Sunday, December 8, 2013

Daddy Loved His Cars

undated automobile circa 1940s or late 1930s

It should come as no surprise that, for a family for whom the term “road trip” could double as their home address, the head of that household had a passion for cars. Ever since the automobile became widespread enough to boast dealerships nationwide, my grandfather liked nothing more than to be a part of that dynamic world.

On my list of family-traditions-yet-to-verify, the very reason my grandfather met my grandmother involved an account of her Tennessee relative’s car business. She, by that time a twenty-something living in Florida, had come to Johnson City, Tennessee, to visit family. He, a country boy from Erwin, Tennessee, felt the lure of city life in nearby Johnson City, and had come to check out those new cars on display.

At least, those are the stories my mother told me. My aunt’s records and photographs seem to convey at least a tacit agreement. No matter what the details, those girls' "Daddy" loved his cars.

Perhaps that was the magnet that drew J. R. Davis—this southern boy from Erwin, Tennessee—up north to the alien turf of Detroit, Michigan: what was becoming the car capital of his universe was, in his mind, the place to be.

And sure enough: the 1930 census tells it all. There is the entry for Jack Davis, showing his occupation as a salesman—in the automobile industry.

From that point, there was no turning back. He had found his dream job. Why look for anything else?

Except, of course, if one’s entire economic world would come crashing down.

This, of course, was the census taken less than one year after such an unexpected event did happen. It would be a long, long ten years until Jack Davis could, for the 1940 census taker, give as his occupation again the heading, automobile salesman.

Photograph, above: Jack R. Davis and his wife, Ruth, standing alongside the love of his life in this undated snapshot.


  1. I wonder if they set up the car so that the word on the hubcap was lined up and down?

    :) This car looks like a 1937 Buick "Special" to me.

    Like the black one 3d from the bottom on

    1. You certainly have an eye for detail, Iggy. I'm glad you mentioned that point. Buick, as it turns out, was the car for my grandfather. As far back as I can remember, he always sold Buicks.

      Thanks for that link, too. Sure looks like the right model--except I can't tell whether my grandfather's was a four door, like the link's version, or a two door.


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