Sunday, March 24, 2013

Walkers (alive, not zombie)

While it probably sounds at the very least quaint and understandably feudal, there was a time when a family's name meant a good the Walkers did in my hometown of Gap (which makes it sound downright silly..."Oh.  You're one of the Gap Walkers.")

In fact, the Gap Walkers were one of its first families and the one that really thrived.  Other families were of note, but the Walkers bought huge areas of land and then rented them out, started the bank, started the feed mill (an absolute necessity in a rural community), gave lots of money to the Presbyterian church (although some of them became Quakers) and wound up on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Rail Road.

What remains of the Gap Walkers is my sister, who is married and, thus, changed her name. (she has some property, but not much) and a female cousin living in another county.  The remaining reproducing male Gap Walker lives in Ohio.  My uncle and father carried the respect and ran the feed mill, but my grandparents were the last of the real Walkers.

Gap housed two Walker mansions.  One was on the hill which I saw daily when I walked to and from school, and in the summer when my grandfather bribed me into removing weeds from the lawn.  To my mind, my grandparents had the better mansion, Five Corners.  As the name implies, it overlooked an intersection of five streets.  It was ('s still standing but in need of repair) a yellow brick building with large windows and stained glass windows in the bow at the turn of the stairs.  It was a magical place to visit.  My mother's parents lived in a bungalow, which was moved to make way for Route 41 and is still standing,.  When it moved, they moved to a large trailer that they added onto.  It had its own magic.

I sometimes wonder if being a Walker saved me from major bullying and harassment.  I didn't think about it at the time; I didn't think about the perks of being a Walker at the time.  Still, I think it's possible.  A couple of hoods got on my case on the school bus.  Things were harder in high school because the students were no longer just from Gap and the outlying area served by the feed mill.  By the same token, I was a somewhat oblivious teen who tended to ignore distractions.  I was "Davesy," "the Dairy Queen" and various other names, but they didn't particularly hurt because I had other things on my mind and my friends, though few, were indeed friends.

At one time my father and Sam Slaymaker, of the then-nationally famous Slaymaker Lock Company in Lancaster with the country home near Gap, toyed with the idea of a marriage with Sam's daughter Libby.  I never went along with it, although Libby and I were great friends.  I liked being with her and I loved the country manor, White Chimneys (still standing, but now an antiques store).  White Chimneys was incredibly grand; to think that it could be mine was the stuff fantasies are made of.  But not if it meant marrying.

I'm glad to have been the end of the line of the Gap Walkers.  The end of the line is gay and no longer has any desire to return to the town.  At one time, Gap was a good town, and maybe it is again.  I prefer it as a memory town and my family as a memory family.

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