Chester Chatter: Remembering Johnnie Walker

By Ruthie Douglas
©2021 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Johnnie Walker had come up from working in a foundry in New Jersey to work with horses at a boys’ school in Jamaica.

He was extremely talented in working with those horses, but he didn’t know how to read or write. With the closing of the school, he came to settle in Chester.

Here, he became a handy man. Most everyone knew him. Johnnie loved to fish. Often he could be seen walking around carrying his fishing pole and with a smile on his face.

He did not have a place to live, so Butch Gordon, owner of the Pioneer House, fixed up a place for him in the basement of the saloon. Johnnie also planted a garden at the side of building.

On one September day, folks in town decided to throw Johnnie a birthday party. Johnnie was sure surprised. So many people showed up for the party, they could not fit into the Pioneer House.

For days after he was still smiling.

Scene and heard

Hope you all have a happy Valentine’s Day.

Happy birthday to Chester Town Clerk Debbie Aldrich.

Frederick Douglass Day is Feb. 14, his birthday.

My dear Springfield classmate Bobby Rorison has died of Covid-19. Between Bobby and myself, we kept our classmates in stitches. We are thinking of his wife Barbara.  He worked for Gurney Brother Construction for 46 years.

If you have to spend a lot of time watching TV during this very frigid winter during Covid-19, Vermont Public Television makes some wonderful viewing.

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Filed Under: Chester ChatterCommunity and Arts Life

About the Author: Ruthie Douglas is originally from Springfield but has called Chester her home for 58 years, and has been writing the Chester Chatter column for more than 40 of those years. Ruthie is also a longtime volunteer throughout the community.

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  1. I lived around the corner from the P House.not much much a drinker, but met just about everyone who lived in Chester and surrounding areas..I have so many memories of the P House and will never forget Still on FB with some of those friends…Wish I had never moved from C.

  2. DLamson says:

    I will always remember stopping at the P-house after work and having Johnnie shuffle up and challenge me to a game of pool. I loved his gaffaw/chuckle when he talked and always will remember the tape that he had under his eyes. I did not know until many years later what it was until my dad had the eyelid drooping (ptosis) for a brief period. Loved talking to him. If it was today he probably would be in probably more selfies then a rock star!

  3. Sean Whalen says:

    I was thinking of Johnnie Walker just today. He was such a fascinating, almost mythical figure to my brothers and me, as he walked the streets of Chester.

    It appeared to us that he used a length of Scotch tape under each eye to keep them from closing; and yes we had heard that he lived in the basement of the Pioneer House, in exchange for sweeping up – the P-House that warrants a written history of its own (when it was converted to a hair salon some 15 years past, the owners published a letter thanking folks for helping with the renovation and praising Jesus for the “miracles of beauty” that had been accomplished. At the time, I reflected that many “miracles of beauty” had been accomplished at the P-House between the hours of say, midnight and closing; whether it was Jesus, Budweiser, or Maybelline, who can say? I wish Johnnie was still around; I’d ask him about that, and also the time Butch Gordon burned a Yankee cap on the bar, leaving a permanent black ring. Perhaps another column, Ruthie?)

    Anyhow, John Walker was indeed a famous “walker” on the streets of Chester, a respected fisherman, in a time now past, when the Williams River and its tributaries still harbored native brook trout large enough for one to make a good supper. Johnnie was then the only Black man in town. Couldn’t have been easy. I admire and miss him to this day.

    Thank you, Ruth, for this remembrance.