Recollections of Emerson Davis

Emerson Jewett Davis.

Emerson Jewett Davis.

Introduction by Diane Brenner

Emerson Jewett Davis (“Emmy”) was born in North Adams, Massachusetts on February 17, 1888, the sixth child in the Davis family. His father, Raymond Harrison Davis, was a Vermont-born architect/carpenter; his mother, Harriet Emeline Wilson, was originally from Groton, Massachusetts. Emerson was preceded by Orrin (b. 1876), Ida (1878), Walter (1880), Mary (1882) and Rockwell (1886). Three years after his birth, his mother bore a set of twins, Harriet and Harrison (1891).

In 1902, at the age of 14, Emerson left school to help work in the family grocery store in North Adams. He eventually returned to school (Mt. Hermon School for Boys in Gill, MA) in 1906 (age 18) to study art and design, but did not graduate. Sponsored by a wealthy New Yorker who admired his work, he studied for two more years at the Pratt Institute in New York before dropping out once again. In June 1911, Emmy’s younger sister Harriet married Walter Higgins of Worthington and moved there to live with him. Following his father’s death on Christmas day, 1913, Emmy traveled briefly to Africa as part of a Museum of Natural History taxidermy group, and then to Europe as an employee of Cooks Tours, providing tours of museums and at one point lecturing at a Paris art school. When he returned to North Adams, he worked as a landscaper and gardener, also creating paintings and writing poetry.

In 1917 Emmy registered for the draft, but sought and was granted conscientious objector status after he stated that he would rather be shot than forced to kill his German “brothers”; the draft board was loathe to make him a martyr. Letting his hair and beard grow was part of his protest against the First World War. Although he also registered for the draft during World War II, he remained a conscientious objector throughout his life, proudly affirming his opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Dingle-Road-home

Emerson Davis home on Dingle Road, likely before he bought it. Figure unidentified.

Being a conscientious objector was not a popular stance during the First World War, and at the end of 1917 Emerson moved with his widowed mother from North Adams to a new home in Worthington, characterizing himself as a “political exile.” In October 1917 Emmy paid $1000 to Howard Mason for 50 acres with a house along Dingle Road. The 1920 census lists him as living there with his mother, along with his sister Harriet and her family. The 1930 entry for that property lists only him and his aging mother, who died in October 1935 at the age of 85. In the 1940 census he is listed as living with Harriet and her family, possibly at a different Worthington location.

1930-census

1930 census listing for Emerson Davis and his mother Harriet (at bottom).

By the 1920s, Emmy, identified as a farmer on the 1920 census, was well established in Worthington and found much work as a landscaper. Over the years he became increasingly involved with the Worthington Grange (later the Pomona Grange), the Congregational Church, and town government. From the 1930s and well into the 1960s, his name is frequently mentioned in the local newspapers and associated with one event or another. He was in charge of decorations at both the Church and the Town Hall, and he rang the bell for Sunday services. He served as an officer of the Worthington Grange, arranging and overseeing numerous meetings, events and contests including the annual “sugar eats.” His positions on behalf of Worthington included cemetery commissioner for North Cemetery, Town Hall custodian, “special police officer,” and gypsy moth superintendent. Always artistic, he capitalized on two large snowstorms in the 1950s and 1960s by building snow arches that remain embedded in many memories.

Emerson Davis appointed gypsy moth superintendent, as reported in the Springfield Daily Republican, March 10, 1942.

Emerson Davis appointed gypsy moth superintendent, as reported in the Springfield Daily Republican, March 10, 1942.

Emmy’s most famous role, however, was managing the disposal area, which he did free of charge, but with despotic and eco-conscious precision. Located on the land he owned on Dingle Road, the dump was formally placed in operation in 1946. The enormous pride he took in the facility was reflected in his pressuring the town to officially proclaim it a “disposal area” at the 1955 Town Meeting. As a result of changes in state law, the disposal area was finally closed in 1977 and relocated to town property near the center of town. Many years later, environmental testing showed the Dingle Road site to be remarkably clean and toxin-free.

In 1931, Emmy’s 50 acres along Dingle Road were set aside for the creation of the Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary, while remaining his property. (It’s unclear how long Emmy and his mother continued to live there.) Dedicated to Russell Conwell, the land was intended to provide a beautiful place for walking and contemplation. On October 21, 1935, Emmy took advantage of a tax lien and purchased the 180 acres across Dingle Road for the amount of back taxes due: $30.79! The disposal area was located on this land.

Emmy lived to be 90. During his later years, as his health failed, he was celebrated by the town and supported by many caring individuals. He was allowed to live in the Town Hall until his final illness, when it became clear he needed more help. In his will, he donated his land and Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary to the residents of the town of Worthington. After some debate involving the funding for Emmy’s final nursing home costs, the town accepted the gift, and the land was deeded to the town in 1980.

And here’s what else I have learned about Emmy. He said he stopped smoking when he was 17. In 1942, when he registered for the WWII draft, he was 5′ 7¾” tall and weighed 160 pounds. He slept on a table at the Town Hall, with a cardboard mattress and newspaper blankets. He was generous and deeply committed to his Christian transcendental beliefs, and he lived as close to the earth as he could. He was a perfectionist, and if you put your trash in the wrong place he would call you out in the blink of an eye. He never learned to drive because people would always pick him up, no matter how bad he smelled. And he ate raw hamburger daily, washed down with buttermilk, which grossed a lot of people out.

An unusual amount of information about Emmy is available in the public record, from which we have culled many details. But these articles and documents only provide the basic facts and small windows into his life. Emmy Davis the person lives on in the memories of those who knew and worked with him.

1963 profile of Emerson Davis in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

1963 profile of Emerson Davis in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

1963 profile, continued.

1963 profile, continued.

“Recollections of Emerson Davis”: Sunday, June 23, 2013, 2:00–4:00pm

The following is a transcription of “Recollections of Emerson Davis,” a kind of community storytelling event at the Worthington Historical Society. Minimal editing has been applied for readability, and editorial clarifications are in brackets. If you would like to share your own memories of Emmy, please contact anyone on the WHS board; further remembrances are included after the transcription and can still be added to this exhibit. 

Around 50 people were in attendance. Diane Brenner served as an informal moderator, and led things off with an introduction about Emerson Davis, concluding with “I never knew him, but I hope those of you who did will share what you know. So thank you.” 

[applause]

Helen Sharron Pollard: So should we tell stories? I’ll just start because –

Diane Brenner: You have to say who you are.

Helen Sharron Pollard: Yes, I will, I’ll say who I am and why I’m going to start, and why I think this is so important for us to do today, because memories of people like Emerson Davis are disappearing. I’m in my fifties; I remember him from the time I was six until he died when I was seventeen. It’s a shame to lose those memories if we don’t. If you don’t know who I am, I’m Helen Sharron Pollard. I’m the president of the Historical Society and the daughter of Julia and Connie [Cornelius] Sharron. So I’ll just start this with a little memory, and it’s not really a memory about Emerson Davis himself, but it’s really more about his presence. Because if you live in this town, eventually you’ll get to know that we have the Congregational Church, and that’s it. And there are lots of old churches around town that we have, but there’s no Catholic church. There was one in Huntington. And there weren’t a lot of Catholic families in town, but boy [were they?] [laughter]. So there were a few years in the ’60s and ’70s where the priest from St. Thomas parish in Huntington would come up to Worthington, and Emmy would set up the Town Hall for us to have Mass. And he would put those beautiful wooden slatted chairs out in a semicircle, kind of like we’re sitting today, and the altar would be in the front of the church [in the Town Hall], right underneath the basketball hoop. And the Sharrons would sit here, and the Ryans would sit there, and the Modestows – depending on who was later, would come in the back with their families. And we had a Mass. And you could count on him taking care of that, all the time, he was in the background. And [sermon-wise?] I’m not sure that this town could have moved forward without his service to us. So that’s my childhood thought about one aspect. Plenty of others; certainly the eating hamburger was awful [laughter]. So can I just tag somebody out of the group? My mom is Julie Sharron, and she was selectman of the town – I think selected just before Emerson passed. And my mom was the first female selectperson in the Hills.

