Lots of you readers will have friends that you’ve known all your life. If you are still in the same country you were born in, if you live in the same area, if you went to the same primary school for six or so years, the same secondary for five or six years and, maybe the same college for three or more years, you probably have old friends.
As you may have read in my earlier posts, we moved around a lot when we were growing up. I think I went to somewhere between six and ten schools from the age of four to seventeen then to an A-level college for two years. We moved from Zanesville to Cincinnati, then went on our ‘divorce trip’ out west, back to Zanesville, then to Columbus, back to Cincinnati and then to London by the time I was fifteen. All that moving meant that I lost contact with almost every childhood friend.
When we were whisked to London we hadn’t any time to say farewell to the friends we had at school in the year or so before leaving. I did keep in touch with one or two but eventually even those fell by the wayside and most had no idea what happened to us. One of the people I kept in contact with was called Bob. He and I might have become girlfriend and boyfriend if I hadn’t left but we exchanged the occasional letter for four or five years. He joined the Marines in the early sixties and was learning to speak Vietnamese. I have always assumed that he must have been one of the many casualties in that disastrous war.
Occasionally I looked at Friends Reunited (when it existed) and have looked at alumnus sites of the various schools I attended, as well as Facebook. I was surprised and delighted when I found my best friend in the eighth grade, Sylvia, but when I wrote to her, her reply made it clear that she wasn’t interested in renewing our acquaintance – which is a pity, but understandable.
I often wonder what happened to the boys and girls I remember from my days at school in America, some of whom are pictured in anonymous photos I took and forgot to write names on. I have several photos of neighbourhood friends whom I remember very well from my life in America. In one I appear with my sister, Judy, and Barry, Billy and Dave. We are all so young and smiling not knowing at all what would become of us. In this photo, which was probably taken in 1957, we are posed in my grandmother’s garden. I was about fourteen, Judy would have been thirteen and the boys about fifteen. I know that Judy has died at way too young an age but I don’t know what became of Billy or Dave.
Barry was the boy that I ‘went out’ with. In those days life was very innocent – or at least I was. ‘Going out’ with Barry meant being in a group of friends but holding hands with Barry; writing letters to Barry when I lived in Cincinnati and he was in Zanesville and kissing each other with closed mouths (which was very daring!). Several times Judy and I sneaked out of our grandmother’s house where we were staying, either late at night or early in the morning. If it was midnight or so, the group of us,plus a boy called Bert, Judy’s beau, would wander the streets, then find a place to sit and smoke cigarettes. If it was early morning we would be going on Barry’s ‘paper round’ with him. That was the only time in my life I have willingly got up early!
I did find out, via reading old Zanesville newspapers, that Barry subsequently married a school friend of mine called Lee. They divorced not many years later. (I have just found a site which tells me that Barry died on the 1st of November, 2013.)
In London we went to the American schools at Bushy Park USAF base with boys and girls who had probably been to almost as many schools as Judy, Jennie and I – they were mostly the sons and daughters of air force and naval personnel as well as a few from diplomatic families. There is a monthly emailed magazine produced by people who attended Central High School and it is full of articles from others who attended. Occasionally I see a name I recognise but there are so many who are never mentioned – Dan and Mike Katz, whose father was a professor (?) and who came from East Lansing, Michigan; Dennis McGrath, whose family were sent by the Air Force to Turkey; Eddie Noce, who was a year older than I was and who, with a group of his friends, rode the same bus as we did and who kept us amused with funny stories; a boy and his sister whom I won’t name as he is some big Admiral in the Navy and wants nothing to do with his old school friends and so many others whose names I barely remember. I wonder how many of them went off to the war in the 60’s and how many came back.
End of Part One