Friend From The Distant Past

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

I'm back at work for good now after a few days off last week. A very old friend was in town.

It's Always Good To See Old Friends (this story has a long but fairly interesting backstory)

I met Darrell Locke when we were both 10 years old. 

My father was in the US Air Force in early 1975, stationed at RAF Upper Heyford in the Midlands of England.  My family lived in a tiny village of about 200 people called Thorpe Mandeville.  I finished the last few weeks of 4th grade at the American school on base, then as time neared to begin the next school year, my older sister and I both decided we'd rather go the English schools.  Our small village didn't have one...the next village over was Culworth, and it did have a school.  Darrell lived in Culworth, and we met at school.

There were only about 100 kids in Culworth Church of England School, my year had 4 boys.  Darrell and I were quickly good friends, along with the other two.  The next school year I was at the age that it was time to move on to the bigger school in the closest larger town.  I was in the same track of classes with Darrell. Our group of 25 or 30 kids had every class together, every day for the next two years. 

In 1978 my father got his new assignment, here in Colorado Springs.  I was a little sad to leave England, My family loved it there and I had a lot of friends.  As a military kid you get used to it.  My father retired in the Springs so this was the last family move.  Darrell and I said we'd write letters, but 12-year-olds don't do that, and we didn't.

Fast forward 20 years or so.  I was working in Cincinnati, and decided to call International Information to see If I could find my old friend.  The operator said it was 10 bucks for each number listed to a D. Locke in that part of England.  I told her to give me the first three.

When I dialed the first one a woman answered. I said my name and explained that I was looking for Darrell Locke.  She started laughing and said she knew exactly who I was.  She was Darrell's wife Ros and she had heard bits and pieces about me, from him, over the years.  She was even a school mate of ours.  I recognized her name from way back then, but we didn't really know each other then. 

Turns out she and Darrell had married at about 19 and had two kids, and he would love to hear form me.  I called him later that night when he got home from work and we talked for a long time. 

Finally in 1999 Darrell came to visit in Cincinnati.  It was strange hanging out as adults after 20 years, and remembering all the stuff we had done and people we had known as kids. And it was fun.  In 2004 I went to England and met Ros, and the kids (there was a third one by then!)  Darrell's family still lives in Culworth, so I was not only back in England, but back in the same area where I lived as a child.  It's also great to be in another country and stay with people I know, and not be only in the tourist areas.  Sometime soon I'll share some pictures of the amazing area I'm talking about.  If you know England at all, it's right near the town of Banbury, where Oxfordshire borders Northamptonshire. 

Since the first visits we've both been back and forth several times.  The entire Locke family visited my house in Denver in 2005 and we had a great time.  The kids got along great with my nieces and nephews.

So Darrell was here for a week or so this time.  I was just over there back in April.  I took my dad back to England on that trip, and we stayed with other great friends from our time living in England (The Wilkins Family), but I did see Darrell and his family a few times on that visit.

I'm hoping to go back next Spring, and he may come here in June to watch opening rounds of the World Cup on TV.  We get better game availability here than he can get there.  We're both huge soccer fans..even independently picked the same English team as a favorite (Liverpool FC).  Hopefully he can bring the whole family to Colorado again soon...before the kids get to old to want to come!

Below is a picture of Darrell on a hike we did last week in Waldo Canyon.  England is just as beautiful, but in a very different way.

These days connecting with old friends is so much easier thanks to facebook.  Heck, we didn't even have e-mail back then!  So if you're thinking of looking someone up, do it!  It could lead to a cool friendship with entire families. Darrell if you read this, say Hi to Ros and Mary, Patrick and Brendan.  Hope to see you all next Spring!

We'll talk again soon.




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