It's weird how luck or fate work sometimes. In this case, someone from my distant past in another country popped up in a Half-Price Books store in Redmond, WA a year or so ago.
I had a really great English teacher in high school, by the name of Mr. Eaton. (He didn't have a first name then, all teachers were simple Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so). I had Mr. Eaton from my first day in standard 6 (grade 8), and if I remember correctly, I had him all the way through Matric (grade 12). If I remember right, he was the head of the English department, and taught the "advanced" higher-grade English class for most grades. (A bit of shameless bragging there...)
Mr. Eaton was a real character - the sort of teacher that Molesworth would have vilified and drawn rather unflattering pictures of. (The irony is that Mr. Eaton introduced me to Molesworth!) Mr. Eaton would probably have come out as a micture of him and him. In real life he was an imposing 6 1/2 foot-plus tall man, with a beak-like nose and fierce eyes. He could look at the most cocky, troublesome kid and they'd instantly shut up and behave. (At least, in the 8th grade that was true... By the 10th grade he would resort to more vocal measures, and could strip the paint off a wall at 50 paces.) He would add to his severe countenance by shaving his head with a numer-1 or number-2 clipper once a year, so he looked like an escaped criminal or mental patient for a few weeks of each year. I think I heard that he lost a bet at some point, and the head-shaving were the terms he kept to from then on...
All this makes him sound like a terrible demon that you lived in fear of. While it's true he was intimidating and demanded respect and the best behaviour, he really loved English and the literature we studied. He was one of the few teachers in my school that was so passionate about their subject that you became infected by their passion. He was excited by the poems we studied. His booming bass made anything he read aloud come alive. He was also quirky and had wide-ranging tastes: as reward for good behaviour he would read us excerpts from the Molesworth books, or read short-stories outside our normal setwork. (He read us The Ruum by Arthur Porges, and I still remember it vividly.)
All told, he was one of the best teachers I've ever had. Thanks to him I enjoy Shakespeare. (OK, Maybe Will has something to do with that too...)
Anyway, that was then. How does the story come back to Redmond, WA in 2004?
Well, I was browsing the used poetry books in Half-Price Books when I stumbled upon a Penguin collection of South African poetry. The book was old, published in 1968, and such a rare find that I bought it without much thought. Leafing through the book later, I noticed a poem by an Anthony Eaton. "Hmm.... I wonder if that's the same Anthony Eaton that taught me?", I thought. (Yes, I had finally discovered his first name after a few years at school!)
Sure enough, the brief biography at the back of the book described him as having studied at U.C.T. and working as an educator in Cape Town.
It was amazing to think that of the many people it could have landed up with, this book somehow made its way to me, and rekindled all these memories!