Old Friends Die Hard

I am looking for two people. You’d think with the internet and Facebook and all of these obvious ways to connect with people these days, that it would be easy. But I have looked exhaustively for several years and have had no luck.

Why do I want to find them? Well, for different reasons. One of them, Shirley Doherty, was my best buddy for a number of years when I was growing up in Richmond, BC. She and I were like sisters…I still have an old cassette tape of the two of us trying to do a radio show-like Nancy Drew series where we really didn’t have a script, we just babbled on about whatever came to us at any given moment. I don’t think the mystery ever got solved, it just meandered on into whatever thought came next.

Shirley and I slept in her old canvas tent in her back yard many times during the summers. We played board games, we “raised” kittens birthed by her cat Elsa, we talked for hours about all kinds of spacey stuff swinging on the swing set in her back yard. She lived right behind me, right over the fence that no longer exists, separating our two houses that no longer exist. Her mother didn’t take to me. I was a “bad influence” on Shirley (what, ME a bad influence?) and I just couldn’t do anything right in her eyes. But Shirley and I were two peas in a pod and loved to do everything together.

My middle name is Shirley and she once swore to me that her middle name was Irene. I still don’t believe that’s true, but you know friends will say whatever they need to, to create that kind of intimate connection that no one else in the world has. She was the one who shyly said “I’m sorry” to me through the fence the day after my mother died, and I saw her through her many struggles too. I know she eventually married someone named Ron and at one point lived in Delta, BC., but I have had no luck in finding her. Shirley nee Doherty, if you’re out there anywhere, please say hello. We have another Nancy Drew mystery to solve. I’ll be Nancy and you’ll be George, and I’ll throw the tape recorder on. Wouldn’t it fun just to meet once again?

The other friend I am looking for is Angela Struve. Angela and I had a particular connection in Grade 5 at James Gilmore Elementary School in Richmond. You see, we were both in lust with the same teacher, Mr. Dumbauld.

I know. You’re going to look at the spelling of that name and read DUM BALD. But it was pronounced DUE BALLED, and we thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. All of the girls in the school had a crush on him. He was the dramatic, flamboyant art teacher, along with being my home room teacher, and one time I actually convinced him to give me one of his drawings. I bugged him and bugged him (honestly, I would not have the hootspa today to do the same thing), and finally he gave in and gave me a sketch that he had drawn to promote a class field trip to see an opera “Rigoletto”. He pulled me into a store room and handed it to me and made me swear that I’d never tell any of the other kids. I solemnly swore and rolled it up and quietly took it home that day after school.

My best friend Angie used to get in trouble a lot for talking in class. So the teacher would send her out to the hall as punishment, where she was supposed to sit and wait until she was allowed back into the classroom. Occasionally, the principal, Mr. Blinkhorn (yes, that was his real name) would come along, and if he saw a kid sitting out in the hall, he or she would inevitably get hauled into the principal’s office to account for their classroom crime.

Well, my best friend Angie, she was smart. If she saw Mr. Blinkhorn coming, she’d pretend that she was going to the washroom, or for a drink of water. He’d walk by without incident and when he was out of sight, she’d sneak back to her spot outside the classroom, having escaped another nasty episode in his office.

I laughed my head off with Angie, she was the funniest kid I’d ever met. And we were horrified when we found out that the teacher of our lustful dreams, Mr. Dumbauld (that’s DUE-BALLED) was going to leave the school the following year. So we decided that we were somehow going to convince him to stay. We put our knuckleheads together and decided that we should KISS HIM on his last day of school (photographing the evidence, of course), which would absolutely convince him that he could not possibly leave James Gilmore Elementary.

Our lust-fueled plan was in place. On the last day of school I brought my Brownie camera and we decided that we would corner Mr. Dumbauld in the parking lot where each of us would kiss him while the other would take a picture. I was to go first. I looked up at my beloved teacher and failed miserably…all I could manage was to shyly whimper “Good luck, Mr. Dumbauld” and shake his hand. I guess Angie took a picture, but I don’t remember because I was too nervous. Angie, however, actually had the balls to make him bend down so she could kiss his cheek, whereupon I took a fumbled picture. For years, I had the photographic evidence…I can still see the picture…but it has long since disappeared. Our valiant efforts, however, did not convince our dear teacher to stay at Gilmore, and the next year he was gone.

The following September, Angie came to visit me one day, and was utterly horrified to see the framed Rigoletto drawing on my bedroom wall. “Why did YOU get one of Mr. Dumbauld’s drawings and not me?” she railed, certainly convinced that we must have had a torrid affair behind her back. Actually, I have since decided that dear Mr. Dumbauld was probably gay. It wasn’t the way he looked, but more his delighted proclamations that he wanted “to be a MOVIE STAR!!” that eventually got me to thinking. Not that it matters, but I guess he was much farther out of Angie’s and my league than we could ever have imagined.

Angie and I got together once after graduating from high school. She met me for lunch at a restaurant near the Vancouver Public Library where I worked. I found out that she had married and become an accountant, but I forgot her married name and at this point it’s been about 30 years since I’ve seen her so I pretty much forget anything she might have told me.

Angie, we’ve got some unbelievably funny memories to share. I wish I could find you to laugh with again. And I really didn’t sleep with Mr. Dumbauld.

So do you, my readers, have anyone out there you wish you could find? I am certainly very grateful, as I am sure you are, for finding old friends over the years through social media websites like Facebook. But is there that certain someone out there who you have never been able to locate? I hope you find them…and I hope one day I can find Shirley and Angie.

Old friends like that die hard.


Nov 2012 Update – through a Facebook group that was set up for kids growing up in Richmond, BC, I finally found Shirley 🙂  We have yet to get together, but as she said “We’ve waited this long, we can wait a few more weeks!”

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