Baby Davis - A Remarkable Man
Grandpa in later years
Just 100 short years ago
He was born December the 10, 1910, for a while he was known as Baby Davis. The Nurses, feeling sorry for him because he had no name took pity on him and decided to give him a name. He was then known as Benny Schmuckler, there was nothing legal in this name, just something they came up with rather than call him baby.
Time passed and within a few short months he was adopted by a lovely family. A Man and woman who could have no children of their own. He was loved and raised by these people. He was also given a name that he would carry the rest of his life and do the name proud. In those days when a child was adopted, they weren’t told of the adoption.
They were an affluent family and he never knew hunger. He only knew happiness, comfort, joy and the Love of a Mother and Father. He went to school, joined clubs and did most of the things a boy his age would do. He lived in the city of Detroit during his youth and well into adulthood.
How 1 little thing might affect one's outlook - if allowed
One club he attempted to join was required to ’vote’ on his membership. Because of youth’s the way they are, a couple of the boys didn’t like him and decided to ’black ball’ him. This would affect him for most of his life. The thought that someone didn’t like him truly bothered him. Rather than let it affect him in a negative way, he tried being positive about it. He became more cheerful and jovial, so everyone he met in the future wanted to be around him. He was fun, he laughed and joked and had a lot of friends.
In the weeks before he turned 21 he was being followed by a lovely lady. Because he lived in a big city the buses were utilized, automobiles were not as plentiful as they are today. She would get on the same stops as he did, and get off as well. His friends teased him, saying that he had a beautiful girlfriend. She was a bit older than he was, so he was flattered by the attention.
On his 21st birthday the beautiful lady approached him and announced who she was. Imagine his surprise when he found out she was his oldest sister! She sat him down and told him the details of his birth and adoption. The story regarding this was disputed by a younger sister in later years, after he had long passed and wasn’t alive to argue it.
The story goes as follows: His mother was a prostitute who was able to bear children. She had given birth to the eldest sister and was fairly content with this. She met his father who was a scandalous man and was always trying to make a quick buck, not necessarily through the legal channels. He came up with a plan to sell the babies she gave birth to.
Because the oldest girl wasn’t a baby, she wasn’t eligible to be sold on the Black Market. The girl did take notes (birthdays, adopted names), and paid attention to where the children went to. Some of the babies shared the same father, some didn’t. Out of the 5 that were born, 3 were put up for adoption. 2 males and 1 female. The youngest was born with what was considered at the time to be a birth defect, a ‘Port Wine’ stain that covered half of her face. She would not be put up for adoption. She was taken by her father to be raised on the other side of the State who married a woman who was to become her step mother. There she was raised with other sisters and brothers.
As each child reached the age of 21, the eldest sister would approach them with the news of their adoption. As they grew older they stayed in contact with each other through letters and visits.
The Good and The Bad
The man was stunned by this revelation and did some serious soul searching. He confronted his parents and they confirmed that indeed he had been adopted and yes, they had paid $10,000 dollars for him. But they loved him and wouldn’t change a thing, doing it all over if necessary. His adopted mother was a sickly person and adopting him through the ‘normal’ channels just wouldn’t be allowed.
Because he had flat feet and a heart murmur he wasn't allowed to join the Army.
Eventually he married a lovely woman and soon she gave birth to a son. He knew joy, he had a family of his own. His joy was short lived. Very soon after the birth of the child his wife became ill and died from Pneumonia.
I fit in right here
He began looking for someone to care for his child. He wasn’t going to put him up for adoption and since he needed to work to provide for him, this was his only option. He met a woman, who was to eventually become my Grandmother. She came to love the man’s son and soon came to love the man as well. They married and 9 months later my mother was born, the year was 1938.
He was considered ‘Quite the looker’ in his day, which meant that he was a very good looking man. Suits and ties along with hats were the mode of dress that can be viewed when looking at old photo’s of him. He rarely left the house in anything less than fine clothes.
His parents passed soon after the birth of my mother and left him with what amounted to a small fortune in those days, $150,000. He bought a hotel with this money. For a time it went well, then that was sold and he bought a bar when “The Great Depression“ was coming to an end. With the bar came a home on a lake and a small store. The family knew love and lots of friends. The man became a volunteer fireman and was a large part of the community. The two children were a little on the wild side, as they became teenagers, from time to time caused grief to the parents.
Kids and their antics
Drinking and driving, getting into accidents doing the things that in those days that were frowned upon, probably illegal but really wasn't enforced. My mother got caught drinking in the dump, which upset her father to no end. Eventually the boy quit drinking and went into the Army, where he met his wife. My mother married a man with whom she met on the nearby base, he was in the Air Force.
The man and his wife sold the bar and bought a Gas Station, this is where my memories of him began. He was the best Grandpa in the world. When my mother left my father, my brother, mother and I moved in with our Grandparents. I would wake up in the morning and have coffee with my Grandpa before he left for work. My coffee consisted mostly of milk, but that didn’t matter to me, it was time I got to spend with him.
Never Come Back
When I was 3 a leather harness had to be fashioned for me, to tie me to the clothes line. This was after I crossed a busy 4 lane highway to go visit my Grandpa at work. I loved talking to all the customers that came in to visit with my Grandpa, one even nicknamed me ‘George‘. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, I got the ‘gift of gab’ from my Grandpa, is what people used to say.