Emmy's church decorations, 1940s.

Emmy’s church decorations, 1940s.

Julia Sharron: Well I’m Julie Sharron and I certainly do have a lot of wonderful memories of Emerson. One of the things – and I’m sure other people will talk about – is the disposal area on Dingle Road. If you didn’t separate your garbage and do it just right he would yell at you. However, he would be there all day long sorting through people’s garbage, making sure everything was just right. Many times at nightfall, you would see somebody coming down the road, and who would it be but Mr. Davis after a long, hard day of work, walking from Dingle Road – in the middle, because there were no streetlights – to the Town Hall, because that’s where he was residing. I also remember Mr. Davis when we had our “sugar-on-snow.” It would be maple syrup, and we would have snow and pickles. The Town Hall would be full, and he would set up the tables and chairs for that. Nobody could pick up these double chairs because they would scratch the floor. And believe me, they were heavy. And he, every year, put aside snow so that we could have it for the sugar-on-snow, which was really a wonderful thing as well, and then there was dancing afterwards. And I also, with the other board of selectmen – he was living at the Town Hall, and we became very concerned because he was failing, and if he put water on or anything on the stove, he would forget it. And so we came to the conclusion that we had to do something. He got paid also from the town for doing some of his duties, but checks were all over. They were in the water fountain, they were in the cellar, they were all over [laughter]. And so with everything like this going on, we thought we would have to get him into a nursing home, and it would be the best thing for him, for his safety. And he probably didn’t like that too well. But anyway, we made arrangements. I brought him down, and they said “bring all his clothes and toiletries,” and I said, “Wait a minute, I’m bringing Mr. Davis, he doesn’t have anything.” I said, “I’ll bring him there. He does need a shower and everything,” but I said, “I will run out.” And there was a store in Florence, I don’t remember the name of it, but it was right at the corner. I left Mr. Davis off, ran to the store, got whatever they told me to get – pants, pajamas, and all this – brought it over. And so every day, for about two-and-a-half to three months, I went down to get Mr. Davis at the nursing home, brought him up here to the Town Hall, and he thought he was still working. He would take that broom, and he would go up and down the floor, all day long, sweeping the floor, because he was in his mind thinking he was the custodian still. And everybody respected him. He was there for the kids to play basketball all the time. He was always there for somebody. And towards the end of his life he was getting a little cranky – if they were too noisy he’d kick ’em out – but he was a wonderful person. And those are my reminiscences of Mr. Davis.

, March 1965.

The Springfield Union, March 13, 1956.

A Worthington sugar eat.

A Worthington “sugar eat,” c. late 50s to early 60s.

Evan Johnson: Julie, can you answer Diane’s question about when he moved into Town Hall?

Julia Sharron: Well, I don’t really know. We moved into Worthington in ’66 and he was already living there. And his bed was just a sheet of cardboard that he put on the table.

Diane Brenner: Does anybody know?

Janet Dimock: It was sometimes the story that his house fell down in the ’38 hurricane, but I don’t know if that’s true or not.

?: That’s the story I heard.

Diane Brenner: So from ’38? Well the 1940 census says he’s living with his sister, but that’s not necessarily true. Ben?

Benjamin Brown: I know from what my dad had told me, he first moved into the Town Hall to stoke the boilers on cold nights when things would have frozen otherwise. And little by little he just stayed there more and more often. I don’t know exactly when that was. It sounds like somewhere around there, maybe before World War II.

Emmy is appointed to the flower show committee, as reported in The Berkshire Eagle, August 4, 1950.

Emmy is appointed to the flower show committee, as reported in The Berkshire Eagle, August 4, 1950.

Marcia Feakes: Emerson liked native plants. He did our garden, and our wedding in ’58. And he was going to have [twee trucks?], which are known now as – anyway, he couldn’t get them so he went down to Westfield and ordered what he wanted, and as my brother said, he had expensive tastes [laughter]. He used to arrive at our house at suppertime, we’d give him supper. He would plant our whole garden, it’s still there. Some of the things, like euonymus alatus I don’t particularly want, but it’s there, and I’m not going to worry about it now. But he was always able to do gardens, and he had ideas, and they were not ordinary ideas, they were something above. When we had the Drury [?] house on Old Post Road, he put in the lawn, and my father said he put in [breen’s cress?], you know, it was so fine, instead of the ordinary grass. So he knew what he was doing, I think, and he was a lot of fun, and he was intelligent.

Diane Brenner: Please say who you are.

Warren Packard: I’m Warren Packard, better known in this area as “Bam.” Pete’s brother, probably which identifies me. Ted [Porter] and I were just talking about it, we think he moved into Town Hall right after World War II. Ted has just pointed out that he lived for a while in the church, when there was a stove in the basement of the church. When that was discontinued he moved into Town Hall. But Marty [Marcia Feakes], your comments about his landscaping – I can still remember so clearly, Emerson had very firm ideas about how lawns were to be mowed. Of course in those days you mowed with a real mower, by hand. And you must mow straight back and forth, never around the edges as we all do, until we finally got it down at the point in the middle. It had to be done properly. And so if you worked for him, you learned to do that properly, or you didn’t work for him very much. So he was very firm about that.

Marcia Feakes: I don’t know that he mowed our lawn, it was usually somebody else, but I can imagine that he was fussy.

Warren Packard: He also always kept the Town Hall locked. We kids were welcome to go there. I think Julie [Julia Sharron] mentioned that the kids were still shooting baskets long after Ted [Porter] and I had grown too old to lift the ball. But we were welcome to be there any time he was there, as long as we didn’t break anything or do any damage. When he wasn’t there, so that he wouldn’t lose the key, he always hid the key somewhere outside, around Town Hall. It never took us more than fifteen minutes to find it [laughter]. We used the Town Hall a lot when Emmy wasn’t there. And we learned a lot of philosophy. And what else did we learn from Emmy, Ted, would you say? Whatever we learned as kids we learned from Emmy, pretty much.

Marcia Feakes: He was born in North Adams, he used to talk about when they went through the mountain there –

Diane Brenner: The Hoosac Tunnel.

Marcia Feakes: Yeah, yeah. He knew all about that, that was quite an engineering job in its day.

Deen Nugent: Maybe that’s where he got the idea – I’m sure Ted remembers – remember when he built the arch into the church from the snow bank?

Diane Brenner: Probably there were two, at least – one in ’58, and one in ’47. In  ’47 there was apparently a huge blizzard –

Deen Nugent: That’s probably the one I remember.

Diane Brenner: – and then he kind of reproduced it in 1968.

Snow arch built by Emmy, from the Springfield Morning Union, February 28, 1958.

The Springfield Union, February 28, 1958.

Pat Kennedy: I have a question. Was there ever any romance? Oh Ted, Ted would know [laughter].

