Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued a challenge: write one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It can be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem – anything that focuses on one ancestor.
Every generation has a place they consider a “first home” or the “home place.” Often it is a place that evokes memories of childhood, of afternoons with grandparents, of rambles with friends through surrounding fields. One such “home place” in my family was not exactly a “home” although it became one in another life. It was a store.
My great-grandfather Walter B. Davis (1867-1934) spent most of his adult years as a carpenter like his father. He built numerous houses throughout the town of Shenandoah in Page County, Virginia. However, by 1920 he had become the owner of Davis and Sons Groceries at the corner of Sixth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, just across the street from where he lived. At various times my grandfather Orvin and his brother Millard were the “Sons” in that business, managing things while Walter continued building houses.
When I was growing up, a trip to Shenandoah to visit my cousins always included a drive by the old store building. I wonder what my grandparents thought about as they stared at the old store, which by then had been converted into two apartments.
|The Davis Store as it looked in the 1980s|
|My grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis behind the counter|
Did they recall the times when my grandmother Lucille Rucker Davis worked there?
Mary Sudie Eppard Rucker
Did they laugh recalling the time that my grandmother and her mother got in a fight that got physical? Granddaddy was just heading in to check on Grandma when Sudie Rucker stormed out of the door. “You need to get Lucille under control,” she said as she showed him her sleeve where Grandma had ripped it almost completely off. Granddaddy only laughed, but Sudie didn’t appreciate that. Inside the store, Grandma was fuming and fussing about her mother. Granddaddy laughed at that too, but Grandma didn’t appreciate that either. Granddaddy did not win any points that day.
Did they think about the time Grandma kicked a customer out of the store? The family dog Fritz was more welcome than some patrons. One day when Grandma was working behind the counter, Effie Helton came in to do some shopping. She was a BIG woman who played on the men’s baseball team. Fritz bit her ankle, and Effie responded with a swift kick. Grandma then kicked Effie out of the store.
|Momma - Mary Eleanor Davis|
holding Fritz outside the Davis Store
Did they remember when Momma as just a little girl used to nap behind the counter?
Surely they laughed about the time Momma embarrassed them in front of George, a black man who sometimes helped out at the store. Whenever Momma as a child asked for some coffee, my grandparents would say, “Drinking coffee will turn you black.” One day Momma looked at George and said, “You sure must drink a lot of coffee.”
Did my grandparents wonder what became of the customers who had left their diamonds in exchange for their purchases? After Grandma died, Momma had the diamonds made into a ring.
|Diamonds left at the Davis Store|
My grandparents missed Shenandoah, I know, but Portsmouth had become home since World War II when job opportunities in the shipyard were too good to pass up.
In April of this year, those trips down memory lane came to a halt when a bulldozer pulled the Davis Store down. Asbestos and termite damage rendered the building beyond repair, not even worth flipping, I guess. Plus that corner lot was much too valuable for a dilapidated building to stand useless.
|Demolition of Davis Store April 2015|
photo courtesy of Jan Hensley
© 2015, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.