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Life Sketch of Franklin LeRoy Davis
Mr. Cornell, you watch my smoke!
This is what Franklin LeRoy Davis (Roy Davis) said to his boss in a moment of frustration. Here is why he said it:
My brother and I early learned the value of money and what it could buy since we both worked even while at school since our Canadian days. During my last two years of high school and first two years in college, I delivered papers, took newspapers off the press, stuffed newspapers, sold orchestra for Woodward Dancing Academy (piano with rolls), dancing floor cleaner and polisher, silent movie and Pantages theatre usher, newspaper copy chaser, switchboard telephone operator, and window news poster. Thinking of the theatre usher days I used to see one of the old Pantages vaudevilles often, 21 performances per week. I could almost put some of it on. I learned to be the telephone switchboard operator in the old Herald Republican publishing office in my spare time (I thought spare time) when the male operator between 3:30 p.m. and 12:30 am would let me handle the board while he played poker back in the pressroom. People used to call the newspaper and ask questions. At one time it was my lot to tell Jack Dempseys mother how he was doing in a fight. He was heavyweight champion of the World.
While putting posters up in the big front window of the news office I was late in getting to work from chemistry lab at the University of Utah (U of U) one particular day and as I entered the low partitioned office my boss Tom Cornell gave me the bulletins to print for the window across the whole front. I hastily printed the bulletins and filled the whole window. Mr. Cornell came in shortly after and asked if I had checked what I put in the window and I said no. He then was more mad and after a good scolding ended with Roy, you will always be putting posters up in windows. This was probably the very best thing he could have said to me which I now appreciate. Well by now my face was a little red no doubt. I closed the talk by saying, Mr. Tom Cornell, you watch my smoke!
This was a defining moment in the life of Franklin LeRoy Davis. During his life he was known as Roy Davis. He was sharp, quick witted and very smart. Perhaps because of the tragedy of losing his father in his early years he had to grow up quickly and fend for himself.
ROYs EARLY YEARS
I was born two years and 16 days before the turn of the century, December 15, 1897, in Fairview, San Pete County, Utah. I was the youngest child of James David and Melissa Jane (Avery) Wakefield. My surname after about 2 years was changed to Davis. My father chose to take his fathers or my grandfathers name. My grandfather died 3 months before my father was born. This change of name was quite convenient, since at that time we moved to Idaho in an area near Rigby and Idaho Falls known as Milo.
Father was a dark complexioned, handsome, and a big man. At the time of his death he weighed over 200 pounds. Mother could walk under his outstretched arm. I took after mother for size.
Five children were born to father and mother - 2 girls and 3 boys. A sister, May, died shortly after birth and a brother, Dee, died at age four. I faintly remember this brother, a beautiful child. From the time I could first remember until my fathers death, in 1906 when I was 8 we had an enjoyable and loving home life. The latter part was less prosperous due mainly to moving.
As a wee baby I had a terrible sickness, spinal meningitis. This I remember nothing about. Mothers report indicated that I became quite low since you could hear me cry only at close range and some of my bones came through the skin. My body must have developed an effective resistance because I escaped most of the common childhood diseases from that time on.
TRAGIC DEATH OF ROYS FATHER
A few months before father was killed, father and mother leased a restaurant in the northwest side of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and we moved to urban life. It was my parents desire that we children get a better education that prompted this move. They leased a restaurant, which was quite an obligation for us to assume. The seriousness of it was more understandable to my brother, Rees, and sister, Ethel, being five and seven years respectively older than I.
Needless to say they were sad days that followed, and I believe it was worse for me since I sensed the great sorrow expressed by my mother and noted the stunned looks of my sister and brother.
Mother got out of the restaurant business with the aid of some business men who had been close to father, one being Gib Wright - the man father worked for at the time of the accident.
Not many days after fathers death, mother was besieged with lawyers asking her to sign on the dotted line in order that they might sue the company where my father was killed. Mother couldnt do this and the matter was settled out of court.
ROYS MOTHER MARRIED CHARLES COLE
Mothers brother, William Avery, who lived at Rigby, Idaho, was a comfort to her in the months that followed and she was introduced to a brother Charles Cole who desired a housekeeper. Mother was advised by her brother to be the mans housekeeper.
