Introduction: Charlie Davis, son of Robert B. Davis and Margot Howard, is really into motorsports, enjoys telling a good story, and lives in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. These are his memories.
My Father, The Academic Airplane Pilot
My father (Robert B. Davis) and his brother were the first ones to have an education, and
Dad was very proud of that. His brother was a Naval architect and Dad (known to your generation as Bapu) had a Ph.D in Irish literature. He was a college professor and the head of the English departments of the colleges where he taught from 1962 until he retired in 1978.
He was also a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force. He was the chief medical supply officer for the South Pacific in WW2 in 1944-1945. He also wrote papers for the Air War College and helped establish curriculum for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs during the 50s and early 60s.
He learned to fly in the 60s and got his commercial license, instrument rating, multi-engine rating, instructor’s license, and, eventually, CFII (Certified Flight Instrument Instructor) license. He loved to fly and to instruct other pilots.
He was an avid reader and loved classical music. He also loved to travel and to entertain. He was a pretty good bartender. He spoke German, Japanese and Spanish very well, French and Italian semi fluently and also studied and spoke some Gaelic, Arabic, Portugese and Swedish.
…Mom and dad went through the great depression and World War 2.
My Mother, The Theater Maven and Master Chef
Mom (Margot or Gamma) was fun-loving, loved telling a good joke, cooking (she was a
great chef) sewing, and acting. She was the costume mistress for a local theatre when I was in high school and was usually the female lead’s comedy sidekick in comedies and musicals as well as the dramatic lead in several plays.
She was a phone operator when she and dad met, she worked in retail in the 60s and 70s in ladies wear stores, and then in her later years she was the switchboard operator at the hospital in Hollister.
[We ate] German food, Chinese food, Indian food, Japanese food, Italian food. Mom was an eclectic chef.
Yeah, that was my mom!
Okay, here’s a favorite “Margot story.” I was 14 or 15. Mom was the costume mistress for the Tarkio Mule Barn Theatre. The director of the play was John Ferola, good family friend whom dad brought to Tarkio to teach drama and direct plays. The female star of Man of La Mantia was another good family friend, Charlotte Shields. She had a great voice, and was cast as Dulcinea. John’s vision of the character was a lusty, busty serving wench. Charlotte is not overly endowed in the ‘busty” department, and Margo and Charlotte had been working diligently to pad her and push her up to create more bustline.
I walked into our living room from school one day to find Charlotte in her costume, doing her best to push her bosom out, John standing with his arms folded across his chest, Margot with her hands on her hips. John had apparently just told them that Dulcinea needed to be bustier. As I walked in, Margot was looking at John and said, “John! This all the boobs you get! The girl hasn’t got any more to give! If we lower that neckline any more, you’re going to be seeing nipples!” Yeah, that was my mom!
Motor Oil In My Veins
I enjoy auto-crossing, going to road races or any other car event, have enjoyed working for the Sports Car Club of America, enjoy movies, reading, animals, have bred Siamese Fighting Fish, and I’m currently entertained by two cats.
My awards for contributing to SCCA are my proudest accomplishments, culminating in the club’s Woolf Barnato award earlier this year.
…[My occupations have] mostly [been] in the car business. I started out selling cars, but have been in parts or service departments for most of my life.
…[I did] not [get in trouble] much [as a kid]. There was this once, when I crashed a car street racing…
I got married at 19. We met as freshmen in college, fell in love very fast, and found out that she was not going to be able to go to that school next year. We did not want to be separated, and as 18 year olds do, we made the rash decision to get married. There were probably better options, but we thought we knew what we were doing… We divorced five years later, and we are friends 40 years after our divorce.
‘Stairway to Heaven’
When I was nine, I got my first Leggo set. After we went to bed, [my brother] Bob built something with it. When I saw it the next morning, I couldn’t figure it out. It looked like a set of stairs, but there were these sheer walls, missing areas, etc. He said it was the stairway to heaven. I said that there was no way you could climb it. He said, “I never said the stairway to heaven was easy.” Six years later there was this group called Led Zeppelin, and they had this really great song, “Stairway to Heaven.” I think of him every time I hear it.
What I Wish I Knew
I guess I wish I knew more about my Dad’s upbringing. I know that his Dad (Jack, or Newt Davis) died in an industrial accident while working on a powerplant (1924, I think).
I believe his Mom (Doris) was J. Edgar Hoover’s secretary when he was a field agent in Chicago. My aunt Irene, who was married to my dad’s brother John, told me that they all lived with other relatives, since Doris worked full time, there was abuse of some sort in the house. I guess John was more forthcoming with info than Dad was.
A Journey of Spirituality
I was raised Episcopalian, or “Catholic light.” Pretty liberal Christianity… In high school I became a born again Christian. I saw a lot of hypocrisy in organized religion, and I thought it was very snobbish to think that one religion is the true one, and the rest are not. I think of religions as just different spiritual paths to the same one God. I am spiritual, I try to always do the right thing and to treat people with kindness.
The Grandparents I Did Know
Paternal Grandmother: Doris Aileen Fralick
Paternal Grandfather: John Newton Davis
My paternal grandfather died when my father was seven years old. My paternal grandmother, Doris Aileen Fralick (then Davis, then Pask) lived into her 90s. She was very nice, very happy, not a deep thinker. She married Andrew Pask in the 40s. He was the only grandfather I knew. Very strange guy, rough around the edges, but I think a pretty nice guy underneath. I remember that I finally started to get his sense of humor when I was about 10 years old, about a year before he passed away.
The Grandparents I Didn’t Know
Maternal Grandmother: Hertha Kassel (-1953)
Maternal Grandfather: Charles Edwin Robertson Howard (1880-1953)
I did not know my maternal grandparents. She died of pneumonia after surgery for brain cancer, and he died in a traffic accident later that same year.
When I Was Young…
- My biggest adversity was moving five times by age 13, and always being the new kid.
- School was okay. I enjoyed some subjects, bored by others.
- [Technology was] primitive.
My Favorite Books Are…
Novels that tell a good story. There are a lot, but I like Ian Fleming, John Lescroart, John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Robert B Parker, Lee Child.
What I Wish I’d Done By Now…
I wish I had won more trophies at the national auto-cross championships, and especially wish I had won a National Championship.
Photos provided by Charlie Davis.
The Family Record Project: This project was started during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 to create a record that documents what day-to-day life is like for the people in our family, who they are, and what memories they cherish. Even if you’re a distant relative, I’d like to invite you to participate by emailing me at email@example.com. Participants are asked to thoughtfully answer 20 questions and to provide a photo. Responses are edited only for style and spelling in an effort to keep the authentic tone of the participants.