Ted Porter: I can answer that question. There was a lady by the name of Greta Klein who lived in the White Rock Farm down on Fisk Road, and he was intending to marry her. She did give him plenty of meals; he used to go down there and do work and he’d have meals. But all of a sudden she disappeared and it was off. But he was infatuated with her for at least two years. And I got a lot more –

Marcia Feakes: She led him on, and got all of her landscaping done, and he thought he was going to marry her. I mean really –

Ted Porter: He did, he thought he was going to marry her, but she had other ideas. She wanted her lawn mowed anyway [laughter]. Well as far as the dump was concerned, that was a big thing with him, and you didn’t call it “the dump,” you called it the “disposal area.” And he picked the spot for it, that field going down, with the brook at the bottom, never thinking that that leach would run into the brook. And that’s why they closed it, because it was in a poor place. But he would tell about it – he’d stop into Liston’s a lot of times, and he’d talk about it. And he worked a lot of hours up there, he sorted stuff that he really didn’t have to. And he said he was so tired that he’d fall asleep walking back to the Town Hall. And one night he fell asleep and he found himself up by the golf course. He’d gone down Ridge Road instead of [Routes] 112 and 143. And somebody said, “Well, hope you don’t fall asleep and stay asleep or you’ll end up down in Huntington.” [laughter] But I had a different thought of Emmy – he hired kids, and he hired me when he put in the foundation of the Brewsters’ stone. He tended to the Brewsters’ lawn, which was in the center of town down there. Of course Judge Brewster, Elisha Brewster, was a former judge, and he wanted things done just right, so he wanted the foundation put in for his monument. So Emmy dug the hole, and he formed it up. I was fourteen years old at the time. He got me to fix the cement and pass it down to him. And he worked in that hole for two days, because each stone had to be a certain place, certain side up, and be tamped in. And two weeks later, when he took the forms off – he wouldn’t take them off too quick – we looked at it, and it was perfect. With most people who do cement work there’s a void here, and a void there, but this was perfect. And they put this big stone – the Brewster stone is a big stone – and today it’s just as true as the day that they put the stone on.

Profile of Emerson Davis in , February 17, 1968.

1968 profile of Emerson Davis.

Diane Brenner: Where’s the stone?

Ted Porter: Center Cemetery. Well then, seeing we’re on cemeteries, the town had a grant – I think it was $13,000 for someone to study the cemeteries, what we should do, this, that, and the other. And it was these two girls, they came up and did it. And they were really bright and they really did a good job. They knew exactly who was buried where, and they did it with computers. And so when we went up to the North yard – they asked me to go up there with them – they said “It looks like there was a vault there.” And I said that there was. “Well what happened to it?” “Well,” I said, “Emmy Davis tore it down.” “Emmy Davis tore it down, who’s Emmy Davis?” So I said, “Well he was the custodian of the cemetery.” And I said, “One corner had fallen in a bit, and at that time, Henry Schneider wanted some wall stone. So Emerson tore the back of the vault down.” And they said, “Well who’s Henry Schneider?” I said, “You didn’t know Henry Schneider?” [laughter] He was the chairman of the board of selectmen, he was the chief of police, he was an assessor. He was the town man, and if he wanted stone, nobody said anything about it. So he got his stone. I’m not sure they all went there, but they were nice stone. These girls said that never should have been torn down. That was one of the showplaces. There’s also one at the Brewster cemetery in Worthington. It never should have been torn down, but it was, and I suppose now the average person doesn’t even know the difference.

?: Where is he buried?

Worthington officers portrayed in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, February 5, 1966.

Worthington officers portrayed in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, February 5, 1966.

Ted Porter: Emerson is buried right as you go in the upper driveway of the North Cemetery. And on the right is a big oak tree, and that was his lot. Well, he was going to be buried there, and he decided, “Uh-uh, I don’t want anybody to disturb the roots of that tree.” So he was cremated, and he’s got just a little stone, I was up there yesterday. Just a little stone that’s his name and date of birth and –

?: I’ll have to see that.

Ted Porter: Now I’ll let somebody else go. I got a lot more, but –

[various people]: No, no, keep going.

Ted Porter: There’s a lot of other things. To get back to the Town Hall, what Bam was talking about – it was before the addition was built on the back of Town Hall, and that chimney was exposed. It’s a fieldstone chimney. And he had a certain place he hid the key. Well I’d go, get the key, open the door, go in, put the key back in place, and he’d come – “How’d you get in here?” I said, “Gee, the door was open.” [laughter] And he finally got on to me, but he was sure that we didn’t do any damage or anything like that.

Warren Packard: I always thought he left that key so we could find it [laughter]. He didn’t hide it very well.

Ted Porter: No, no, it wasn’t hidden very well, and we knew where it was of course. But he was custodian of the church also for a little while, and he evidently didn’t feel right about not being dressed up to go into church. I was bellringer, and he also rang the bell. He would just open the door a crack and put a little chair up there and sit there and listen to the sermon only, and the rest of the time he’d take off. He was interested in what was going on.

Diane Brenner: Apparently he earned money for much of the work that he did for the town but he didn’t collect it, he wouldn’t take the money.

Ted Porter: He never had much money.

Diane Brenner: Right, but not because it wasn’t offered to him entirely.

Ted Porter: There were quite a few people that used to buy him sandwiches and soda up at Liston’s when he walked back. And he had a checking account at one time, and he’d leave his checkbook around. Well, this fellow from town decided he needed some of the money, so he wrote a check out to himself and he signed Emerson’s name, but it was E-m-m-e-t-t, Emmett [laughter]. It never got cashed. And it was handled in town, it never went to court or anything like that. Now that would be a big deal today, they’d have the cops up looking. But everything was handled right in town, everybody was happy.

Pat Kennedy: Ted, can I ask you another question? Did he ever talk about being a conscientious objector? Did he have a reaction to the Vietnam War or anything?

Ted Porter: No, he didn’t want to talk about that. And another thing, I think he regretted that he didn’t take better care of his mother. Because he told me that they were going to put that stone up. He got people to say they’d help him put that stone that’s there now, and dedicate that to his mother. And he just walked away from the place. I went there when it was in disrepair; there were porcupines living in it, the roof had collapsed. But it was a nice little spot up in there. But he never went back. They took the stove out of it and it went to people in town, that was the only thing of any value.

Warren Packard: Can I come back in again?

Diane Brenner: Please.

The dump is officially renamed the "disposal area," as reported in , February 5, 1955.

The dump is officially renamed the “Disposal Area,” as reported in The Springfield Union, February 5, 1955.

Warren Packard: While we’re on his place over there on Dingle Road, we talked about his separating the trash. You had to call it the “disposal area” – he would get quite angry if somebody called it “the dump.” More that once I heard him really lay people out because they called it “the dump.” But across the road he used to make gravel. I don’t know if you’re aware of that, but he redirected the small streams – always of course in the hardest rainstorm. He would spend hours out there, sometimes two or three days redirecting little streams coming down the hill toward that brook that Ted mentioned, so that the streams would take the loam and the soft part of the dirt away, and leave the gravel, which he sold some of then to the town. You were wondering where his money came from; he made a little bit of money for that, and he sold it to some other people. And then he got paid for the landscaping and lawn care work that he did, so he earned a little bit of money in addition to what people gave him. But he was so far ahead of his time. Nobody even knew the word “ecology” when Emmy was already doing this sort of thing at the landfill, his treatment of the land. And his diet – all you mentioned was his raw hamburger, but he ate a number of very healthful things. He really lived on milk. He drank milk straight out of – in those days it was a quart bottle. That was his basic dietary food, but he ate a few potato chips, because he needed the salt, because he was perspiring so much from the work he did. He ate those, crackers. But in the store, as you say, he would just get, say, a quarter of a pound or half a pound of raw hamburger and eat that. In those days that was not extraordinary at all. Today we think that’s crazy, but steak tartare was quite popular in those days, so it was no big deal. So he ate well, he never ate junk food, we never saw him drink Coke, we never saw him eat a candy bar. He ate only good foods. So he was way ahead of the average person in a health sense at that time as well.

Diane Brenner: Did he drink alcohol?

Warren Packard: I never knew him to drink alcohol.

Diane Brenner: I know he didn’t smoke.

An early notice of Emmy's decorating skills in the Springfield Daily Republican, May 12, 1932.

An early notice of Emmy’s decorating skills in the Springfield Daily Republican, May 12, 1932.