It wasnt many months more until mother married brother Charles Cole who had three sons at home, with two daughters married and another son, a bachelor not at home. One son, James, was two years my junior, Howard, two years older, and William, about two years older than my sister.
As a young boy the anticipations of this union was in short greater than most of the realities. Between troubles there were many pleasant times with the Coles in Idaho. I was baptized and became a member of the church. We were all quite comfortable even though there were now eight of us at home.
A few exciting things we did:
For instance, we four oldest boys played hooky from school one afternoon - a sad day for me - my brand new leather gloves burned up. The hooky event was told no one - though my sister knew she did not tell. Two weeks went by and one day mother told Bill, the oldest son of the Coles, fortune from the tea leaves in a cup. The first thing she told him was that he had played hooky. Well, the older boys got a whipping. I was so sad over my loss that the head of the house thought I had had enough punishment, I guess.
We always went to the circuses even with the Coles. One circus that my sister took me to before we met the Coles, the wind blew so hard that the big tent blew down. I fell through the seats, but my sister finally got me out quite unhurt. At this circus there were seven elephants that became enraged over too much wind caught by their big ears that they either broke their chains or pulled up their stakes and headed for the Snake River which was near by. Their path was through parked buggies and horses - no automobiles in this area yet. The elephants took shelter in the river and one elephant got in a whirlpool and didnt come out for about seven minutes. They thought he had drowned.
MOVE TO CANADA
The Coles were evidently as migratory as we were or soon became so. We sold our good home and holdings and with our remaining possessions loaded in a boxcar we moved to Claresholm, Alberta, Canada. Here again the anticipation was greater than most of the realities.
We all attended the Canadian school and sang God Save the King along with the Canadians. We all did well at school.
We became less prosperous since three years of the four most of our grain froze before it ripened and the fourth year some 300 acres of the most beautiful grain was completely hailed out. This hailstorm was a devastating thing. Windows including ours were broken immediately. It was reported that some hailstones measured 5 ½ inches around and actually killed calves.
The LDS Church was here and stepfather Cole became bishop. Since we were in numbers were a big help to the ward, and of course we were helped the most.
Many things I could relate that happened in Canada. We all received Patriarchal blessings under the hand of brother Henry Hinderman. I cherish the one I received. In our desire to sell out and move again, stepfather Cole told us we could sell the place if we all would fast for three days. We boys couldnt make it and made a raid on the garden I believe the second night. The stepfather sold the place. I never did know his strategy. I doubt if it was ever revealed.
While in Canada my sister married an Elder Wesley Drollinger in the temple who left on a mission to California. He came back before we moved away. The oldest stepbrother, William, died of spinal meningitis on a trip to the States.
MOVE TO BRIGHAM CITY
There were strange days ahead - some were filled with hardship. We again loaded our belongings on a boxcar and moved to Brigham City, Utah, in time for school, 1912. The remaining mixed family quite broke up. The youngest stepbrother went to live with his oldest sister. The other stepbrother went to live with the second oldest sister. Mother and stepfather Cole adopted two girls from Salt Lake City. They were sisters Nellie and Stella Sorenson. This was an additional burden since failing health prevented stepfather Cole from steady work. It was in Brigham City that my bother Rees met his wife Chloe Williams.
ROY IS VERY SMART
In the years that followed up to 1918 we moved to Ogden, Utah, then to Salt Lake City and several times while in Salt Lake City. Mother steered the direction which was toward schooling and higher learning.
After graduating from the West Side High School in 1917 (too busy to pick up my diploma) I worked full time at the newspaper office. My senior year at high school was a heavy one my course being scientific the last half. I took chemistry, physics, spherical trigonometry and advanced algebra and solid geometry, drawing and A in each. I didnt do nearly so well at the University especially my first year.
Notice that the classes he took in his last year in high school (chemistry, physics, spherical trig, advanced algebra and solid geometry) and notice also that he got an A in each one. Even though he said he did not do well in his first year at the university, this is true of many first year college and university students.
