Peninsula Reflections

Posted: Monday, August 28, 2006


  Amanda "Mandy" Walker is shown in this 1977 photo at the Kenai Community Library, where she was a volunteer. Photo by Mary Ford

Amanda "Mandy" Walker is shown in this 1977 photo at the Kenai Community Library, where she was a volunteer.

Photo by Mary Ford

Amanda “Mandy” Walker came to Kenai in 1950 to marry Delta Calvin “Pappy” Walker who, in her words, was “an old fossil” who had been calling her honey and pet for years.

Some 32 years later, Mandy wrote a nostalgic account of the courtship and wedding. They had met in Oklahoma where she was a registered nurse and hospital administrator and he was a plumber. Pappy had “made eyes” at her for several years but she wasn’t interested.

In 1942, he left Oklahoma and his first wife to help build an Army base at Nome. He liked Alaska and chose to settle in Kenai where he acquired some land and a reputation for outsized hospitality.

The media pronounced him “indestructible” when he and Jessebelle, his second wife, survived a bear attack.

Some years later when he was single again, He wrote to Mandy.

“He told me he still loved me and all that blarney,” she said, but she didn’t bother to reply.

A year later, a brief note arrived from Kenai.

“It’s a year since I wrote you. It seems to me you could write and tell me to go to hell or something — Walker.”

Mandy liked that letter. She wrote back and promptly received a dozen red roses.

“He continued the pursuing,” she said, “until I weakened.” She agreed to marry him.

Disregarding Pappy’s advice to take the Alaska Steamship, Mandy insisted on driving to Kenai. She got as far as Anchorage, where she learned the road stopped there. She had 45 minutes to get her car and herself on the train to Moose Pass. That done, she enjoyed an “exciting” ride to Moose Pass, then negotiated the rough, narrow road to Kenai — and Pappy Walker.

When she saw his cabin, she thought, “Oh, God, have mercy on me.” Had she not been so tired, she said, she would have turned back.

“I have the marriage license, so we’ll go right up and get married,” Pappy announced.

“We will not!” Mandy replied. “You need a haircut and those whiskers shaved off.”

Pappy explained that he was leaving for fish camp in two hours and would be gone four days.

“Fine,” Mandy said, “I’ll try to get this messy place cleaned up.”

In his absence, Mandy cleared out poker chips, cards and beer bottles and scraped the mud from what would be his wedding suit. On his return, she pointed to hot water on the stove and told him to take a bath and get those fish scales off.

The ceremony was to be conducted by U.S. Commissioner Paul Wise in his home. A woman in a bathrobe met them at the door and told them that her husband was at Kenai Joe’s. Pappy went after him and also recruited Bob Castleberry, Kenai’s attorney, to be best man. Pauline Wise, in her bathrobe, was bridesmaid.

Thus began an eventful marriage that ended in 1961, when Pappy’s heart gave out.

“He was quite a character,” Mandy wrote to end her story, “God threw the mold away after he made Pappy.”

In her later years, Mandy volunteered at the Kenai library, walking to work for as long as she was able.

The fact that this retired nurse had learned to operate a bulldozer and pilot a fishing boat in midlife were just memories. She died in 1999 at age 96.

This column was provided by Mary Ford with the Kenai Historical Society.

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