I wonder what ever happened to …

MH900430959Have you ever spent a quiet moment wondering what happened to people you remember either blissfully positively or vehemently negatively?  What are they doing now? Were they rewarded for their good deeds? Did they get their “comeuppance” for evil deeds eventually?

An even better question …

Did you ever find out!? This type of conversation is “A Grade” topic fare at any gathering!

David Wesley Tonkin
Here are a few of my “what ever happened to … “tales. I am going to give the people with a leading role a different name; for sometimes obvious reasons. I hope it inspires you to do your own “research”!

There was Nico … the epitome of the worst kind of low intellect bully. He basically had the social finesse and communication skills of a flat rock. He was feared by everyone in our high school (circa 1968). He was not feared for his strength and boxing prowess. I believe that any of six or seven of the more athletic fellows in the school would have given him a decent match behind the bicycle sheds. He dexterously avoided one-on-one fair fights; he specialized in “hit-and-run” attacks. His victims were usually smaller and smarter boys (lots of those!) or one of the countless brainy and alert girls (100% of the female students!) who unwaveringly rebuffed his monosyllabic Neanderthal style advances.

It was the first period (lesson) of the day. As we reluctantly file into Mister Walker’s Physical Science class it happened. Nico aims an aerosol can of hairspray at the back of the kid in front of him; then flicks a lighter. The victim moves like lightening (no pun intended) … strips off his burning blazer and grabs Nico in a complex Judo hold and throw combination that ends in Nico performing a mind-boggling feat of assisted flight across the classroom where his journey is sturdily and thunderously interrupted by the giant blackboard on a easel. We never realized that Chen our unassuming and superbly nimble Rugby scrum-half was also well versed in the art of Judo! Nico was expelled within the hour and disappeared from our lives …

Well; not really! We all read, several years later, about his unprovoked attack on a downtown bar’s security guard. The guard vigorously defended himself with an imposing “knobkerrie” … a short, weighty wooden club with a knob on one end. A judge subsequently ensured that Nico’s reign of terror was removed from civilized society for a very long time; commencing once he emerged from a prolonged hospital sojourn.

Then there was what my late wife and I always re-called in conversations over the years as the “Chloe Jones Lost Opportunity Story”. In the aforementioned high school there was Chloe … she was tall, skinny (painfully so!), colorfully freckled, awkward, quiet and with flame-auburn hair worn in dreadful pigtails. Chloe wrote me several charming (passed across in the classroom) notes inviting me to meet her in lovely Joubert Park for a walk or to have a burger and coke at the local Hamburger Hut. My absolute blend of an unjustifiably inflated male ego and a healthy dose of teenage boy idiocy ensured that I rebuffed her every time.

Many years later my wife “convinces” me (and I readily agree) that our invitation to an elegant Christmas season soiree at The Wanderers Club necessitates having to raid the piggy bank to get her an evening gown that (in my words!) pays tribute to her gorgeously preggy shape. We head for a highly recommended and in-vogue boutique in Sandton’s “mink and manure” belt (lots of polo ponies and fur-clad ladies). I am left awkwardly sitting in an ornate gilt and brocade chair while maternity dress selection happens, with lots of giggling and some blatantly raucous screams of laughter, in the back of the La Belle Epoch decorated store.
After some considerable time a tall, elegant, stunningly and head-turning beautiful auburn haired vision emerges from the dressing rooms and invites me to see the final evening dress selection. After offering my awestruck endorsement and skillfully hiding my shock at the price-tag my wife introduced me to the owner; yes … you guessed it! I again met Chloe Jones. Later, I had the unequivocal fear that our child would be delivered in the mall’s carpark in the hot sunshine … as my wife was still laughing so hard!

Then there was Teddy; everybody loved Teddy, he was far-and-away the most popular boy in our high school. He was popular because he was a totally and sincerely kind, caring and gentle person. Teddy was not an “A” student (although fairly good at math), he was not a sportsman, never a great conversationalist or a suave social lion. Once we graduated Teddy went through a string of dissimilar very short-lived career attempts; from banking houses to gold mining companies.

In the bar of the Zoo Lake Cricket Club one Saturday night Teddy announces that he is off to the UK to seek his fame and fortune. We organize a suitably boozy bon voyage party and off he goes. We hear nothing more from or about him; although now and then someone says “I wonder how Teddy is doing?” Someone remarks one day that they heard he had joined the Merchant Navy. There was then a round of bad jokes about Teddy’s skills in cleaning bilges and holy-stoning the decks.

The years pass and I am now living in Bloomfield Hills MI… and one day I receive a photocopy of a newspaper article from a Durban (South Africa, Indian Ocean port city). At the top of the article was a picture of the arrival of a magnificent new Indian Ocean islands route cruise ship on its first visit to Port Natal. Other pictures showed the liner’s Captain and the ship’s Chief Purser; surrounded by gorgeous ladies in glittering eveningwear. Teddy had obviously found his career! Lucky fellow!

On the reverse … think for a moment; what would people (from your past) say; or how would they react or think in learning about your current life status, location, career achievements and family circumstances? Not all of us became firemen, doctors, famous athletes or steam train drivers as we dreamed in our tender youth. This thought journey is decidedly multi-faceted and totally worth the effort. Another plus is that it has encouraged me to really try to find out what happened to those people from the past who left indelible or quirky bookmarks on my memory of days gone by.

I think this exercise has the potential for much more instant gratification than expensively following a “leaf” on an ancestry website and being bitterly disappointed in eventually discovering that great-great-great-uncle Tobias O’Hooligan was not a fearsome buccaneer under a skull-and-crossbones flag on the Spanish Main as family folklore gleefully alleged… he was a good family man and respectable long-service clerk in the employ of a merchant bank. Nice; but not terribly exciting!

So, I guess, the cutlass passed on down the generations was not captured from a dashing Spanish Commodore off Hispaniola … it was probably bought as a bargain at the late Colonel Chuffingworth-Smythe’s estate sale in Lower-Piggslough in the UK!

Drat! … Huge letdown; I could imagine myself on “Antiques Roadshow” with the thing!

Note: The places named in this blog are all in or around the Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, South Africa area unless otherwise indicated.


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