ROY JOINS WORLD WAR I
I started late in the year 1918 at the University of Utah. The World War I was on. Our engineering classes were turned into SATC with barracks at Ft. Douglas. I was soon a Pfc. (that was the only class except the officers). Soon most of the group became sick with the flu. I probably gave it to the world because I had something before they all went down. I really became isolated since they took those from around me to the hospital. Finally we were furloughed. With this short time and the remainder of two months to the day, this was my war record.
ROY COURTS MYRTLE REID
During this furlough I met my wife to be, Myrtle Reid, four years younger than I at sweet sixteen. Our four year romance began. My brother by now an engineering surveyor through some connection was asked to extend the boundaries by survey of North Davis County farther west into the Great Salt Lake. He accepted the assignment and his two chainmen were Mr. Maurice Roche and I. A brother Charles Reid, who was at this time a bit concerned about the boundaries of his farm in Clinton, North Davis, Utah, picked us up at the old Arsenal Bamberger Electric depot with the idea of us checking his boundaries and taking us to a place to room and board for at least a week while we did the survey. After we did some checking of the property he was unable to get anyone to take us even for a day because of the flu scare. He had no recourse except to keep us at his place.
The Reid family consisted of the wife, Myrtle, her mother, Esther, sisters, Beth and Lenora, and a brother, George. A grandmother Reid lived also in another part of the house. This was a very fine humble and prayerful family. We joined them on our knees before breakfast and dinner every day for a week, after which the father found us another place because it became too far to commute to work. We now had pushed the survey too far south.
In the short acquaintance with the wife we managed to be alone together several times and I learned how she got her start, and several of her likes and a few dislikes and what some of her aspirations were - we had some which we thought were common such as school.
The survey lasted for another week and we returned to Salt Lake City. The war was soon over and the three surveyors were discharged from the army. Because I could type I was told to help do the discharging and at one time all the typewriters were in use so I wrote out discharges including my own in long hand.
The wife was sent by her folks to the LDS high school mainly because of her talent for music and better schooling. She studied piano under Tracy Y. Cannon and stayed with a Christensen family, a lovely LDS home with beautiful people all over the place.
The five years at the university one being short due to the war were filled with very fine associations in church and school, pleasant entertainment including grand opera at $4.00 per seat which the wife immediately exposed me to. The first opera we attended was our first main date and I was asked by a gentleman if I and my sister would move over one seat and leave room for him. We had the usual social fraternity life including scientific Phi Alpha Epsilon, a local, and Theta Tau respectively.
After the wife came to Salt Lake City which was a blessing for me, I became active in the church since it was the natural thing to do and was ordained from teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood to Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood and was headed for the following, as is better expressed in the forepart of my patriarchal blessing in due time you will receive the Priesthood, receive your endowments in the temple of the Lord, become a father, and go upon a mission.
ROY MARRIED MYRTLE
On September 27, 1922, the wife and I were married in the Salt Lake Temple by Apostle John A. Widtsoe.
After school in July of 1922 I took an engineering position as instrument man with the Phoenix Utility Co. on power and dam construction in Grace, Idaho. Our assignment with the Phoenix Utility Co. was very pleasant.
TALENTS OF MYRTLE
My wife, now quite an accomplished pianist or at least I thought she was, besides church, she played the piano for a silent movie house at Grace, Idaho while an old former acquaintance of hers played the violin. My wife had a little bit of her fathers get up and go, and always made some money on the side, such as teaching piano, and/or with the young family steered them while she ran the Clinton ten acre farm. She was the banker who held the common deposit box, a rare copper pot, which was never empty and sometimes very full especially at harvest time. It seemed that the wife just must have a little money that she alone could put her hands on, the amount and spending of which was not always divulged. I think the children knew more about this than father.
BIRTH OF LEROY JUNIOR DAVIS
After ten months the wifes folks came and took her back to Clinton and our first boy, LeRoy Junior Davis, was born. I arrived back in time to first see the little fellow. Another ten months the work was near completion and I was transferred to Salt Lake City headquarters office.