It was after I attempted to throw myself into a lagoon that my mother made him stop playing “never come back’ with me. The game went as thus; “I’ll give you a dime if you play Never Come back”. I never could earn that dime because I always came back. As a children, my brother and I wanted to hang around the adults all the time, this was their way of making us go play. He of course, never meant for me to be hurt and did give me that dime.
Eventually my Mother remarried, and we moved away. I cherished the times we would be able to get together. The visits were always fun, Friday night’s were called “Live it up Night”. Friends would gather and the drinks would abound. Soda pop was there for us kids to drink. We always got to spend Holidays together and it seemed every time my Grandparents showed up they had gifts for us kids.
When I was 10 we moved close to my grand parents and very shortly thereafter my Grandma passed away, the year was 1972. My Grandfather was despondent, this was the second wife he had buried. Being very lonely but not ready to give up on life, he went to various places to meet people. About 6 months after my Grandma’s passing, he met a woman, Fran and married her. It was very difficult for me to accept her as my new Grandma. I missed my Grandma. I was lucky in the sense that she didn’t have any children of her own, so there was no competition for affection.
Life goes on
They moved after he retired within a few months, back up by the same lake my mother had grown up around. We went to visit them often and they came to see us as well. Some of the people that my Mom knew as a child were still there, so I was able to meet them. Even her old house was still there, the new owner was kind enough to let me sit at her dining room table that over looked the lake, as my mom and her mother used to do.
Because of the shape of the lake, there were different ‘shores’ and each one had a name. The bar that my Grandpa owned had the name “South Shore Bar”. During our weekend visits we would go bar hopping to the 3 different bars (the west side didn’t have a bar). I was allowed to go because we always went back home before 9 pm (children weren’t allowed after 9).
Eventually my Grandpa and his wife decided that they should move back down closer to my parents. The weather would get very rough in winter and the snow and cold became too much for them to deal with, since they were getting up there is age.
Kids say the darnest things
I married and had a child, but because of the way things were, I soon divorced the man. I decided I needed to go back to school to attempt to further my education. My mother babysat for me during these times. Once, she had to go someplace that she couldn’t take my son, so my grandpa came over to watch him. My son, being the precocious child he was did things he wasn‘t supposed to. My grandpa told him not to do something (with the admonition of a spanking) and my son put his hands on his hips and told my grandpa “If you do that I’ll tell my Grandma and she’ll spank you!” This amused my Grandpa so much he had to share it with everyone.
We got us A Keeper!!
Eventually he buried his 3rd wife, this made him decide to date rather than remarry. He said there were too many widows out there to pick just 1. He was finally able to join the club that had Black Balled him many years ago and he knew much happiness once again. He was able to do volunteer work and help out with the Community. He kept busy with life.
When he got a sore throat that just wouldn’t go away, he finally went to the Doctors. It had been 25 years since his last visit. It was determined that he had throat cancer and he would need surgery. His voice box was removed and he was given a mechanical voice. He had been a wonderful talker all through his life, talking to just about anyone, we weren’t sure how he was going to handle this.
With his usual acceptance of everything that had happened in his life, he handled this well. He was even recommended by his Doctor to talk with others who were having difficulty accepting their lot in life.
The basement in my parents home was finished so he could move down there and be near my mother. He would pay a small amount of rent, it would help them and help him as well. I had given birth to the last child that I would have, he felt that she was “A Keeper”, as he so fondly liked to refer to babies.
All Good things must come to an end
One day not too long after he moved into the basement, Mom was gone for a few hours. Grandpa went out to check the mail, came back in the house, sat down on his couch and just went to sleep, never to wake up again. We later found out that he had Congestive Heart Failure, this was one secret that he wanted to keep. The day was June 11, 1992.
Because of his age, 81 ½, there weren’t too many of his chums left alive, yet his funeral was a site to behold. There were people of all ages that came to give him his last goodbye. His son, my Uncle, the one who had given him some rough times in his youth before going into the Army, had become a Minister. And it was he who was the Officiating Minister at this funeral. Because of my grief at the loss of a very special man, I don’t remember all the words my Uncle used but one phrase stands out. “His quiver is full” is what I remember the most, which comes from the Bible -
Psalm 127:3-5 - "Children are an heritage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of the mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed."
The term ‘Black Ball’ comes from a way of voting. White balls/cubes elect. Black balls reject.
Black Market means something less than legal. If you wanted something very badly and couldn’t get it in the legal channels, you found an ‘unsavory’ person who would get it for you. Usually you have a very high price to pay for it.
The Great Depression - A time during the 1940’s when money was not plentiful and difficult to come by.
Port Wine Stain - A red or purple mark anywhere on the body.
A Keeper - In reference to fishing. When you get a large enough fish, you keep it rather than throw it back.
His quiver was full
He fathered 2 children and his reward was 8 Grand children, my mother having 2 and my Uncle having 6. I had 5 Great Grandchildren for him and my cousins each had children of their own. For us he, was a Legend. We each have memories of him that are just as different as we are. For a man who took life as it was handed to him and made the best out of every situation, he was our Hero, and his quiver was full.
I miss him terribly. He liked to laugh and do a great imitation of the chicken dance, he was just a lot of fun to be around. One day in the future we'll have "Live it Up Night" somewhere in Heaven.