Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

Who is Johnnie?

A sad and fascinating story appeared in The Nassau Guardian on Thursday, December 16, 1965.

The story was about a boy called Johnnie who looked to be “barely three years old”.

Johnnie was found wandering the streets of Nassau six months earlier.

Police took him to the Children’s Emergency Hostel, which housed nearly 100 children that year.

A Nassau Guardian clipping from December 16, 1965.

“It is now a week before Christmas and even the youngster’s real name is still a mystery,” the article says.

At the hostel, The Guardian was told: “We would like to return him to the family he really belongs to. During the past six months there has not been a single inquiry about him. With Christmas almost here it would be nice to get Johnnie and his family together again.”

On December 22, 1965, The Nassau Guardian carried another article about the boy — this time on the front page — stating that he will spend a happier Christmas as a result of the original article.

After the story appeared, toys, other presents and even two offers of adoption were received at the hostel, but there was no word from Johnnie’s parents.

“The parents have obviously abandoned him and it seems likely now that he will be adopted,” an official said.

More than 50 years later, it apparently still remains a mystery where the little boy came from and what family he belonged to.

Johnnie Tynes, based in Ottawa, Canada, told National Review that he is the little boy from the article, and he is still trying to find his family.

“I think the thing that really got me was as I was growing up and when I became older, I flash back and think, I don’t know what the situation was for my [biological] mom to leave me wandering in the streets because that’s the story I got from my mom, the lady that took care of me, and that’s the kind of story that was written by The Guardian too,” he said.

Tynes believes he got his name — Johnnie — from the folks at the hostel.

And what about his date of birth?

That, too, is uncertain.

Tynes celebrates his birthday on December 31.

“I got a birth certificate,” he said.

“This is how I figure that happened. They couldn’t identify my biological parents. They had no information. But they needed a birth certificate, so they got a birth certificate. And they simply said, ‘Okay. He’s already going by the name of Johnnie. We’re going to put Johnnie. We’re going to put the last name, which is a more common name at home; we’re going to put Tynes.’”

We examined a copy of Tynes’ birth certificate.

It has his date of birth as December 31, 1963.

It also has Hazel Tynes as his mother, but Johnnie said he has no idea who Hazel Tynes is — or was.

No father is named.

The birth certificate was executed on June 21, 1968 — that’s four and a half years after the date listed as the date of birth.

“This is the best way I can figure it out: they knew that I needed a birth certificate. There was no way that I could go through [life] without having a birth certificate, so they got together…whoever it was, to put this thing together. So they had to put something,” Tynes said.

He said his cousin (his adoptive mother’s niece), who worked at a dental office, saw The Guardian’s original article and brought it to the attention of her mother. They went to her aunt and convinced her she should adopt him.

“They gave the clipping to my mom and said, ‘Read this story.’ They said, ‘I think you should adopt this little boy. You should at least investigate it.’ So my mom took the paper, read it, and I think they all went down to the hostel…and they made an inquiry about me and the lady told them no one has claimed me,” Tynes said.

It is not clear how long the little boy was at the hostel.

We were told by an official the home does not keep records from that far back.

Tynes said he learnt the story of his past when he was around 15.

He said his adoptive mother, who did not have other children, got him from the hostel and raised him.

“I had a very exciting childhood,” he said, but added, “My mom was very protective of me.”

We asked Tynes how it feels not knowing where he came from.

“As far as I am concerned, the lady that took care of me, that brought me up and taught me manners and prepared me for who I am today, that’s all I know,” he said.

“I grew up in The Bahamas. It doesn’t matter where I was born as far as I’m concerned. Am I from Haiti or am I actually from The Bahamas? I don’t know what happened.”

But Tynes said he wants to know who his biological family is.

“I would like to know because I think it will close some of the doors. [It might give me an opportunity] to meet my biological mother and ask her what happened. It would be great, but if I never know, to be honest with you, I had a mother. She did a very good job of bringing me up and teaching me right from wrong and now at 55 I have two sons that are 28 and 23, so I’m a parent now,” he said, adding that he has always tried to be the best parent.

Tynes believes he might be of Haitian descent.

He said it does not make sense in his mind that his photo ran in The Nassau Guardian when he was an abandoned child and no one in The Bahamas recognized who he was and came forward.

“If your picture is in the newspaper and you’re of Bahamian descent, you’re going to tell me nobody recognized you?” Tynes said.

There are other reasons why he suspects he has Haitian heritage.

He said he spoke to a clairvoyant in Canada — a woman who could not possibly have known anything about him.

The woman told him she had a vision of him as a baby wrapped in a white blanket on a boat in the open water.

She told him to let go of his anger toward his mother — “not the lady who raised you” — because she made the “ultimate sacrifice for you”.

Tynes said this made him wonder whether his biological mother was a Haitian caught up in an immigration raid who hid him from the authorities in the hopes that someone finds him and gives him a good life.

He said he did not speak as a small child. That fact has added to the many questions in his head.

“Why couldn’t I talk? Was I still in shock because trauma happened when I was younger or I didn’t understand the language so I couldn’t comprehend? So those are the things that make me wonder, am I of Haitian descent?”

What would it mean to Tynes to have answers?

“I think it would mean a great deal,” he said, adding that he had carried around anger for a while.

“That hurt me to the core, to think that my mom just up and left me. I flash back and I think about the poor little boy, barely three years, wandering the streets, crying. He’s looking for his family; he is looking for his parents. He doesn’t even know what happened… So, my question to her (his biological mother) would be, please tell me why.”

Tynes, who works for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, said he found The Nassau Guardian clipping in an envelope in his adoptive mother’s belongings after she died 12 years ago.

“When I read it, I wasn’t totally surprised because I knew what had happened,” he said. “But I think when I read it the way the story was told and when I looked at the picture, it was like, ‘Oh, my God. What happened?’ Was there an accident? I honestly don’t know what happened. So how did I feel? Words did not express it. Words still can’t express it.”

Tynes said he tried to find more about his heritage through 23andme.com, a DNA genetic testing and analysis site, but he said he did not have much luck. He said he plans to try ancestry.com, another site with 20 million members.

He hopes to get closure one day.

“As a person, I think you always want to know where you are from. You always want to know if you have other siblings and in my case I just want to know what happened,” Tynes said.

“I just want answers.”

Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of the Nassau Guardian.

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