This week my mother has been visiting us here in Bermuda. My mother and father actually met in Bermuda, about 35 years ago. They were both working at the Inverurie Hotel (now known as The Wharf). After spending a few years in Bermuda, they moved to Toronto, were married, and soon thereafter, I was born.
And many years later, it just so happens that Michelle and I decided to move to Bermuda ourselves. We have been here for 1.5 years. My mother came this week for a visit, her first time back to Bermuda in 35 years.
Prior to coming, she made comments like "I'm sure nothing has changed" and wondered whether any of the people she knew in Bermuda were still around, as she had not kept in touch. I repeatedly tried to caution her that a lot can change in 35 years, and that some of the friends she knew may no longer be around. I didn't want her to be disappointed.
The day after arriving it came time to start tracking down former acquaintances. There were 4 people that my mother was hoping to locate and connect with.
First was "Kurt", with whom she worked with at the hotel. While she did not know Kurt's last name, she recently heard from a friend that he was still living at Mount Royal, which was a staff residence at the time. I explained to my mother that now there may be several (or many) apartments at this large house. This turned out to be true. So she started knocking on doors (at about 10 AM in the morning). The first few doors there was no answer. Finally, we woke up a guy in his 20s with a French accent. After some confusion when we asked if he knew Kurt, he revealed that he didn't even live there, he was staying with a friend. We were about to give up when we knocked on about the 10th apartment, when a Bermudian gentleman answered in his house coat. My mother began to tell her story, explaining that she used to live in Mount Royal and work at the Inverurie. Upon hearing this, he cut in, "So you must know Kurt, then?". "Yes!" she exclaimed explaining that we were looking for him. He walked us around and pointed out Kurt's apartment, noting that his car was there. Kurt seemed to be home.
We knocked on the door and after a few minutes a man with white hair, glasses, and goatee opened the door. My mother said "Kurt! You haven't changed a bit." At this point, he had no idea who this crazy lady was and what was going on! After some explanation and recognition of my mother's voice and accent, he remembered her and invited us in. They discussed old times and people that are still around, etc. My mother quickly asked about Shirley, a Bermudian friend who also worked at the hotel. Earlier in the morning, my mother called a Shirley Simmons in the phone book, but it turned out to be the wrong person. Now she learnt that her name was Simons (both are common Bermudian surnames) and she happens to be working just around the corner at the Lindos supermarket!
Here is a short video of my mother and Kurt:
Photos of Mom and Kurt:
And also some photos of Mount Royal:
Kurt then offered to drive us around the corner to Lindos to see if Shirley was working. It turned out that she was there, and they paged her over the intercom, saying someone was at the front of the store to see her. Here is the video of the reunion:
And the three former colleagues caught up for a few quick moments, then agreed to meet later in the week.
Then we went to the Wharf, the former Inverurie Hotel, where my parents worked. We walked around the grounds, and then we spoke with a woman at the front desk who was nice enough to let us take a look around, including an unoccupied room. While much of the Wharf (most?) is now private residences, there are still 16 hotel rooms that are geared towards short-term executive rentals. Here are some photos:
Finally we drove over to a house on Fairylands Road. The previous night, my mother checked the phonebook looking for "Mrs. Watlington". In this case, my mother knew her surname but not the first name. Watlington, of course, is also a common Bermudian name. Finding a Watlington on Fairylands Road, I explained where this street is located, and it roughly matched my mother's memory of the location of Mrs. Watlington's house. Although we doubted that she still lived there, we decided to at least drive by the house. Arriving at the address in the phone book, my mother could tell by looking at it that this was not the house she was looking for. Still, she decided to knock on the door.
This experience is best described in my mother's own words:
I went up and knocked on the door. A voice said "Come in". I hesitated. Again the voice said, in a frustrated tone: "Come in!". In I went, and found myself immediately at the foot of a bed. A elderly lady was in the bed, under the covers. I felt overwhelmed, where to begin? So I explained how I was looking for a Mrs. Watlington. She said "Its not me, but you must mean Rosie and Frank. Rosie is my cousin, and she lives 2 minutes from here over on Hidden Lane.
To people who live in Bermuda, it will be of no surprise that this particular Mrs. Watlington happen to know (or was related to) the Mrs. Watlington that we were looking for. After a brief phone call explaining the situation, we drove (for one minute) to Mrs Watlington's house, which indeed turned out to be the very same house that she lived in 35 years ago. Here a video, taken after the initial reunion:
And some photos:
So far, things had gone well. Three for three. The fourth person that my mother was hoping to connect with was a man named Bill. Bill was a former police officer who was a member of the Badminton Club. Earlier in the day, before we set out for Mount Royal, she called the Bermuda Police Service, saying "I knew a police sergeant named Bill 35 years ago. I don't know his last name. Do you know who he is?" She explained that he was Irish and played Badminton. The woman who answered the phone made note of this limited information, saying she would try to find this "Bill". I didn't saying anything to my mother at the time, but immediately I dismissed the whole thing, thinking that she would hang up the phone and that would be that. And that would not be an unreasonable thing to do after all!
I turned out to be wrong about this, and soon after we returned home from Mrs. Watlington's, the lady from the police service called back "with some information". She explained that it seems like my mother might be describing Bill Black, the founder of the Bermuda Security Group and recently appointed Deputy Mayor of Hamilton. Bill Black is a former police sergeant, is Irish, and did play badminton. But after my mother called this Bill on his mobile phone, it turned out that Bill Black was not the Bill that my mother knew. However, Bill Black was able to think of several other "Bills" who might be the correct one - he promised to check and call back. And soon thereafter, he did call back, believing to have found the correct person, Bill Bryant, who lived nearby. And so my mother called this other Bill, and he was indeed turned out to be the "Bill" she was looking for, still living in Bermuda after moving here 50 years ago.
The next day, Bill stopped by before his golf game. Here is a video of the reunion - as you can see, my mother wouldn't even let him park his car:
And another video:
And a photo:
While my mother and Bill were catching up, he happened to mention his son who was still living in Bermuda, but not all year long. Bill explained that his son was a buyer for a local company and would soon be returning from Indonesia. This sounded familiar to me, so I asked Bill what the company was called. As I expected, he said "Bermuda Trader". Bermuda Trader is wholesaler company and had an "end-of-season" warehouse sales a few months ago. At this sale, I met a guy who explained that he spends several months each year in Indonesia and other Asian countries sourcing products for Bermuda Trader. It turned out that he is Bill's son. Bermuda is a small place indeed.
So in the end, my mother was able to reconnect with all four people, which is pretty amazing. Two of them are not Bermudian, yet still reside in Bermuda after all these years. All four are older than my mother, with the oldest being 83 years old. In three cases, my mother only knew either a first or last name -- and in the fourth case, she had the last name wrong (by one significant letter). There are 13 Watlingtons and pages of both Simmons and Simons in the phone book, not including unlisted numbers. Yet in the span of just 24 hours, she was able to reunite with all four.