Mr. Walker Had A Car

This post was first published four years ago. It came to mind last night for some reason. I’ve updated a couple of points.

I was running errands with my mother. That means I drive her wherever she needs to go, wait until she is finished, then drive her to the next place she wants to go.

I don’t mind doing this. She is 86 (90 in 2019), and while her mind is still sharp her body has begun to fail her in different ways. Many of the errands are visits to various doctors.

We talk while I drive, and the last time I mentioned that I had spent several hours that morning cleaning and vacuuming the family mini-van (which we no longer own). It needed it; it still had a lot of winter grit on the floors. I found a few missing dishes tucked under the seats, and two flat orange discs, about two centimetres thick, that I think were once oranges.

I mentioned to my mother that I really should have had the van properly cleaned, but that given the age of the vehicle I didn’t want to spend the money. It would cost at least $100 for a carpet shampoo, upholstery cleaning and all the other finishing touches.

That led to questions: how old was the van? Thirteen years. How long have we had it? Seven years. When were we thinking of replacing it? I’d like to get at least another year out of it (we did). What type of vehicle would we get next? I don’t know (my wife and daughter chose a small Chevy SUV).

The discussion must have triggered some sort of memory, because at that point she said “Mr. Walker had a car. No-one else in the church had one.”

Nowadays we take cars for granted. The automobile rules our cities. I don’t remember my family not having a car, or any of my friends’ families not owning a car. In North America it goes with being middle class.

But my mother remembers very clearly a time when cars were rare. I didn’t ask her when it was, but I would guess it was the mid-1930s, or perhaps a year or two later, when my mother would have been old enough to note such details. I didn’t ask what type of car. She might have surprised me by remembering, but she’s never been a car person so probably not. Nor is it relevant, except for curiosity’s sake.

Madison Baptist Church, Montreal.

Madison Baptist Church, Montreal.

The family at the time attended Madison Baptist Church in Montreal. They walked to church. Mr. Walker though had a car, the only one owned by someone in the church, which I would guess was about sixty families at that time.

My mother said Mr. Walker gave rides to anyone who needed them. Basically the car was a community resource. I doubt anyone back then would have phrased it that way, people didn’t philosophize; they just did whatever seemed right.

I remember Anson W. Walker, though I don’t remember him very well. I remember someone who seemed very old (I was very young at the time)

He probably was very old. I just did a quick Google search on him. There isn’t much, but I did come across a reference in the newspaper social pages to his son’s wedding, in 1935. I would have been aware of him about 1960 I think. (A check last night found more information. He was born in 1877, died in 1975 – so in 1960 he would have been 83.)  A lot of records for the pre-internet generation aren’t online yet. I seem to remember he was a Word War I veteran – but I looked at the Canadian archives and didn’t see his name listed. (Now that I know his age, I don’t know if he would have served in the war – he would have  been 37 at the outset, a little old for soldiering in those days.)

So I can’t tell you much else about him, except that he was a man of deep Christian conviction. Every Sunday for the 16 years I lived in Montreal, before and after Mr. Walker’s death, I would see his name engraved in stone as I entered the church. The cornerstone at Madison Baptist Church was (if I remember correctly) “laid to the glory of God by Anson W. Walker.”

You don’t get your name on a church cornerstone unless you have exhibited a deep Christian faith. What a great epitaph for Mr. Walker.

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