Johnny Walkers

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johnny walkers noun Makeshift stilts used by children. Same as tommy walkers.

1968 DARE = child’s stilts (Brasstown NC). 1997 Montgomery Coll.  (Adams, Bush, Cardwell, Jones, Norris, Oliver).

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Have you ever tried to walk on a pair of johnny walkers? Let me tell you it’s harder than it looks.


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  • Reply
    Walter Walker
    August 14, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    I called ’em thangs Walter Walkers cause why not. Them thangs shore didn’t go good in the mud ‘er in soft dirt neither. You’d be cruisin along thout a care in the world and them thangs would mar up and you’d be flat on your face quickern you can say Jack Robinson I’m tellin you now. I woosht I kudda figgered out how to put mudgrips on em. I’d be a rich man today.

  • Reply
    Edwin Ammons
    August 14, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    Remember what happened when you encountered soft ground? You kept walking but your Walkers stubbed up and wouldn’t move. Of course you didn’t have to pick them up! Only yourself!

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    August 14, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    We called them “Tom Walkers”. They were a good short cut to a broken arm.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 14, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    John, my 3rd older brother, came in from school one day, got himself a hatchet, and proceeded into the chickens’ roosting place. After he cut himself a pair of Johnny Walkers, he cut me and Harold some. Mine was way off the ground and I had to get on mine from the porch. Those things were the trick. After I fell off numerous times, and it was a long way to the ground, I learned better. I could wade the creeks without getting wet, and I even went to the store a time or two. As my buddie Jim put it, it didn’t cost nothing either. …Ken

  • Reply
    August 14, 2018 at 11:25 am

    We didn’t have much flat ground when I was growing up and what little we had was usually growing something. Johnny Walkers were a little daunting when everything is either up or down. Kinda like walking up or down stairs three at a time. Walking around a hillside had its own set of problems. You could build them to match the slope, one short one and one long one, I suppose, but you would have to switch sides when you came back unless you are that good in reverse.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2018 at 10:55 am

    We Sure did ,we called them Stilts,and these in the picture are exactly like the ones our Granddaddy made for us, such fun, a ”learned” experience … :). We’d back up to a shed or anything that would hold us steady and upright… then take off, trying to get all the necessary body parts to work together for the good, at the same time…. kinda like trying to learn to drive a straight shift for the first time, working the clutch and the gas pedal just so …. whew! I did finally get it working together right….. after many mis-haps… on stilts, and with the car, but I still don’t relish being stopped at a red light on a steep hill in a straight shift with the car behind me right on my tail ,especially an older model straight shift…

    • Reply
      August 14, 2018 at 6:28 pm

      I come from where and when a straight shift was all there was. Learning to drive a stick was learning to drive a car.

  • Reply
    Brian P.T. Blake
    August 14, 2018 at 10:00 am

    What an idyllic scene! Wish I were there.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    August 14, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Had these, a pogo stick and springs that attached to our shoes. Lots of fun times trying to master all three of them.
    After mastering all of them we had races to see who was the fastest on each one.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2018 at 9:50 am

    We made the coffee can type also shown in your picture. I was tall to begin with but enjoyed being even taller with those cans.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2018 at 9:41 am

    Loved an old pair of stilts we had. In my growing up years there was not a lot of money spent on toys, but we managed to have mainly a used bicycle and stilts. It was quite challenging to walk the length of the lane leading from our house. Always up to a challenge, I enjoyed trying anything out of the norm. Your blog does this, Tipper, as I had not thought about those old stilts since I tried them all those many years ago. It reminds me of how we would always become very skillful with the toys we did have. I still marvel at the many ways we learned to make our own fun, and I think this carried over into adulthood. My siblings and I can still get excited over the simplest of things, and “bored” is not a word we ever said to my knowledge.
    Of course, we had the great outdoors with all its challenges, and I am so amazed nowadays knowing children who do not like “outdoors.” I am not sure stilts would ever be popular again, as children just have such different and more complicated gadgets with which to entertain themselves. Now I am just as guilty, because I cannot spend five minutes in a doctor’s office without pulling out my smart phone.

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan
    August 14, 2018 at 9:21 am

    First time, I did not get an Appalachian word. Although, I attempted these a lot as a child, just called them stilts.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 14, 2018 at 9:06 am

    I had stilts as a child but we didn’t call them johnny walkers we just called them stilts. I did pretty good with them. My family always said I must be part monkey because I had such limber movement, thats probably why the stilts were easy for me. I had some that adjusted the height of the foot platform to be closer to the ground or higher up.
    Good balance exercise for kids and maybe big folks too!

  • Reply
    August 14, 2018 at 8:56 am

    My cousin made some walkers that put him at 8 or 9 feet tall when he got on them. What a sight to see! None of us girls could keep our balance long enough to take the first step. We all tried more than once.

  • Reply
    August 14, 2018 at 8:39 am

    Course I’ve tried em. Didn’t know they was called Johnny Walkers though. Thought that was some kind of booze.
    Walking with them wasn’t so hard for me. It was the getting em started and stopped that gave me problems. They ain’t got no parking brake.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 14, 2018 at 8:39 am

    In the early fifties….we made our own stilts…Dad always had two by fours and scraps of wood laying around…My bothers would make some so tall that they would have to stand on the side of the porch steps to climb on them…One brother was especially good at walking around on them…Our Dad showed us how to make the first pair of those things very early on…I don’t ever remember him calling them Johnny Walkers or Tommy Walkers…He just called them stilts…the first ones he said he ever saw was in a carnival/fair that passed thru Asheville/Mars Hill area and were used by clowns on the grounds to attract people to the shows…
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…I fell more than once off a pair of things..

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 14, 2018 at 8:02 am

    I guess I’m out of touch. I didn’t know what johnny walkers or tommy walkers were, but I remember stilts. We made them out of what scrap lumber we could find. One local boy had a real high pair. He was so coordinated he could run with them.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 14, 2018 at 7:55 am

    We had no special name. We just called them stilts. As you say, not easy, have to learn the co-ordination to be even halfway smooth. It didn’t help that making them strong enough also made them heavy.

    I guess walking on stilts has some similarities with learning to use snow shoes. The movements are awkward and exhausting at first.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 14, 2018 at 7:13 am

    Tipper–Daddy made a pair when I was 7 or 8 years old, but they varied appreciably in one fashion from those shown in your picture. The footrests were appreciably higher on the “stalk” than those you picture. That meant you were higher off the ground or taller, and it also meant balance was a bit more problematic. I learned to get around on the stilts pretty well, but not in quite the fashion you show. I not only held on with my hands; I tucked them in under my arms and against my body for greater stability.

    I hadn’t thought of them in a ‘coon’s age, but this is a prime example of a “toy” which didn’t come from the store, cost nothing, and produced a lot of fun–right in the same category as slingshots, whimmydiddles, fluttermills, and the like.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 14, 2018 at 6:53 am

    TMC exactly what I as m saying, I couldn’t master either. My boys however lover theirs and went all over the neighborhood with them

  • Reply
    August 14, 2018 at 5:44 am

    Yep, never did care for’m, as a child something in the realm of running and jumping was more in my line of fun, as long as it didn’t include a Pogo stick, didn’t care for those either.

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