Can you help Linda find her 1950s Dagenham pen pal?
PUBLISHED: 09:59 03 May 2013 | UPDATED: 09:59 03 May 2013
Almost 60 years after two teenagers exchanged letters across the Atlantic, American Linda Westfall is looking for her former Dagenham pen pal.
Linda, from Portland in Oregon, wrote to a boy named Bernard Lane, known as Bernie, in the mid-1950s.
The pair were pen pals for three years and Linda’s older brother even paid Bernie’s family an unannounced visit while he was serving as a soldier in Germany.
However, the two teenagers eventually lost touch and now, more than five decades later, Linda hopes someone may be able to reunite them.
Linda, 74, doesn’t recall too much about the content of the letters – “I suspect it was just kids’ stuff” – but there was one exchange that sticks in her mind.
“I sent Bernie a photo taken of me on a family vacation,” she explained. “I was sitting on a log in the middle of a small stream.
“The trees cast a shadow across part of my face. When Bernie received it he sent a letter in response remarking that I had some resemblance to Admiral Lord Nelson!”
The former Red Cross worker said her elder brother Jim was a private in the American army for a couple of years and, while stationed in Germany, he took the opportunity to travel to the UK.
“When he was there he decided to go to Dagenham and turned up unannounced at the Lanes’ house.
“My brother met Bernie, his mother and father. He said they were very cordial and he enjoyed talking with them. He told me they had my picture on the mantel.
“Jim described Bernie as probably over six feet tall, good looking and friendly. He also mentioned that while he talked with the family, one by one they left for a few minutes and each came back dressed in better clothing than they had worn when he arrived, which he found amusing.”
Linda has searched on the Internet in the hope of tracking Bernie down and, though a number of Bernard Lanes come up, none appear to be the one she’s looking for.
“Jim subscribes to Ancestry.com and recently found a Bernard G. Lane living in Review Road, Dagenham, until about 1979,” she said. “But after that time the trail grows cold.”
The mother-of-two and grandmother said she was inspired to embark on her search after her brother began looking into their English ancestry.
She added: “I have actually been to England a few times and never thought to look for Bernie – a missed opportunity maybe.
“I hope that someone out there might know him or his family and maybe we can write to each other once more.”
n If you can help, please call the Post on 020 8477 3900 or email email@example.com.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Barking and Dagenham Post. Click the link in the orange box above for details.