BIRTH OF JAMES REID DAVIS
A few months more I was laid off. Again my brother was a help and I joined the electric operators first as a relief operator at Helper, Utah, then at the Weber Canyon plant. While here in Weber Canyon, our second boy, James Reid, was born at Dee Hospital, Weber Co., Ogden, Utah.
I was never satisfied as an electrical operator and after about a year I applied as instrument man with the US Bureau of Public Roads in Ogden, Utah, since I had worked for the bureau seasonally before. My first assignment was in Ketchum (now Sun Valley) Idaho and in Stanley basin, Idaho.
BIRTH OF WAYNE LAMARR DAVIS
While in this area in Idaho, my wifes folks came for her again and our third boy, Wayne LaMarr, was born, Sep 4, 1926. In the Dee Hospital, Weber Co., Ogden, Utah.
MADE A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER
Early in 1926, I had taken the Civil Service examination for Junior Professional Engineer and with the five percent allowed because I was a war veteran I passed the examination. This was a grueling examination of seven hours and since I was in the service of Public Roads our chief engineer, Mr. B.J. Finch requested that I be given a professional rating which began Sep 1, 1926.
RECEIVES B.S. DEGREE IN ENGINEERING
After being released as electrical operator from the Utah Power and Light Co. the wife and I decided that I should pick up the ten hours of chemistry at the University of Utah. In the winter of 1925-26 this was done. I obtained my BS degree June 1926 for 17 hours.
The wife and boys stayed with her folks in Clinton and I lived with my mother who was a lone (not lonely) widow in Salt Lake City. She lived just across the street from the West Temple Block gate. It was easy to be with the wife and boys on weekends. We now owned 10 acres of the old Clinton home property.
SUMMARY OF EMPLOYMENT
My employment with the US BUREAU OF PUBLIC ROADS (BPR) extended from a few months in 1919-1920 then continuous from June 1925 to the end of 1957 when retired from the Government service at a total of nearly 33 years. During the last two years I held the position of Chief of Photogrammetry in Region 8 at Portland, Oregon, which handled the four states, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.
LIFE IN ZION AND BRYCE CANYON
With the BPR I had may wide and quite unusual assignments. After experiencing a few hardships and some hard work in the beautiful country of Ketchum or Sun Valley and Stanley, Idaho, late in 1927 extensive highway work began in Zion National Park. I was sent there with others to make extensive surveys and follow up with construction engineering.
The Zion Tunnel
The work in this area and in Bryce National Park lasted about nine years ending with the assignment as resident engineer on the work of concrete lining the mile long highway tunnel in Zion Park in 1936.
Birth of David Allen and Lenora Joanne
While in Zion or Springdale, Utah, our fourth boy, David Allen, was born, April 11, 1929. Two years and two months later, Feb 22, 1932, our big day came when our only daughter, Lenora Joanne, was born. Both children were born at the same hospital as the others with the same family doctor, Edward I. Rich, and for about the same price each.
It was always new and exciting to come back to beautiful towering and walled Zion and Bryce National Parks. Of course there were never enough superlatives to describe the parks and especially Bryce. Se we might settle for the old practical answer stated by Mr. Ebenezer Bryce (whom Bryce was name after) when asked what he thought. He said, It was a hell of a place to lose a cow.
The wife and I with the children were ever active in the church since she played the piano and trained choruses while I did a little promoting in obtaining funds for a new chapel in Springdale being the superintendent of the YMMI. The wife trained a chorus of men from up the Virgin River (as dubbed by the more sophisticated group from down the river). With this chorus and others the wife put on a minstrel show in a downtown St. George move house that the president of Dixie College made a lyceum number. Young Junior with a girl, Verdon Allred, put on a tap number in the show.
When we first went to Zion, the wifes sister, Lenora, went with us. She was a young and vivacious beautiful blond but was given by our family doctor only a short while to live because she had nephritis. This was the first great sorrow that hit the Reid-Davis families when this lovely girl at sixteen died.
DEATH OF CHARLES REID
Not long after this tragedy, the wifes father became very sick both physically and mentally. He was very serious for quite some time and we were all again struck with the loss of our beloved husband, father, grandfather and muchly thought of Brother Charles Reid.
