The John Felderhof I remember

Pictou Advocate sports

There are occasions when I surprise even myself.

For instance, I haven’t been to very many movies in theatres in the past few years. In fact, even the number I’ve watched on television I could count on my fingers. Maybe even on one hand.

Other things, like granddaughters’ hockey games, sports on TV and shopping for groceries, seem to occupy a great deal of my free time. Except in the last three weeks, I’ve gone to the theatre complex at Dartmouth Crossing no less than three times.

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Kind of reminds me of the long-ago days when I used to attend the Saturday matinees at the old Academy in New Glasgow, back when 10 cents would get us in to see our cowboy heroes like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Johnny Mack Brown and Wild Bill Hickok.

My recent forays?

First, I went to see The Founder, in which Michael Keaton portrayed Ray Krok in the dramatic rise of the McDonalds restaurant empire. It was a movie I really wanted to see. From the day the first golden arches arrived in Dartmouth I loved Big Macs. I still do.

Then, on the advice of a friend, I attended La La Land, the highly-rated musical drama that gave me the opportunity to see talented actress Emma Stone for the first time. Yes, her tremendous performance proved she’s super. But I’ve never enjoyed jazz, in a movie or anywhere else. I still don’t.

The third movie, though, was the one I really made sure I saw. Not just because of its tantalizing one-word title, Gold. Rather, I was intrigued for a personal reason. For a New Glasgow reason actually.

By now, most Canadians – certainly most Pictonians — have heard of the film that’s a parody of the Bre-X gold mining scandal in the 1990s involving Calgary-based Bre-X Minerals.

The story lines, you discover quickly when watching the movie, were altered to Americanize the presentation for audiences south of the border. Otherwise many moviegoers in Donald Trump’s home land might have been confused by Canadian references.

My interest in the scandal — and now the movie — was magnified by the fact that a member of a New Glasgow family was a key person in the affair. A guy I knew many years ago.

Geologist John Felderhof was Bre-X’s vice-president of exploration when it was reported the company was sitting on an enormous gold deposit, so big that its value was said to be in the billions of dollars. By the late 1990s, however, Bre-X Minerals had collapsed when gold samples were found to be a fraud.

The real story versus the movie version? Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, says Bre-X Minerals was “founded in 1989 by Calgary stockbroker David Walsh but did not make a significant profit before 1993, when Walsh followed the advice of geologist John Felderhof and bought a property in the middle of a jungle” in Indonesia.

At its peak, says Wikipedia, the find had a market value, in U.S. dollars, of $6.6 billion.

In the aftermath of the “fraud that rocked the financial world,” Bre-X faced lawsuits and angry investors who had lost billions.

The movie version features popular star Matthew McConaughey in the lead role of Walsh, while Felderhof’s character is played by Edgar Ramirez, a Venezuelan. I was amazed how much Ramirez’s appearance reminded me of Felderhof.

For me, many details in the story I recall were substantiated. The movie, I felt, was informative and interesting. I was glad I saw it.

Nonetheless, I’m not about to relate the drama as it unfolded in the movie and spoil the story for anyone still planning to watch it. That’s not my intent.

Instead, I simply want to recall the John Felderhof who I remember.

Felderhof, though two years younger and two grades behind me, became a good acquaintance during our New Glasgow High School years. I was writing high school sports and he was a multi-sport athlete.

A couple years later, in 1958, when I switched my studies to the journalism program at University of King’s College, John and I crossed paths again. Most of my classes were at Dalhousie University where he was beginning his studies. Two childhood friends, twins Albert and Donald Roop, were also at Dal.

The four guys from New Glasgow spent quite a bit of time together that academic year. We even went to movies.

But let’s go back even further.

Back to 1952 when a doctor from Amersfoort, Holland, Herman Felderhof, his wife and their 11 children settled in New Glasgow. There were so many Felderhofs that almost every grade in the town school system had one.

John reached high school in 1955, quickly becoming very active in sports and other extra-curricular activities.

By Grade 12, he was captain of the school’s rugby team that also featured two of his brothers, Clarence and Gerard. The three Felderhofs were together as well on the boys’ soccer team. John was also a member of the curling team and the B hockey club. Aside from sports, he served as president of Allied Youth and was in the cadet corps.

In the character sketches in the 1957-58 high school yearbook, the “where found” category said John was “looking for an affair to remember.” And his secret desire? “To be a bachelor playboy.”

Where is he now? Personally, I don’t know.

One recent media report, though, said he’s “alive and well and living in the Philippines with his third wife. Although he set himself up very well financially in the mid-1990s in the Cayman Islands, (he) has since lost most if not all of his wealth.”

Oh yes, there’s something else in the old school yearbook.

Next to John’s profile and graduation photo is this quotation: “He is always either just getting into trouble or just getting out of it.”

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Hugh Townsend
A New Glasgow native and Nova Scotia sports journalist for more than 60 years.