
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