CLINTON HOUSE BURNS
With the BPR my work was field engineering work in location, design, and construction, which necessitated my moving at least seasonal in and out of Ogden, Utah. This was difficult for my family and especially for the wife. While in the Bryce area, 1935 news came to me that the old Clinton home (our landing place between assignments) burned to the ground. A few things we prized were lost such as a piano, Junors drum and kettle set, personal document, marriage certificate, wifes diamond, and any things which we afterward referred to as Oh! That burned up in the fire. Our youngest boy, Allen, now five years with his cousin, Steven, about he same age was playing with matches. They set a fire in a coal bucket - became panicky and in fear ran out of the house and hid.
With these sad times and the loss of the old home by fire proved to be a terrible burden for mother Reid who shortly had a partial stroke. This proved to be of more watchful concern for the wife but she got stronger as time went on.
We had many kind friends and relations and we soon rented a house in Clinton. It was soon decided to build on the 10 acres first a small home which was later turned to the wifes widowed mother, then a larger home of cinder blocks. We were now more comfortably settled.
DESIGNS PENTAGON ROADS
While in the Ogden Office in 1941 just before the start of the Second World War. I was sent to aid in the design of highways leading in and out of the Pentagon Building in Wash., D.C. This gave me and the wife a chance to see Washington, New York, and Chicago, and other wonders of the east. The wife joined me for a short trip at the end of the assignment.
The superlatives describing Chicago for instance the Stevens Hotel, the largest in the world at that time. If a young man entered it at the age of 29 and took a bath every Saturday night, he would be 59 before he made the rounds.
On the fateful day, Sunday, Dec 7, 1941, a fellow worker and I were doing some more of the sights and at the FBI building which we tried to get into, a man stopped us and said they had just received word about Pearl Harbor and were advising the President. Thus we were in on an early scoop.
LAYS OUT THE ALCAN (ALASKA/CANADA) HIGHWAY
After completing four months in Washington, DC, immediately on my return I was called into our Chief Engineers office. I was told that my next assignment was the Alaskan Highway. There were no resignations or transfers. This was of course a rare experience and fell into my pattern of traveling. In this case I had no control.
I was soon on my way with other highway engineers from Ogden to Seattle to embark from there up the Inland Passage to Skagway, Alaska. Twenty-one of us boarded an 8 person (comfortable non-wartime cruiser) 75-foot pleasure yacht. In the stretch of open sea is the Queen Charlotte Sound. We had all deposited money to say we would eat all the meals not being sick. After the ordeal one of the husky boys and I collected the money. Incidentally, to this day I have never been seasick even though I have ridden under and on many transportation vehicles. Here the ideal is knock, knock! - Tomorrow might be different.
Gets Appointment as Highway Locator
We landed at Skagway after four days. Then took the narrow gage RR to White Horse, a little over 100 miles in Yukon Territory, Canada. From our landing in Skagway, the Alaska and Yukon tales began to break in on us. Some had been told so many times that they really thought they were true - such as - this narrow gage RR was the only RR that paid dividends during the depression and no one had been killed since its construction.
At White Horse one of my fellow workers, Edward Jordan, who had been my buddy on the trip stated tome that he was going back down to Rupert, Alaska. When I pressed him for why he said he had lost his lower teeth plate over the aft end of the yacht in the Queen Charlotte Sound. This misfortune changed the course of his and my assignments for the next three seasons. Jordans personnel record sent to White Horse indicated the he had had more location experience than I had. In lieu of this the men in charge decided that Jordan would be called immediately to make a 60-mile reconnaissance of the Alaska-Yukon border with an army detail. I note here that the Alcan Highway was an Army-BPR joint venture. Well, when I reported Mr. Jordans misfortune and that he had gone back to Rupert, they looked concerned and explained their plans. Here I put my neck out and said that I had been on locations too and no doubt had as much or more experience than Jordan. Whereupon, I was introduced to the army and with two outboard motor boats, a navigator, a cook, and an army officer with enough provisions for four weeks, boarded an army plane - destination Northway, Alaska.
