Family Record Project: Charlie Davis

Davis Family

From left to right, Robert B. Davis, Margot Howard, Charlie Davis, and Robert “Bob” H. Davis.

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

Charlie Davis with father and brother

From left to right, Charlie Davis, Robert B. Davis, and Robert H. Davis.

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

Margot Howard acting in a play.

Margot Howard takes center stage.

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

Charlie Davis Award Winner

Charlie Davis when he won the SCCA’s Woolf Barnato Award in early 2020.

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…

College Lessons

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 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.

Let’s create a family ancestry record! 20 questions



Oftentimes, the information that we find most interesting is what day-to-day life was like for our ancestors, but not much of that has been recorded. In an effort to create a record for future generations, I hope you will help me!

If you have a half hour or so to spare (don’t we all have a little more free time right about now?), I’d like to invite you to fill out this family ancestry questionnaire and return it to me at

It’s best to start with a mindset of being open and sharing, and if any memories come back to you later on that you would also like to add, please send those to me, too!

I hope that you will be honest and share the good as well as the bad. If there’s anything you’re not comfortable sharing with a wider audience, just let me know and I’ll remove it before posting your responses on the blog (just say it’s off the record!).

I look forward to learning more about you!

Stay safe and healthy, everyone!


1. What do you remember about your maternal grandparents? (Remember to include names so I know who you’re talking about!)
2. What do you remember about your paternal grandparents?
3. What was your father like? What did he do for work and fun?
4. What was your mother like? What did she do for work and fun?
5. What are the things you enjoy doing?
6. What adversity did you and/or your family overcome?
7. What are you most proud of having accomplished in life?
8. What was school like for you?
9. What occupations or careers have you had?
10. If you’ve ever been married, how did you meet your significant other(s)? Yes, I’m looking for those love stories!
11. What is your favorite family ancestry story (or stories if you have more than one)?
12. What is something you wish you knew about your family history? Please include as much information as possible (ie any names and dates you do have) in case someone who reads this might have answers.
13. What are some of your fondest childhood memories?
14. Did you ever get in trouble as a kid? What for?
15. What was technology like when you were a kid?
16. What are some of the foods your family ate when you were younger?
17. Will you tell me about your faith or spirituality and what it means to you?
18. What is/are your favorite books and why?
19. Is there anything you wish you had done by now but haven’t?
29. Anything to add?

MyHeritage’s New Photo Tool Adds Life to Old Pictures

Updates: MyHeritage has just announced that it’s new color tool will be free until April 22 on account of the coronavirus keeping so many people home. They also changed their subscription model so there’s now a slightly more affordable subscription option if you want access to it forever. Have fun!
Sometime earlier this week, I received a promotional email from MyHeritage, an website where you can upload and maintain your family tree online. I normally ignore their emails because they send so many, but a distant cousin had reached out to me on their site just last week and subsequently helped answer a family mystery (more on that later!), so I’ve been curious about what MyHeritage has to offer me. I opened the email.


MyHeritage just released MyHeritage In Color (TM), and it’s amazing. You can upload any black and white photo (even if you’ve patched it up in Photoshop, messed with the contrast, and applied a filter like yours truly does frequently), and an algorithm works in the background to transform the photo into color.

Apparently, there’s some room for error in terms of pixel color, but I’ve been really pleased with the photos I’ve run through the system. I have run into a few glitches with files not being recognized or the processor erroring out, but it seems to work more often than not.

MyHeritage does include a small icon on the bottom left to indicate the photo has been colorized to preserve historical integrity and a MyHeritage logo on the bottom right if you don’t have their Complete subscription ($209 annually for the first year and $299 annually after that – I know. Wowza! Probably this is why I haven’t delved into this site much before now.).

Obviously, releasing this tool is an incredibly smart move by MyHeritage, since photos are social currency online these days and most of us have very little incentive to upload our personal ancestry photos otherwise. Kudos to whoever came up with the idea.

It’s worth noting that they currently erect their paywall at 10 photos, so choose wisely unless you’re ready to sell your house and do the annual subscription.

I decided to try some of the oldest photos and some group photos I have since they would be the most fun to see in color. Here’s what I got back.

Happy coloring!


Statica en Dynamica

Before he passed away recently, my great uncle, Morris Kool, passed a couple ancestry items on to me. This one, “Statica en Dynamica,” is a real gem. My great-grandfather, Cornelis Kool, earned a doctorate (I believe in economics) and his thesis was this book from 1935. I’ll include some photos here of the cover, inscription, first few pages, and insert.

Visiting the Netherlands for the first time

 I am visiting the Netherlands and exploring Amsterdam with my mom ahead of a reunion with the Lopes-Cardozo side of the family in Loosdrecht. Amsterdam is a beautiful, bustling city with many canals, tastey sea food, something like a million bicycles, and excellent public transportation. 

Since arriving, I’ve been taking advantage of vacation hours and sleeping in and then we’ve leisurely ventured out into the city. We visited the Dutch Resistance Museum, where we learned about how the Royal Family stood against the Nazis from afar, factory workers would spontaneously strike in solidarity, even though they were sometimes executed for it, and about the 1,300 resistance newspapers popped up throughout the war. The museum had a couple copies of Je Maintiendrai, which was exciting to see, since it was something I blogged about before. 

Also, just seeing the waterways and buildings makes it easier to imagine what life would have been like when my ancestors lived here. 

It’s funny, but since what I know of them is usually text on paper or black and white photos, their lives have less color in my mind’s eye than they did in actuality. 

Tomorrow, we will get to meet Cousin Anje in the flesh (very exciting since she’s helped me so much with this blog over the years), and then we’ll be off to Loosdrecht, and Paris (just for fun).

To share more of my trip with you,  here are some of the just-for-fun photos I have captured so far…

A different perspective of the not-so-secret secret Begijnhof Courtyard.

Trams running through downtown.

A quick peek through a cheese shop window.

Europe has some striking graffiti.

It wasn’t even commuter hour yet and the streets were filled. This is just after a line of cyclists passed by.

In Vondel Park, lockets with names inscribed line the iron on this small bridge.

Religious sculptures in the wall of abuilding in Begijnhof Courtyard.

If you kept reading this far, you deserve to see me make a fool of myself over seeing my first Dutch windmill. You are welcome.