Remembering Walter Kanan
There are still a number of people in Cameron who remember Walter “Walt” Kanan. He was one of Cameron’s “characters” and an unofficial historian. He knew a lot about the people and events of Cameron. He was a good man.
I knew who Walt was, but did not get to know him until we became neighbors. We quickly learned that if we wanted to work, or relax, in our backyard, Walt would invite himself over. He loved to talk.
He lived in the same location for years and knew just about everything about the neighborhood history. If there was a project going on, Walt would be in the middle of it.
Walt never owned a car to my knowledge. He walked wherever he wanted to go. It was only a little over two blocks to Hale’s Grocery Market, and he went at least twice a day. He would make a small purchase each trip, but he mostly went to engage in conversation. He also walked to church every Sunday.
Walt’s wife, Pearl, passed away in 1969 before we moved to the neighborhood. They had four children. They lost a daughter as an infant, and whenever he spoke about it, tears would come to his eyes. Every Memorial Day he would come over and ask us for peonies so he could decorate the family graves. We would drive him if a relative was unavailable, and help as he tenderly placed flowers on the graves.
Walt had a penchant for mischief, particularly when he was a youngster. He had a maiden aunt who had a nightly ritual of using a coal oil lamp to look under her bed, afraid a man would be hiding there. Young Walt hid under the bed one evening, and when she spied him she went into hysterics. Walt would laugh when he told the story, but added he received a “good whipping” for the stunt.
Walt worked for the railroad at the Cameron Depot. One time co-workers decided to play a trick on Walt. A rail car held a brand-new casket they were shipping. A co-worker hid inside and another called Walt to “have a look”. The co-worker quickly raised the lid on the casket and said “Boo”! Apparently Walt jumped from the car, shut the door and locked it. The co-workers had an unexpected trip to St. Joseph. Walt, and his co-workers, nearly lost their job over the incident.
Walt was a true “old timer”. At daylight savings time, he would wait up until midnight to change the clock. When the Catholic Church began allowing parishioners to attend Saturday evening Mass, Walt would have none of it. He would only attend on Sunday.
Walt passed away in 1987 at age 93. He looked forward to being reunited with Pearl and the children they had lost. We lost a good neighbor, and a friend. Cameron lost a unique character.