UK couple searches for clues about daredevil Swede
Jennifer Heape · 11 Mar 2009, 14:45
Published: 11 Mar 2009 14:45 GMT+01:00
Alan and Maddie Aldridge from Devizes in the south of England have long wondered what happened to a Swede by the name of Arne Johansson, a motorcycle stuntman who once captured Maddie’s heart.
“He was part of this incredible motorcycle acrobatic team,” said Alan, the Englishman whom Maddie would eventually marry.
The troupe, called the Starmen, performed their daredevil stunts at the Coney Beach fireworks display in Porthcawl on the south coast of Wales some 50 years ago.
“It was 1959 and the height of the space race,” said Alan, who is just as curious as Maddie to learn more about what happened to his wife’s first fiancé.
“There were three people involved, two acrobats – Torr and Birgitt – and Arne, who drove the ‘spaceship’ up the mast. It was very daring for the time.”
It was in Porthcawl that Maddie, then known as Bee Sanderson, met the dashing young Swede and they became sweethearts.
Arne was only in the popular Welsh resort for the summer season, after which he returned to Gothenburg on Sweden’s west coast.
However, the young couple kept in touch by letter and in early 1960, the daredevil Swede asked Maddie’s hand in marriage.
Maddie came from a respectable civil servant family, however, and her father was rather hesitant about the relationship.
Furthermore, she was only in her twenties and had just started a very promising modeling career.
“As it was such a young romance,” said Alan.
“Her father did not give his permission straight away, but instead said to give it a little time and if they were still together in a year or two, then they could go ahead.”
“Arne wasn’t really considered the right ranking for Maddie,” Alan continued.
“He wasn't a professional and he was older then her. Unfortunately that’s just the way it was back then.”
Despite the setback, the friendship between Arne and Maddie continued –although the letters dwindled. Then at Christmas 1962 Arne unexpectedly sent flowers to Maddie.
In return Maddie wrote thanking him for the flowers. Her father had died the previous year and Maddie explained how she was keen to see the handsome Swede again, either in the UK or Sweden.
The relationship took another mysterious turn in the spring of 1963 when Arne wrote a letter to Maddie saying that he had been very ill.
“The letter came with a drawing of an old man with the comment – ‘this is what I look like now, I'm not the man you met,’” said Alan.
Despite this strange description, Maddie replied jesting that everyone gets older and that she would still like to see him even if he had changed, as she was so fond of him.
But Arne never replied.
Maddie eventually moved on, meeting Alan in 1968.
The two have been happily married for forty years, but they still wonder about the fate of that vivacious Swede whom Maddie first met back in the summer of 1959.
“We have had such a lovely, happy life and it would be nice to know that he has had the same. Maybe he also found someone to be happy with,” said Alan.
Although Maddie never heard from Arne again after his last, mysterious letter in 1963, she saved all of his correspondence, as well as a couple of small photos, in a security box.
But the box was stolen in 1974 and, tragically, all mementos were lost forever.
Alan and Maddie know nothing of what became of Arne and very little of his life before he turned up to perform with the Starmen.
He is also linked to Norrköping, where it is thought that the Starmen originated, and for some time he worked as a porter at the Norrtälje Stadshotell, north of Stockholm.
The hope that someone in Sweden who knew Arne or the Starmen may be able to provide them with some clues about the daredevil’s life after they lost contact with him.
“Even if he has died it would be nice to know,” said Alan.
“Arne sent Maddie such lovely flowers - it would be nice to return the compliment, even if that means laying flowers on his grave.”