Grandpa Dave and Cannery Row

June 25, 2018

Yesterday I visited with my dad’s younger brother, Uncle Bud.  By my estimate, Dr. David R. Davis’ age in years (93) is now > his weight in pounds.  Seriously.  His hearing is weak — however his mind is anything but.  And that’s what makes every interaction with him both enjoyable and informative.  His parents, (my grandparents David and Margaret Davis) lived just around the corner from me and my parents and siblings during my childhood.  However I’m the youngest of my siblings, and Grandpa Dave passed away before my third birthday so I never really knew him.  The only things I know about him are the stories told by those who did.

During my visit with Uncle Bud I kept trying to pump him for information about his childhood.  I wanted to know the dynamic of his (and my dad’s) family.  What kind of relationship did he and Dad and their sister Barbara have?  How about Grandpa and Grandma?  What was a typical day like during their elementary and junior high years?  Either Bud couldn’t hear me, or he had a higher agenda.  He kept giving me information about his grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins etc – all good things to know, but farther removed than what I was seeking.

During my childhood my dad didn’t say much around the house, yet we were all very aware of his presence even in his silence.  Regrettably I never had the presence of mind to ask him much about his childhood or his siblings or his parents.  Consequently the one time he did mention something about his own father and a passage in the book Cannery Row it stuck with me. I only remembered vaguely what he’d said, but I got the gist of it, even though I couldn’t recall the details.  Imagine my delight when, only a couple of days ago, while going through some papers I’d brought home from our parent’s home prior to our selling it, I came across a photocopy of the Cannery Row quote. That was fortuitous, but I nearly missed the apex of it – on the back of the page, in my father’s own handwriting was his explanation of how that passage described Grandpa Dave.

So I’m preserving both.  Here.  With the hope that somehow my grandfather’s innate goodness, and my father’s awareness of it can also become incorporated in me, and passed along to mine.


“It has always seemed strange to me,” said Doc. “The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system.  And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success.  And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”  —  Cannery Row

My own dad fit into that mold of kindness, generosity and feeling.  He acquired a coterie of ne’er-do-wells — it’s easy to do in the construction industry.  They were the type who would give you anything they had but they didn’t own anything that was worth having.  Therefore, the relationship was one in which they were always bumming from Dad.  I remember one in particular, a plasterer, who whenever he was down on his luck (which was often) would make a call on Dad.  He had an uncanny knack of knowing just when Dad would be coming home for supper and would drive into the back yard and here would be Billie right behind him.  Billie would never get out of his car; even if Dad had, by chance, got into the house before he came he would just sit there until somebody noticed him and told Dad.  Always Dad would end up standing outside of Billie’s car while they visited, no matter how hot or how cold or how tired Dad was or how mad Mother was.  The visit would usually break up when Mother’s patience wore out and she’d yell “Dave, get in here. Your supper’s getting cold.”  Then there was always the sharp interrogation of “how much did you give him this time and why” and always the soft answer of “Oh, five dollars or so, because he needed it.”  That’s what religion is all about. —  Richard Lane Davis


Back row (left to right): Uncle Bud (David R. Davis), Aunt Barbara (Barbara Davis Jaussi), Dad (Richard Lane Davis)

Front Row: Grandma Margaret (Margaret Bean Davis), Grandpa Dave (David Morris Davis)

(Barbara had a twin brother Robert who died in infancy)

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