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Remembering Weldon Shank

Nina Dolly

He was born in Virginia the son and grandson of grist mill owners and operators. When he was 10 yrs. old his father bought a grist mill at Zora and the family moved here from Va. He was very ill at the time and Dad says when he looked out the windows and saw the beautiful mountains, he said, "I never want to leave here". And So for the last 78 years heís done just that. He bought the grist mill from his father and raised his family here. I donít think Daddy chose milling, It was expected of him.

Our family always went to Sunday School even when we were away from home. Dad never liked church. This stemmed from a incident when he was a little boy in church.

He was strict and sometimes severe to us older children but had mellowed quite a bit till Nora and Nita came along. A lot was expected of us and we worked hard; me mostly in the house and garden and caring for the younger siblings; the boys, in the mill or with the livestock. or the hay fields. Punk and Wendell even hauled feed to school to deliver during a free period or after school. In the Summer the whole family went swimming daily in the pond or the mill race.

I saw my Dad as tall, handsome, lanky, strong and a hard worker.

He was a true blonde until his hair turned prematurely white in his 30ís. He told everyone it was just flour dust.

Just the last year and a half when I was asking ten thousand questions to write his lifeís story I found out that he never like milling But I might have guessed it by his many diversions. He was interested in many things and he was very talented. He was very musical. Dad played the trombone in the high school band. When he was a teenager he learned how to play guitar and played it a lot at home. He played the piano by ear and it sounded quite good and sometimes sang along. He bought several accordions and learned to play them, then the concertina. Itís a little octagon shaped accordion that plays a different note pushing than pulling, quite a challenge.

When I was a teenager and the Emmitsburg Band started back up. They had enough trombone players but needed a Bass Horn so Dad got a bass horn and learned to play it for the band. All of us played in that band as well. At our house the question wasnít, "Are you going to play in the band?" it was "WHAT are you going to play in the band"

There was a lot of music in our house, singing mostly. We all Harmonized around the piano with Mom playing. This is where we all got our love for harmony. When we were at Grand maís and Grand dadís, and his brothers were there, they always sang a couple songs together in harmony. Leo sang and played the harmonica (not at the same time). Dad, his brothers Odell and Cleo, and Ralph McDonald formed a Barbershop Quartet and sang together for quite a few years. They sang mostly gospel songs.

We felt we were poor but we had all the essentials, plenty of food, clothes and transportation. When I was in Nurses training and needed transportation, Dad sort of tricked the boys and ask if any of them wanted the old green Plymouth. It wasnít a cool car and they said NO. So he gave it to me. I just loved it and drove it till it rusted to pieces, even though I had to always park on a hill to start it by drifting.

Dad was very artistic. He dabbled in painting, and photography. He had a movie camera when I was very young. Mom complained that he took long stretches of sunsets and then just glimpses of us little children. He later took slides of all animals, all stages and all colors and some of the children. This is where his love of the outdoors showed.

He was good at woodworking. He made quite a few pieces of furniture, like corner cupboards and unique pieces with inlaid wood designs. One in particular is a small stand with chess board table top, 3 drawers and 3 drop down leaves. Each leaf has an inlaid design, one of tumbling blocks, one a cross and one a Masonic design. He made a chess set on the turning lathe and carved the details.

Dad got his pilotís license about the time I was born and had several planes. The family didnít get included in the flying much. My brothers did, most of them are pilots as well.

Dad was a nature lover and went for walks up the meadow with the rifle over his arm almost daily. He was also an avid hunter. He went on many hunting trips with his hunting buddies. He bought and sold rifles and bows and arrows and accessories for many years from his "Gun Room" in our house. We ate a lot of venison, not much small game.

He liked the Ocean and took the family a number of times. The last 15 years or so the family has spent a week each year at Vickie and Jerryís beach house at Kitty Hawk NC.

He was very independent and did not rely on the government in his dealings or personal life. He believed in self reliance and family values. He was extremely fair in his dealings with his customers, giving them the extra measure.

Daddy was able to do many things such as hobbies, hunting, and searching out business opportunities mainly because he had a wife that always took up the slack and protected him. Mom (Polly Baumbardner Shank) is the real glue that made it all happen. The evidence of a lot of good came as a result of her making the sacrifice and of their working together for their family.

My favorite memory of Daddy is when heíd play his guitar and sing "You are my Sunshine, My only Sunshine." 

Read Remembering Polly Baumgardner Shank

Do You have your memories of Weldon Shank? 
If so, e-mail them to us at history@emmitsburg.net

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