The Daily Gamecock

'A constant chase': Soda City vendor shares history of unexpected talents

<p>Anthony Walker stands in the garage of his home behind his work bench. Walker currently makes cigar box guitars out of his home and sells them at Soda City market March through December.&nbsp;</p>

Anthony Walker stands in the garage of his home behind his work bench. Walker currently makes cigar box guitars out of his home and sells them at Soda City market March through December. 

Every third Saturday from March through December, Anthony Walker sells his cigar box guitars at Soda City market — it's what he's known for. But the guitars are only the latest in Walker's long line of passions and hobbies. 

He learned how to make beehives, and before that he built computers. He placed in international power lifting competitions and was crowned Mr. South Carolina in bodybuilding. He recovered bodies from the river. 

“My dad knows a lot of folks, but people see him at Soda City … and they just know he builds guitars," Walker's youngest daughter, Rosan Walker, said. "I don’t know how many people actually sit down and talk to him."

His family said Walker likes to master new skills and then move on to the next, but they don't always know where he picks them up.

"As opposed to actually, skills that you learn from from job to job, or from one thing to the next thing, it's more of a mindset," Walker said. "How do I do this, and how can I do this better?"

When she was a child, Rosan Walker joined her dad in the garage, where he did much of his work. He taught her how to do little things, such as glue tables together from wood scraps. He was her best friend from birth, she said.

As she got older, she joined her dad at the gym and went with him on hunting trips, learning how to skin a deer and having her father pass along just a few of the skills he's learned in his 63 years.

Anthony Walker poses in his dive gear. Walker worked for the South Carolina Department of National Resources’ dive team from 1997 to 2007.

"Oh, you just don't know what I've been through with him," Deborah Walker, Anthony's wife, said. "I mean, he just goes from one thing to another."

Her husband's hobbies still manage to surprise her on occasion, she said. He owns equipment to make his own bullets, and he once bought pens to teach himself calligraphy.

"I said, ‘Do you want me to see if anybody wants you to do any wedding invitations?’” Deborah Walker said.

The couple first met at the Statehouse nearly 40 years ago. Deborah was working as a tour guide at the time, and Walker had just started in security.

He would spend the next two decades working in law enforcement, during which time he was selected for the Department of Natural Resources' dive team. Beginning in 1997, he traveled the state to assist in tasks such as body recovery and criminal investigation.

He was the first Black person to make the team in South Carolina, he said. There was added weight that went along with that.

Anthony Walker grew up in a segregated America. He remembers "whites only" signs, he said, and restaurants where he was not welcome to eat. Now, he was battling against stereotypes on the dive team. That only encouraged him.

“People see you, but they don’t see you. It’s like, ‘You don’t do this,’”  Walker said. “For me to be the first, I always looked at it like, I cannot not do it."

He did it for 10 years.

“It's just your mindset,” Deborah Walker said. “You just have to be brave. Just push forward and keep going.”

Today, Anthony Walker spends most of his time in the garage, working on his latest passion, but the past isn't far.

Anthony Walker competes in a powerlifting competition. He placed internationally, he said, and he could squat 650 pounds.

Upstairs, he keeps pictures from his time powerlifting.

"My benchpress was over [400 pounds]. And my deadlift was close to [600]. Squat was 650," Anthony Walker said. "And now, I can barely walk from here to my truck without worrying about having to fall over."

Walker was diagnosed with Lyme disease, which limits his mobility these days. But it doesn’t interfere with his work on cigar box guitars. 

He’s still perfecting the craft, he said, and each guitar presents the opportunity to improve on the last — "a constant chase." That's how he likes it.

"You don't get a second bite into the apple. Once that bite is gone, it's gone," Walker said. "Why would you not do something that avails itself to you?"