Ted Porter: The only time that I ever heard he drank alcohol was when the Rod and Gun Club had a contest about who would get the biggest deer, and then they’d go and they’d have a party afterwards. And one day he came and his ear was all roughed up. And I asked him, “What’s the matter?” “Well,” he said, “they took me home and I couldn’t find my way in just back, so I followed the wall around and I rubbed my ear on…” [laughter] And in 1951, when they had the graduation at the Russell Conwell school down there, my sister was in eighth grade and she graduated. Well, Emmy was at the Town Hall decorating, and he did a great job decorating the Town Hall. And my folks felt sorry for him. So my mother said to my father, “I just cooked a chicken dinner, will you take some up to Emmy?” He said, “Sure.” So she got it all ready on a plate, and it was good – a chicken dinner, and it was stuffing and vegetable and potato. And then she had a little pitcher of gravy. So my father took it up and set it down, and he said, “Emerson, you might as well eat this now while it’s hot.” He comes over and looks at it, he grabs that pitcher of gravy, and he drinks [laughter]. My father said, “Well that was to go on top of this.” He says, “It’s all just the same nutrition.” He wasn’t fussy about that.

Notice of Emmy's church decorations in The Berkshire Eagle, April 5, 1947.

Notice of Emmy’s church decorations in The Berkshire Eagle, April 5, 1947.

Deen Nugent: He would decorate a bridal shower, or a wedding, or whatever was going to happen at Town Hall. And I don’t think we ever had to pay rent to use the Town Hall, did we?

Ted Porter: No, not as far as I know, there was no –

Deen Nugent: But Emmy would climb up on this really tall ladder, and today it would give you the willies thinking about it, but he would take these streamers from the center of the ceiling. He was a perfectionist I think, and he would have the ceiling all beautifully decorated with a bell hanging down, and it was just really something. But he’d always do it, he would decorate, whatever function was going to be there.

Diane Brenner: I got a call from Jeanette Horton. She couldn’t be here today, and she said that her memory is exactly that, that he decorated for her wedding reception. As a kid she had hung out at the Town Hall, and she particularly remembered the square dances, and that they became friends. She was from Huntington, and Jack, who she was marrying, was from Pittsfield. And they decided that the best place for them to have the reception was at the Worthington Town Hall, because that’s where she felt most comfortable. And he insisted on doing all the decorations for cost – which might have been a lot, as Marcia said, because he had expensive taste. And she’s ever grateful. She remembers him always being in shorts, but I have photographs, and in the few photographs I have he’s not in shorts at all. And [she remembers] him as being just very, very artistic, that was her primary memory. But she didn’t have any pictures of her wedding reception.

The Berkshire Eagle, September 15, 1963.

The Berkshire Eagle, September 15, 1963.

Ted Porter: His footwear was almost always rubber boots.

Joan Hicks: Could I ask a question?

Diane Brenner: Please, this is free.

Joan Hicks: You said he was artistic, did he ever do anything like painting?

Diane Brenner: Well presumably – he studied art a little bit. I don’t know, I hear that he did. Peter McLean said he did some sculpture, but I don’t know. I know he did stonework – I understand he did the fountain here in the center of town. Does anybody know if that’s –

?: The drinking fountain.

Diane Brenner. Yes. And probably other stonework. When he was younger apparently he painted, and studied art. Jim [Dodge], do you know anything about that aspect of his life?

Jim Dodge: I don’t think he had any paintings that were ever exhibited or anything.

Disposal area regulations as reported in the Springfield Morning Union, August 1955.

Disposal area regulations as reported in The Springfield Union, August 1955.

Ted Claydon: You know something, I don’t think anybody’s talking about Emmy and the disposal. I think that’s where myself, and the majority of all the people here remember Emmy, because that was an experience every time you went there. He was very strict about where things went – I think Ted [Porter] mentioned that. But my introduction – I guess it was 1967. I bought my place and I was young and eager, and I was tearing back the ell, the big two-story ell in the back of my house. My son and I were taking it down and of course there was all this old lumber. And I got a load of lumber and I found out where the dump-disposal was, and I went over there, and Emmy wasn’t there. So I asked this fellow that was doing some road-grading there, I said, “Where do I put this old lumber?” And he said, “Well, don’t make no never mind to me.” So I said, “Oh, that’s a big help.” Anyway, I guess Jerri Bunce was tearing the ell off the back of her house at the same time. You know Jerrilee Cain, [her last name] was Bunce. And there was a guy there tearing it off, and he’d been down [at the disposal area], and he had dumped some lumber down about where I thought it should be. So I figured, “Well, that must be the place.” So I unload this load of lumber – it was a lot of it, and he wasn’t there. Went back home to get another load, and got another load and came down there, and Emmy is there. And he’s mad, because it’s all caught fire. So here’s this pile of lumber burning, and he’s yelling. He sees me, he says, “What idiot did that?” [laughter] And I said, “Me.” I said, “I didn’t know where to put it, so I saw somebody else put stuff…” and so forth and so on. “Don’t you know the burnables go over there?” Well, he had moved where they were going to put the burnables the day before, and didn’t tell us about it. And so he’s yelling at me, and in the meantime, this thing’s burning pretty good. And then he turns around and he says to me, “You see that pine tree in back?” This is just in back of where it was burning, about a thirty-, forty-foot pine tree back there. He says, “You see that pine tree? I wouldn’t take five hundred dollars for that tree.” Just about that time the fire hit it. Whoosh, like this, it was gone. And I retreated, and I think Emmy and I were kind of tentative for quite a while [laughter]. But wound up good friends. I have lots of other stories, but I won’t bore you with all that stuff. We wound up good friends anyway, and as I say, he was one of the first conservationists that you’ll find. He used to flatten tin cans. And you never went there and threw anything over the bank, because you had to look first, because chances are he was down there and you’d throw it on top of him [laughter]. So he was definitely one of a kind. It was a pleasure and an experience to know that man, because there aren’t too many of them left. I think I’m getting into that stage [laughter]. But he was really, really an asset to this town, and I think everybody that knew him appreciated him. And nobody ever complained, or thought there was anything wrong with what he did, or what he set up, or how he did it. You might not like it but he went ahead and did it. So my hat’s off to him, he was a great guy, he really was.

Profile of Emerson Davis in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, March 25, 1971.

Profile of Emerson Davis in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, March 25, 1971.

Dottie Fitzgerald: I’d like to ask, what kind of a voice did he have?

[several people start imitating Emmy at once]

?: He had a whiny voice – [imitating Emmy] “Why don’t you put that over there.” [laughter]

Dottie Fitzgerald: I needed to hear his voice to go with his face.

Ted Claydon: When he got excited it wasn’t great [laughter].

Dottie Fitzgerald: Was his vocabulary okay?

Ted Claydon: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I’ve got to give you one more thing. This is again when we first moved up here, and my wife and my daughter used to ride around in the evening on various roads to see where things went, and so forth. And they were out one night, and a couple of guys started following them. So my wife didn’t know where to go. She was back in that end of town, so she drives down to the dump and Emmy’s down there. And she said, “These men are following me.” He said, “They’re obviously intoxicated.” [laughter]

Warren Packard: I never heard him use profanity, though, did you, Ted?

Ted Claydon: No, never, never.

Warren Packard: He had a fine vocabulary.

Ted Porter: He used to referee basketball games when we went over from the school to play basketball at recess. Remember he refereed occasionally? Oh, and by the way, Emerson was always shooting foul shots. With Mr. Albert – A. E. Albert – that would be Ben’s father. And I was up there with him one day, and I wasn’t doing too well [at foul shots]. And he says, “You know, there’s only three people in town that I consider competition when I’m shooting foul shots – Bam Packard, Ellie DuCharme [spelling?], and A. E. Albert.” They were up at the top of the basketball shooting, along with him. He played on a team when he was a youngster, but back then basketball was a lot different – you had your position, and you threw it back, and finally somebody would shoot. It’s nothing like it is now, on the move, you know. But he had his perfected way that he’d shoot the foul shot.

