It's not that I really want to buy my 87-year-old mom a bicycle license plate with her first name on it for Mother's Day. But, after five decades of trying to come up with unique Mother's Day gifts, it would be nice to have that option.
Whether it's personalized license plates, bracelets or just coffee mugs, stores never offer anything featuring my mom's name -- Lois.
In 1927, when my mom was born, Lois was the 19th-most-popular baby girl's name in the United States, finishing well ahead of Catherine, Eleanor, Lucy and Grace. Lois dropped from the top 20 in 1935, fell from the top 50 by the end of World War II, was out of the top 100 by 1954, plummeted out of the top 1,000 by 1984, and hasn't made the list since.
"It's kind of an old, dying-out name," says Lois Stevenson, the 85-year-old Glen Ellyn woman who publishes the newsletter for the Lois Club's Central Chapter, one of the three Lois Clubs in Illinois that all have seen membership dwindle in recent years.
"That's because we're old and there are no young ones," says EdnaLois Bobene, 79, who lives in Grayslake, was named after her mom's best friends and has a first name that couldn't be any more old-fashioned. Search online for "Edna Club" and you are directed to a country club in Edna, Texas. At least the Loises have their own club.
"Right now, we have a very small group, about 15 or 16," Bobene says of the Lois Club Northern Illinois chapter members who meet for lunch in Mundelein whenever there is a fifth Tuesday in a month. One of that group's youngest members is Lois Caslavka of Mundelein, who is 74.
"I know a Lois in her 40s or 50s," says Caslavka, who remembers being the only Lois around while growing up in Ohio. "But there aren't many."
Other old-fashioned names have come roaring back. Sophia is our most popular girls' name today, followed by Emma, Isabella, Olivia, Ava, Emily and Abigail. But Lois languishes.
When Lois Schnizlein of Naperville founded the Illinois Lois Club in 1994, it quickly grew to nearly 400 members, split into chapters and actively promoted the idea of naming babies Lois. One button read, "You're pregnant? Lois is a nice name."
"We don't have that anymore," Bobene says, explaining that the Lois who made all the buttons died a few years back.
About five years ago, a mom brought a baby named Lois to a meeting of the Lois Club. "But we haven't heard from her since," Bobene says. "I think we were too old for the child, and too old for the mother."
At the Central Chapter's 10th anniversary bash in 2004, a guest brought an infant named Lois. That girl never became a member, but Stevenson says she's aware of her and two other suburban girls, ages 5 and 12, named Lois.
In addition to Lois Lane of Superman fame, the entertainment world has provided Lois characters in TV shows such as "Family Guy" and "Malcolm in the Middle," and the old comic strip "Hi and Lois." The biblical book of Timothy refers to a grandmother named Lois, and my mom and dad used to exchange a sly glance in church whenever the preacher read the verse from the book of Matthew that says, "And, lo, I am with you always."
At this year's annual convention in April for Lois Clubs across the United States and Canada, the collection of Loises easily fit in a photograph taken at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Va. "We had 65, and we used to be well over 100," Stevenson says.
I can relate. While still a popular name choice for misspelled Muppets and grouchy old men in TV commercials, Burt fell from the top 1,000 names list in 1972, the same year actor Burt Reynolds posed nude in Cosmopolitan Magazine. Boy names more popular than Burt today include Apollo, Titon, Hendrix, Legend, Zaire, Blaise, Axton, Bridger, Yandel, Gael, Yael, Jael, Cael and Kael. Girl names more popular than Lois include Jazzlyn, Meadow, Azalea, America, Karma, Juniper, Sky, Dixie and Temperance, all of which used to be pony names.
Many of the Lois Club members admit to not liking growing up with their name. "It just doesn't have a ring to it," says Lois Campbell, who lives in Brookfield, Wis., and still mails out kits to anyone interested in starting a Lois Club.
If I did want to get my mom a personalized license plate, I could buy an Illinois vanity plate. If my mom were named Emma, the best the state could offer is Emma 44. The plate "Lois," however, remains available.