Hints on Handling Bears
As I viewed the situation, I concluded we couldnt be lost in a greater radius than 25 miles, which was a damper on some of my apprehension. The night before starting the reconnaissance by boat, I met an old timer that had been in the area 30 years and knew the country well also the wild life. The first advice he gave was Davis, if you arent a good shot, leave the bears alone and if they are inclined to hold the trail, you let them have it especially if they rise to their hind feet, the position from which they attack.
How to Keep From Getting Lost
The highway was to follow the general area of the Chuchaunie River crossing, the Scottie, Beaver and Snag Creeks and on into the McCauley Ridge country. When I told the old timer that we were going into the Scottie Creek, he said, Well, as you go up the Scottie, it opens up into a lake and you will get lost. As you motor round, you will finally find where the grass is bent over due to the slow current. Well, go the opposite way in which the grass is bent and the lake will again narrow to a creek. Davis and party would probably still be there had we not heeded what the old timer advised.
From the airport of Northway, we motored and pushed due to log jams, our two boats down Moose Creek into the Chuchaumie River and then into several small streams. All creeks were larger than most of Utah rivers.
We camped near the out of Scottie Creek. Here was some of the most beautiful white birch growing very thick. I peeled some of this intriguing white bark and wrote a letter to be sent later to the wife and kiddies.
We were lost from the boats once. We had to climb trees to get our bearings. This was a bit harrowing.
A five day pack trip with only enough food for four proved interesting but tough on which the army officer wore blisters on his heals then wore the blisters through. I lost two big toenails. We would hike 25 minutes then rest 5. I was timekeeper. The army men swore I never let them rest 5 minutes. They were younger men than I was.
It was a pleasant experience later when the highway was built and I occasionally traveled the area in a car. I would stop at some of the familiar landmarks in which the reconnaissance took me.
We were thought lost after 3 weeks and a flight from white Horse by my supervisor came looking for us. I didnt find this out until about a year after.
After completing the reconnaissance I was sent back to Alaska. With 6 contractor units lined out centerline and directed the engineering construction of 95 miles of the upper end of the Alcan Highway in 90 days. This highway for a width of 26 feet was built a total length of 1400 miles the first season. Some might have questioned the worth of the operation, but had it been necessary to have sent more airplanes over the top of the world and fly mainly by contact it would have been of great worth since it would have been an easy matter for our flying men to make their way through that 400 foot strip of cleared wilderness and no doubt back again. This was worth the chance. The work was continued since it was used for both men and supplies by truck.
It fell my lot to take the some 200 miles of field notes and plans of our own Alaska end, make extensive revisions and widening plans in design before work could again start the second season. I was in charge of this design which was done in the Ogden office so again I joined my family for only a few short months.
Roy in Charge
Early in the season of 1943, I left for Alaska again. I was liaison officer between the USBPR and the Army in approving plans which were now ready for construction. Extensive heavy construction operations with contractors soon were under way again. I as assistant chief construction engineer was in charge of 15 resident engineers assigned to the various sections of the 200 miles. It was a busy season and I drove out the complete highway 1400 miles to Fort St. John.
LOOK AT ROYS SMOKE
Roy was a great man in both his professional life and in his personal life.
In his professional life he accomplished the following:
Obtained As in chemistry, physics, spherical trigonometry and advanced algebra and solid geometry.
Received a B.S. Degree in Engineering from the University of Utah.
Served as engineer, building roads in Zion and Bryce Canyons.
Served as resident engineer, building the sandstone tunnel in Zion Canyon.
Designed roads to and from the Pentagon.
Received an award for building the Pentagon roads.
Located the centerline for the placement of 1400 miles of the Alcan Highway.
Was in charge of 15 resident engineers building the Alcan Highway.
Served as Chief of Photogrammetry in Region 8 at Portland, Oregon, for 2 years.
Is listed in Whos Who in Engineering.
In his personal life he accomplished the following:
He was the father of 5 children: LeRoy Junior, James Reid, Wayne LaMarr, David Allen and Lenora Joanne.
He was a High Priest.
He was married in the Salt Lake Temple and his children were sealed to him.
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