Diane Brenner: Did he have any special friends?

Ted Porter: Well, I think everybody. I don’t think anybody hated him, really.

Diane Brenner: But I mean anyone he was specially –

Ted Porter: Well, he was at Schneider’s a lot. And Henry would take him for a haircut when he was running the mail, and Eva would give him food. And he was there quite a little.

1964 portrait of Emerson Davis by Humphrey.

1964 portrait of Emerson Davis by George W. Humphrey.

Diane Brenner: He seemed to have been friends with the Humphreys as well. The drawing up there is a Humphrey –

Ted Porter: What Humphrey was that?

The Berkshire Eagle, June 3, 1969.

The Berkshire Eagle, June 3, 1969.

Diane Brenner: George. And he did a lot of decorating for their ballet performances. I don’t know, it just seemed that that was a name that came up fairly frequently.

Ted Porter: I thought the Humphreys were later than he was.

?: No, they were here in the ’60s and ’70s.

Julia Sharron: Jean Humphrey used to have her ballet classes and a yearly performance at the Town Hall, and Emmy did take care of decorating. He’d have beautiful plants all over, and it was really very nicely done.

Diane Brenner: And lighting as well, he did lighting.

Julia Sharron: Yes.

1968-BeardContest

The beard contest of 1968.

Helen Sharron Pollard: Can I ask a question about the beard-growing contest in 1968 for our bicentennial? Because we’re coming on 250 years, and I’m just wondering: What was the impetus behind that? Nobody here was growing a beard then, were they?

Ted Porter: In one of the history books there’s a picture of all the people. And there was some controversy about that. They said the judges weren’t fair [laughter]. But that’s the way things go in a little town. But as far as I know, he had a lot of beard. In fact he had a beard most of the time.

Diane Brenner: Yes, I think he started having a beard quite young.

Ben Brown: Did he win?

Another look at the beard contest.

Another look at the beard contest in the Springfield Republican.

Evan Johnson: He was one of two winners according to the picture over here.

Diane Brenner: So how many people here actually knew him?

[most people in the room raise their hands]

Diane Brenner: Wow, that’s a lot.

Steve Kulik: You know Bam mentioned milk, and many people mentioned the raw hamburger. And we moved here in ’76 –

Diane Brenner: Who are you?

Steve Kulik: Steve Kulik.

Diane Brenner: Thank you.

Steve Kulik: And so we experienced a couple years of the disposal. I can’t remember when he stopped doing that, but you’d go up there on Saturday in summer, and he’d have his little piece of meat, and butcher paper that he got at the store. And I can remember a quart carton of buttermilk – he drank buttermilk a lot, and it would just be out there in the sun, you know [laughter]. He didn’t have a cooler or anything like that, and every now and then he’d take a break and have a little snack and a slug of buttermilk. It left an impression on me for sure.

Suzanne Kulik: I’m Suzie Kulik, and our enduring memory is – you know we moved here from the city, had no idea what we were getting into. I knew we were supposed to take our trash to the disposal. We had a cat; I carefully put the cat food in a Triscuit box, got to the disposal, and here is this guy who’s dumping the cat food out of the Triscuit box – [laughter]

?: And of course flattening the Triscuit box [laughter].

Steve Kulik: The other thing I remember, there was a really nice party for Emmy after I think he was down at the nursing home. It was a birthday party, I think, at Town Hall, and a lot of people showed up. There’s probably an article here about it or something. But that was a really wonderful party, and at that point I sort of remember he didn’t see very well, he didn’t hear very well. But there must have been a hundred people there, and it was just really a nice event.

The Boston Globe, January 27, 1973.

The Boston Globe, January 27, 1973.

Ginger Donovan: I can remember – [identifying herself] Ginger Donovan – I can remember walking on a Saturday morning, as Steve was saying, and Emmy would be up there fixing his breakfast, and even had his carton of milk there, and what I thought was cereal of some sort – it was probably crushed crackers. But he would put a raw egg on top of those crackers and then drink the milk up [laughter].

Michelle Dodge: This is back to the disposal again – Jim and I had the same experience as a lot of people that moved here in the ’70s, in that we also took part of our house to the disposal area. And I remember backing up, and it was very difficult to miss him because all of the sudden these orange gloves would pop up. And you knew he was down below because –

Jim Dodge: That’s where he worked.

Michelle Dodge: – you could see the orange gloves.

Emmy Davis, 1975.

Emmy Davis, 1975.

Elodi McBride: I have something to add to that. Again, like many of us, my family moved up [to Worthington] in 1970. I was eighteen, and I grew up in a small town, so we had a dump, but – it was a novelty. And I can remember hearing this man, not really cursing, but kind of muttering so you didn’t really understand him, with a giant potato hook, ripping apart plastic bags – very unhappy about plastic bags, he did not care for those inventions. And at that time my parents were renovating the barn, and it had all caved in, and so we had a beer party. And Ron [McBride] and several college mates came up and we cleaned out that end of the barn that had dropped from the roof all the way down into the basement. And we took over ten dumptruck loads of debris, of all various wood materials. And we had pre-arranged with Emmy, because we knew you had a certain place, and we had to go down on the lower road that he had specially plowed for us, so that we could start dumping all the way at the far end, and just keep dumping in succession until we filled all that area up for him. And the funniest thing I remember is that – Ron and I were dating at that time, and I can remember going up some Saturday morning and just talking to him about whatever, and he looked at us and he said, “Don’t trust anybody over thirty.” [laughter] It just astounded me, but you know, we took it for what it was worth. He was just fun – he talked to you, he never put you down for what you said, and if he didn’t agree with you, he’d kind of say, “Well, hmm…” and then, “This is how it should be.”

Ted Claydon: Did anybody remember the lagoon? Remember when he had the lagoon down there? It was rainwater that filled in this hole. And I remember John Medesto was down there and I was coming down – he waves at the window and says, “Stop, stop, stop.” So I stop and said, “What’s the matter?” He said, “For Pete’s sake, go clockwise.” [laughter] You had to go around this thing to get out. He said, “I went counter-clockwise and he raised all kinds of Cain.” [laughter]

Emmy at the disposal area, 1975.

Emmy at the disposal area, 1975.

Pete Thomson: I’m Pete Thomson, and I worked for Emmy. And I know Ben Brown did. I was wondering who else did, way back. Ted Porter. Ernie Nugent worked up there. Well, on the lagoon, at the disposal area, it was actually a solar evaporator, which put Emerson ahead of his time. I came to town I think in about ’68, but I’d gone to Gateway [Regional High School] so I had friends that I knew in town, and I’d heard of Emmy. But I didn’t really get to know him or work part-time for him until – oh, probably about ’74. Worked for him part-time on weekends or whatever, just because he was such an interesting character. It was about the lowest-paying job you could find in town at the time, but you got to hang around Emmy. And the sort of disappointing part on that sometimes is, he’d get you going on something and he’d just be out at the Town Hall, so there you were by yourself, doing whatever. Yeah, the solar pond; at some point the state stopped outside burnings. Demolition material like barns and stuff, and just general trash, used to be burnt over a bank. And through the EPA or whatever, they eliminated that and went to what they call “sanitary landfills.” And that meant that it had to be covered up weekly, like with a foot of clean fill, which pretty much came from Donovan’s. I think the hours for the disposal area became like Saturday and maybe Wednesday, or something like that. And there were no stickers, no tickets, no bag fee or anything. And it wasn’t mandatory that you sorted your trash, but things like bottles and cans and milk cartons would go in an area, and then it was Donovan’s that would come up once a week and they would crush it. And some people thought, “Well isn’t that a waste of time, why separate that?” And he’d just simply explain, “Well you take a Coke bottle, dig a hole nine inches down, and run over it with anything you can come up with, and you’re still going to have a Coke bottle – you’re burying air.” So it wasn’t to separate the metal like they do it now, or the glass – it was just to decrease the volume. I think he even did that before, when they were still burning. Maybe I was just a visitor at the time; I’m not sure when they went away from burning. But that was the reason for that. The solar collector was made so that [imitating Emmy] “All the water that falls on this place will remain here.” It would evaporate, so it was to keep it from going over the bank. And a couple of other things: the little circle around the lagoon, like clockwise, counter-clockwise – [imitating Emmy] “Where you from, England, driving in the wrong direction?” [laughter] On food, I think Judy maybe can back this up, I think he ate Cheerios.

