Friday, July 28, 2006

wally...

sticks and stones will break my bones,
but i always will be true, and when
your mama is dead and gone,
i'll sing this lullabye just for you,
and what becomes of all the little boys,
who never comb their hair
-tw



I am going through years of photos, years of stories, trying to put them together someway.
Many many years ago l started photographing on the street, just quick and hurried, like something that would be taken away from me if l wasn't fast enough. Then l met wally, he was the first that l spent time with, that l got to know.
Walter Skulsky died a very lonely man on a mattress in a rooming house. My first encounter with wally was at a corner store. Exchange of small talk and cigarettes. I asked him if l could come over to where he lived and photograph him. Next day l arrived greeted at the door by wally in his well worn long johns. "Hi, remember me, can l come in. I have some cigarettes,"
I set up this big 4x5 camera and shot very quickly as l was sure he would kick me out. We then sat at a small table, it was just a room, a bare mattress, a empty fridge and the bathroom down the hall.
Wally was always quiet never initiating a conversation, however he answered most of the questions l posed to him. I took prints of wally to him and hung them on his wall, l must have seemed very unusual to him. One time he was nude. I took my place across the table as l normally did. I didn't take any pictures.
"fukin, fukin buttons, where am l going to put all these fukin buttons, on my fukin ass." This was wally's reply to my question as to why he didn't wear any of the buttons l had brought him. I always brought him weird stuff, chocolate bar, a old radio.
I went away for the summer, travelled across canada by train. I came to see him, his rooming house was empty, the neighbor next door said they buried him last week, her husband had found him dead.
It struck that wally had died without love, without knowing someone out there loved him.
He died of loneliness...


9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't have to know you personally to be very positive that he KNEW that someone is out there who takes him with him in his heart. So if I know this just by reading your blog and stumbles how could he not have known when he met you in person :)

tookietoo

ken said...

thank you for the nice words. I appreciate that.

Connie said...

This photo made me feel very sad. I was surfing the web, and found your site. Wally is my Uncle. I never knew him, nor did I know he existed. When I saw the photo the face was so familiar, so I sent your site to a cousin who said "Yes, that is Uncle Walter".

Connie Gainer

ken said...

That is amazing Connie, and yes it must seem sad to you. It was many years ago that l met wally and he was important. If you or your relatives ever want a photograph or to see more of him, please let me know.

Every Photo Tells A Story said...

This is another one that broke my heart, Ken! I guess it's normal to think more about death as one gets older, and I know the ideal would be to accept it gracefully. But I get so angry knowing how much we have to endure and suffer when we are old and dying.

As the one vistor wrote, at least you were in his life towards the end to provide him with a little friendship and kindness and attention. Something he probably wasn't used to.

kenflett said...

You keep bringing up these wonderful memories for me "photoN" thank you.

Anonymous said...


Walter was one of eleven Children born & raised in Wostok AB , spent almost all his life in Calgary. He has brothers Steve & Jim & sister Kate buried in Calgary.

Anonymous said...

Walter was one of a family of 10 children, whose mother , my grandmother died during the spanish flue epidemic in 1918, he chose to live alone, away from family & help after the great depression. Walter experienced a tough childhood upbringing. I spoke to him at length when he attended my fathers funeral in 1978. Walter was married & still has a living & only daughter. All of Walters 11 sisters & brothers have passed on.

kenflett said...

Thank you so much for that. It feels good to know this about Walter.