Ben Brown: Wheaties.

Pete Thomson: Wheaties, wheaties. I know he had some sort of cereal at the Town Hall. And a couple of other things: He said he didn’t need a car because he had 75 chauffeurs. And he got back and forth between the disposal area and the Town Hall. The Hoosac Tunnel – I think one of his uncles was an engineer or something on that project. That project was – pshew! – 175 people or whatever over like a 20-, 25-year period. But one of his uncles was an engineer, and he had relatives that were architects, in the Adams area. I think one of them was involved with either like a town hall, or a courthouse, in either Adams or –

The Berkshire Eagle, February 17, 1973.

The Berkshire Eagle, February 17, 1973.

Diane Brenner: His father [Raymond Harrison Davis] had designed the doors for North Adams –

Pete Thomson: I think they were involved in more than just the doors and stuff –

Diane Brenner: But he was an architect, I believe.

Pete Thomson: One relative ran what I guess you’d call a lumberyard or something, but they used to manufacture windows. You didn’t go to Anderson, or you didn’t go to Cummington Supply and get your windows from Virginia or somewhere. They were made locally. Emmy would complain – somebody [mentioned] new materials, plastic and stuff. When that first started coming out – the cardboard boxes with the styrofoam corners on your TV set – that freaked him out [laughter]. He said, “What!?” He said, “Most businesses should go out of business.” Because he couldn’t crush them, he couldn’t burn them, and he just had to bury them. But anyway, back to the building supply thing. He said, “Back in the old days, they’d take a truck, have an order for windows up in Savoy or something, coming out of Adams or Cheshire or whatever, and they’d wrap them all in these shipping blankets. And they would load the truck with all the windows. When they delivered them, they would fold up all the blankets and they’d use them over and over and over again. Now you get a one-way box for your TV or your windows, and the cardboard and all the dunnage – [that’s] what you call it in the shipping business – just goes in the landfill. That’s why he would flatten the boxes. If he took a box and I jumped on it, it wouldn’t be flat. But you learn to take a standard box, you find one corner and that’s where it’s got a seam. You don’t need a box knife; it’s sort of like ripping a phone book in half. And you can pop it, then you can lay it flat. He would sort of estimate how much trash he was going to get. He would build these little walls out of cardboard boxes; it was sort of a crate for a lot of cardboard boxes, because if the trash got higher than the little wall you were building that they were going to cover on Monday or Tuesday, you were over the bank. And then he would tamp down; he’d put the boxes down, he’d walk back and forth, just like if you were tamping a road. So that’s a little about why things were sorted, and the solar thing.

Helen Sharron Pollard: Can I just suggest, Pete – it looks like people are getting a little hot, what if we took a ten-, fifteen-minute break, had a little drink?

Jim Dodge: I want to say one thing. Over the years I watched certain people take care of Emmy. And Mrs. Liston would give him a bowl of soup on a cold day, and Bill Wilson would give him a ride up the road – a lot of people did. Pete Packard would work on the Glen Grove Sanctuary board and committee we had. But in his last weeks, it was Julia Sharron who really made sure he was taken care of. And I want to thank Julia for her efforts at that time, because everybody in town cared about Emmy, and his last days were much better. [applause]

The Springfield Morning Union, July 8, 1978.

The Springfield Union, July 8, 1978.

At this point everyone took a break and enjoyed the layout of snack foods, ice cream, cake, iced tea and sangria. After the break, Willie Brown and Diana Noble, whose band is called EarthRiders, started off the second half with a performance of Willie’s composition “Emerson Davis.”

Willie Brown: This is my lovely and able assistant, Diana Noble. And we have a song we’d like to play, written especially for this day.

Diana Noble: Twenty years ago.

Willie Brown: Twenty years ago [laughter].

Diane Brenner: It’s been a long time coming, I guess.

Willie Brown: Originally because I thought that “Emerson Davis” was sort of a lyrical-sounding name, but of course no one has been more deserving of a song than Emerson Davis.

Diane Noble: Will told me that his mom [Lois Ashe Brown] used to be one of the taxi drivers; Will was a little boy in the back seat, and when Emmy needed to get somewhere, Lois took him. And it’s funny because all the stories [we’ve heard tonight] are like all wrapped up in the song.

Willie Brown: You might think I wrote it after listening to today’s discusssion, but it’s not true. But I have enough fodder for a third and a fourth verse now. So this is called “Emerson Davis.”

[Music begins; click below to hear the performance.]

“Emerson Davis”

When I was a kid growin’ up in town,
there was a pretty cool man around.
He worked at the dump most every day,
but if you call it “the disposal” he’d prefer it that way.
At night he would sleep in the Town Hall,
and that’s where we go to play basketball.
Sleepin’ on a table up on the stage,
his only blanket was a newspaper page.
And we weren’t sure if he was asleep or dead,
but sometimes a ball would hit him in the head.
And he would awake long enough to say,
“If you can’t control the ball you won’t be able to play!”
Emerson Davis [x3]
Emmy Davis was his name.
Emerson Davis [x4]
His sneakers were Converse All-Stars,
on the bench at lunch he ate his hamburger raw.
He washed it down with a Peppermint Pattie,
he smelled pretty bad and his clothes were ratty.
But Emmy Davis loved this little town,
Worthington was sacred ground.
If you’re in the Town Hall late at night,
and you hear a noise or catch a sight,
keep it down, that’s my request,
it’s only Emmy tryin’ to get some rest.
Emerson Davis [x3]
Emmy Davis was his name.
Emerson Davis [x8]

[applause]

Willie Brown: And this event is long overdue. If this is the first memorial for Emerson, this is a wonderful thing, long overdue.

Diane Brenner: Thank you. [applause]

Willie Brown: And I’ll listen carefully and I’ll have enough material for two more verses [laughter]. Thank you all.

Helen Sharron Pollard: That was great, thank you very much. Can we turn the floor back over to Pete? Because he was really starting to get rolling.

The Berkshire Eagle, November 21, 1977.

The Berkshire Eagle, November 21, 1977.

Pete Thomson: Back to the disposal area, I think I sort of left off with Emerson not liking styrofoam and the new packaging that came out. And somebody asked earlier, how did the disposal area come to be? Well, I’d asked Emerson about that. I don’t know what year he started it, but he said there was a problem in town, that there wasn’t a central place to get rid of trash, anything from building material to bedframes. And people used to just throw it behind the barn or whatever, the bottle pile or the can pile. So at some point he sort of took it upon himself. I don’t know when this was, like if it was in the ’40s or the ’50s or whenever he started the disposal area. And they used to burn trash, and burn as much as they could. And he started running it. The other change was when they didn’t allow you to burn anymore; they came up with this mandate where it had to be buried once a week. That became very expensive, and that was the reason for reducing the volume, because the less fill you had to bring in, the cheaper it was. And it also involved getting a [bull]dozer from Donovan’s every other week or whatever to come up there. And all the towns were facing the same dilemma, like Cummington. Everybody was running out of space, without another site. So the town finally went to a compactor like all the other towns had done. But one thing about the landfill – I said, “Well what are you going to do?” He says, “Well it’s a sanctuary” or whatever. He says, “Well I’m going to put a ball park here.” I said, “Emmy, you know this isn’t big enough.” The solar evaporator had been filled in at some point, and it was all leveled off. And he says, “So I’m going to put a ball park here.” And I said, “Emmy, this isn’t big enough.” I’ll get to one more remembrance there. I said there weren’t any stickers or whatever. There was a group that had a cabin up in Peru – they had like a hunting place or summer place, and they used to go up there and party. They were connected with Ferrara Spring [Works], which is a truck spring big machine automotive industrial truck place. And they had a place in Peru, and they would go up there hunting and stuff. They had a piano they were trying to get rid of, and they brought it down to the sort of flat area where I think the tin cans and stuff went; they set it up and they just put it there. They had a pretty good pickup truck with a hydraulic tailgate to get it off; three or four of them came up. And they left it and said, “Well jeez, we hate to throw it out, but somebody gave us this better piano.” And this one guy – can’t recall his name – was the piano player. So there’s this flat area out in the middle of nowhere, and this guy’s playing the piano. And it was nice weather, it wasn’t going to get rained on. But I wished I had a photo of it, because if I tell the story, it’s hard to believe that it really happened. “So there’s this guy in the middle of the woods, in this field, playing the piano…” Unfortunately the piano got crushed up the following week. A few other things, a jukebox went through there, that didn’t make it. The other thing, back to the ballpark – they were getting I think ready to cap it off and go to a transfer station. I think there was talk of even putting the transfer station up there at one point. I think I was out of town, because I’d been in and out of town. But I said, “Where’s the ball park going to go, Emmy, you can’t fit a ball park in there.” There was no way that that little knoll where the rock is, if you’ve ever been up there, could be a ball park. And he said, “Mister,” and he pointed off into the sky, and he said, “That’s my ball park.” I’ll leave it at that.

Emerson Davis with police chief Dave Tyler, 1966.

Emerson Davis with police chief Dave Tyler, 1966.

Evan Johnson: Jim, tell your story please. [pause] Jim? Aw, c’mon. Can I tell your story?

Jim Dodge: You can tell it.

Evan Johnson: I have no idea if this is true, but if it’s not –

Jim Dodge: That’s why I’m not telling it [laughter].

Evan Johnson: We came to town in ’84, so we missed the whole Emmy scene, unfortunately. But early on, I met Jim and he told me about a day when Emmy was at the Town Hall, and if I’m not mistaken it was a COA [Council on Aging] event that was taking place. And it was a hot day, and Emmy had slept without his clothes on. And there were still curtains up on the stage at Town Hall back in those days, and apparently he got up for his morning, and pulled open the curtains, and apparently there was a whole group of COA people in there setting up the tables for the luncheon, and many false teeth were dropped [laughter]. That was always my favorite Emmy story, whether it’s true or not.

Jim Dodge: They put it in the minutes of the meeting [laughter].

Steve Kulik: I have a question. Bam and I were talking about this at the break, but he had heard – many years before I did – but we both heard that Emmy had studied at the Sorbonne, in Paris. You had mentioned that he had gone to Europe and done art tours and things, and I don’t know if anybody else had heard that story.

Pete Thomson: What little I know about it, I believe he had two years at Pratt [Institute]. And I got the story – this is I think how I got it – is that he left “to see the world, and they taught me all they could out of books.” So that’s how he ended up in Europe. What became of that, and where he went after that – if he returned to Adams and then came to Worthington – I don’t know. So yeah, he had gone to travel or whatever and study.

Diane Brenner: Right, that’s what’s in the articles, that he studied briefly at Pratt, and he had a mentor, I think who was at Mount Hermon [School], who encouraged him to come down to New York and study, but I’ve never heard that he actually studied at the Sorbonne.

Suzanne Kulik: He told us once that the climate of Florence was the closest to Worthington [laughter].

?: Right, he did say that.

Diane Brenner: So can somebody talk a little bit about the current status of the Glen Grove Sanctuary? Who’s on the board?

Dedication of the Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary, as documented in The North Adams Evening Transcript, September 6, 1931.

Dedication of the Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary, as documented in the North Adams Evening Transcript, September 6, 1931.

Jim Dodge: I’m not sure –

Pat Kennedy: And is it Glen Cove or Glen Grove?

Diane Brenner: It’s Glen Grove, but in all the Mass Recreation publicity and maps, it’s “Glen Cove.” And if you look at orienteering sites, “Glen Cove.” So that’s one of those mistakes that gets repeated and repeated, but it was originally “Glen Grove.”

Jim Dodge: After Emmy died, Pete Packard wanted a member of each board in town to be on a board of the sanctuary and meet once a year. And I was on the Conservation Commission at the time, so I became a member of that board. And we’d meet at Pete’s house and have coffee, and have an official meeting, but then we’d go up to the sanctuary. You can walk the parameter, the lines. And Bill Wilson knew where some of them were, and a lot of them we didn’t know where the corner pins were, and we found them. It’s a good piece of land.

Diane Brenner: Yeah, it’s 180 acres on that side, and 50 on the other side.

Jim Dodge: I mean, we all think that it’s just where the landfill was, and that’s a few acres, but it goes way beyond that.

Diane Brenner: Anybody can go up there?

Jim Dodge: Yeah, yeah. You wouldn’t know. There’s no trails. But it’s a nice piece of property.

Helen Sharron Pollard: So what is it?

Jim Dodge: It’s a forest, it’s a woodlot.

Helen Sharron Pollard: But is it set aside? Is it a conservation area?

Julia Sharron: It’s just a wild bird sanctuary.

Helen Sharron Pollard: Oh, I remember, right.

Julia Sharron: And as Jim said, we met once a year for many years, to make sure that nothing was dumped illegally there – a couple of times there were things. Made sure that there was some fencing, and so we honored the property the way it should be. But there was never any money to do anything, you know, extravagant, there. So it’s just kind of an area. But we do have a stone. And that’s it.

Jim Dodge: But since Pete Packard’s gone, there hasn’t been a meeting.

Julia Sharron: No, no.

Evan Johnson: Is there still a board, Jim?

Jim Dodge: If you’re not on a town board, are you a representative anymore? I don’t know.

Julia Sharron: No, no, it had to be a representative of each board.

?: Is it owned by the town?

, February 17, 1977

The Berkshire Eagle, February 17, 1977

Julia Sharron: Yes, yes.

Jim Dodge: So the selectmen probably should look into it, there should be at least an annual –

Diane Brenner: And is the memorial boulder to Harriet Davis, his mother, on that property?

Julia Sharron: No, it’s not.

Diane Brenner: Where is that?

Julia Sharron: I don’t know where that is.

Bam Packard: Is it right by the landfill, Julia?

Julia Sharron: I don’t believe it is.

Ted Porter: It’s just east of the landfill, going down the road.

Diane Brenner: On the left- or the right-hand side as you go down?

?: On the right-hand side.

Willard Brown: There’s still a path mowed to the boulder, I believe.

Ted Porter: I remember one time they used to mow that out yearly, but I don’t know if they do now.

Willard Brown: I think they still do. I don’t know who, probably Cork [Donovan].

Elodi McBride: I have something to add to that. My son Randy took it on as an Eagle project – I’m trying to remember if it was ’99. And he and the kids in the neighborhood all played there, that was like their territory. And it was never malicious, it was always finding the snakes or whatever, creep up on a bear. Anyway, for his Eagle project he had Ernie [Nugent] as his counselor to pick up some of the debris that had become exposed over the years. And so they organized it, and it was an all-day event. And they cleaned up a bunch of – just stuff that had popped up, but it was pretty well emptied out anyway. And the kids had a good time, they took a couple of dumptruck loads out to the new disposal and re-dumped the old stuff. But they put a bench up there that I think is still there, I have not been up there. It would be by the boulder? He poured cement and put a chain on it and locked it all up up there. And I don’t think that there was any other plans – I know Randy himself had to talk to Pete Packard. I don’t know that he went before the board, but Pete spoke for everybody, so – [laughter]. But I know Randy had contacted him, he learned a little bit about the history and stuff. And like I said, the kids in the neighborhood really felt that that was their playground, really. And they wanted to take care of it and make it more natural and clean it up, and that’s what they ended up doing. And it was not too long after that that the town had to do that – I forget what that was called –

Evan Johnson: Kate [Ewald] and I did a site assessment out there, and as a tribute –

?: Capping.

Evan Johnson: But this was after the capping, we had to do a site assessment to make sure that the landfill was not something that had to be further cleaned up. And as a tribute to Emmy Davis, the water and the groundwater out there was pristine. So really, he did something right for sure.

Ginger Donovan: Question: the sanctuary, is that on both sides of the road, or just on the landfill side?

?: Both sides.

Ginger Donovan: It is both sides. And how many acres?

Diane Brenner: Well 180 on one side, and 50 on the other. So it’s 230. That’s a lot.

?: Janet, did you have something you wanted to add?

Janet Dimock: Oh, we were talking about traveling. I remember – it must have been at Emmy’s memorial service that Doug Small talked about having a conversation with Emmy about all the Easter lilies in the Holy Land. About Emmy being there and seeing them. But I don’t know when he traveled there, if anybody else knows.

Amanda Emerson: I wish my father could be here, because he knew Emmy Davis. My father was Lawrence Waldo Emerson, and he lived and worked with a Reverend Berkus [spelling?] here? Who also was a farmer, and who I think slaughtered animals? Well anyway, when my father lived here with Reverend Berkus, Emmy was here. And that would probably have been when my father was a teenager, or maybe shortly after he graduated from Smith Vocational school. My father was born in 1919, and he fought in World War II, so it was somewhere before he went to war. But he knew Emmy as a person who worked with his hands, and picked up gravel with a banjo shovel – whatever that was, I’m not sure – but wrote poetry. And I knew Emmy. I didn’t know Emmy, I met Emmy once in a while, when I worked for de Beaumont’s on River Road at Brookstone. Well, we always wondered but we were too polite to ask, was he related to us? And it doesn’t really matter, because he was a credit to the name of Emerson.

Diane Brenner. He was. And I think he took that name to heart, even if he might not have been a relative.

?: That was lovely, thank you.

Amanda: Thank you.

Emmy Davis.

Emmy Davis.

Bam Packard: Has anyone actually seen the poetry that he is rumored to have written? I never saw him write, I didn’t know that he actually wrote poetry, so I wondered if anybody had actually seen it.

Ben Brown: I wanted to mention that I finally got in touch with Ralph Thompson yesterday, who went on to become Ralph the blacksmith, a lot of people may remember. He was in Worthington in the ’70s, and he worked for Emerson and became very attached to him. Maybe he was the closest thing Emerson had to a disciple. But he mentioned in our conversation that Emerson was one of the most significant people in his life, because he’s the only man that he ever met that Ralph considered to be living his ideals without the compromises that most of us are obliged to make in a variety of ways. And Ralph really revered Emerson, and worked for him for a long, long time. I can still remember him driving around with a trunk full of tools in a beat-up Falcon doing jitney for Emerson as well as working in the dump – the disposal, excuse me – [laughter] and maybe sometimes the North Cemetery.

?: Ben, you were talking about his shorts. Would you describe his shorts?

Ben Brown: Oh, yeah. So I remember when I was very young he used to mow lawns for some people in the center of town, with the real mower like you were talking about, and he would always wear these very vivid, silk basketball shorts [laughter]. And he often wore those around the Town Hall, too, I can remember that from being a kid.

Diane Brenner: What color? Do you remember what color?

Ben Brown: Yeah, he had some green ones, I remember. He had several pairs. Probably left by the visiting team [laughter].

Diane Brenner: Well we really appreciate all of you who came and stayed through this heat, and who contributed. And if you remember things or want to add to what you’ve said or didn’t say, we always really appreciate it. We have our website, you can post a comment there, or you can email me or anybody on the board. Or call, or come by and talk, whatever. We’d like to get as much as we can while we can, and have it available for other people in the future. Okay, well thank you, there’s still some more stuff to eat and drink…

Several people: Thank you.

1988-annual-report

Cover of annual report, with dedication inside by Lois Ashe Brown.

 

Addendum: Further recollections of Emerson Davis

The following accounts of Emerson Davis were given to the WHS in written form.

Emmy Davis photographed in... The caption read, "Assistance of Town Hall custodian Emerson Davis ran the gamut from tacking up posters, setting up tables and chairs to buttonholing townspeople and urging them to attend the Meeting!"

Emmy Davis photographed for the 1956 booklet New England Town Meeting Telephone Style, published by the Bell Telephone Company. The caption read, “Assistance of Town Hall custodian Emerson Davis ran the gamut from tacking up posters, setting up tables and chairs to buttonholing townspeople and urging them to attend the Meeting!”

Jim Dodge: I first met Emmie when I moved to town and brought a truck load of various things to the town dump. I backed up to a pile of garbage and got out of the truck to unload it. There didn’t seem to be anyone around. As I started unloading stuff someone yelled “THAT DON’T GO THERE!” It was Emmie and he was mad at me for not putting things in the right places, as he had the dump all managed in to certain areas. I got started on the wrong foot with Mr. Davis but soon learned the wisdom of his ways when it came to where things went at the dump. When Emmie got on in age there were several people who looked after him. Bill Wilson and Mrs. Liston helped him in many ways. Julia Sharron helped Emmie get into a nursing home and made sure that he got the care that he needed. In his will Emmie left his land, which included the town dump and what would be called the Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary, to the Town. Pete Packard, our retired postmaster, asked for a member of each town board to also serve on the board of the Glen Grove Wildlife Sanctuary. There was an annual meeting held at Pete’s home and some years we walked the boundary lines of the sanctuary.

Merrill Bancroft: I have many memories of Emerson Davis although I lived in Chesterfield. I operated a television repair business I called The Electronic Shop in the center of town, and had customers in Worthington. Many times when I was on the road there I would see him walking along the road and would give him a lift. He would usually be heading for the dump. To him it was the disposal area and never the dump. If you called it the dump he would pretend not to know what you were talking about. I found him to be very intelligent which didn’t always reflect his demeanor sometimes. My mother would tell about him at Grange. He had a reputation of being a perfectionist when he decorated the Worthington town hall for weddings and other affairs. He installed the library lawn in Chesterfield and was the quintessence of perfection. Every town needs an Emerson Davis. Emmy made the town his own by living there, working there, and made the town better.

 

 

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2 Responses to Recollections of Emerson Davis

  1. Eileen McCarthy Hauber says:

    Our family remembers Mr. Davis well. The trips to the disposal and the little house/shed he had there. My sisters and I had many ballet lessons in the town hall. Mr. Davis was like the town uncle…He was part of every town and holiday celebration. He would shake his head and smile when we were all running around, giggling and screaming as happy little girls will do. I remember giving him rides and being a little scared of him but my father told us he was a free spirit and we should be that lucky to have a whole town love you.

  2. Dale Hitchcock says:

    I just came across this accounting of Emmy as I googled him. I lived in Worthington from 1945 onto the mid-60s and remember him well. This must have been a great event at the historical society especially with people like Ted Porter around who remembers so much about the town. I’ll toss ina few memories – my family occasionally invited him to dinner and loved his stories. For another, he would occasionally munch on the raw hamburg as he worked in the “disposal area” handling the trash. He kept a big box of prunes in teh town hall kitchen to help his regularity. The Conwell School basketball games took place in the town hall…we played teams from the surrounding hill towns. Once during the middle of a game, with Ray Magargal coaching us, Emmy grabbed a hammer and came out onto the floor and started pounding in nails that he had noticed sticking up too far over the surface of the floor. I could go on…… The Historical Society is doing good work and it was very nice to see so many familiar names of the folks who contributed to this event.

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