ANN LUVIDA MELTON DAVIDSON
ANN (Meta) LUVIDA DAVIDSON, fourth child and only daughter of William “Bill” Edmund Davidson and Mary Pauline (Roller) Davidson, was born 1 July 1931 in Wesley Hospital at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma.1
Ann married Carl Fredrick “Fred” Melton 31 December 1948 at Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas. Fred was born 6 July 1930 in his parent’s home at Southeast 48th Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. Fred’s father was Eugene James Melton, born 1898 in Indian Territory at what is now Wynnewood, Garvin County, Oklahoma. His mother was Velma Jewel (Stapp) Melton, born in 1899 at Box, Oklahoma Territory.
Ann and Fred have three children. They are:
(1) Sheril Kay, born 27 March 1951, in Wesley Hospital, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. She married Christopher Allen Vaughn 16 February 1970, in Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri. They have four children, Honey Ann, Roman Christopher, Heather Lee and Julie Lynn. Sheril Kay divorced Chris 23 January 1984 and later married Charles Lynn Gant 12 December 1987 in Tomball, Harris County, Texas.
1 (Ann’s given name was Meta Luvida. She did not like the name Meta and began to go by Ann. When she was fifteen years old she had her name legally changed to Ann Luvida.)
(2) Randy Gene, born 12 January 1953, in Wesley Hospital, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. He married Donna Jean Shelton. They have a son, Culley Brant (Melton) Turner. Randy and Donna divorced. She remarried and her husband adopted Culley. Randy later married Pamela Gwinn Gorden. They have a son, Shane.
(3) Bonny Len, born 3 February 1960, in Baptist Hospital, Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. He married Angela Yvetta Hutchison 15 December 1979 in Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee. They have three children, Xanthea Leigh, Zane Pierce and Zara Jill.
After three rambunctious boys Bill and Pauline were very happy to have a daughter with the arrival of Meta Luvida. They named her for Bill’s mother, Meta, and Pauline’s mother Arlie Luvida. Ann’s earliest memories are when the family lived at 2709 NW 40th Street in Oklahoma City.
My first memory is of a girl about eight or ten years old that lived next door. She had a broken arm in a cast. She also had brothers and I remember baseball games between the two families. We had a gentle milk cow named Bossy.
I don’t remember this myself, but was told that Dad lost his job as ticket agent with the Oklahoma Railway Company. Our house was foreclosed and we had to move.
We moved to a smaller house at 3608 NW 13th Street. This was during the Great Depression years of the 1930’s. Dad tried several jobs. One was selling insurance but people were not buying insurance during the depression.
He finally got a job as a milkman delivering milk for Meadow Gold Dairy to homes from a horse drawn milk wagon. His regular route was several blocks north of our home. One morning I was not feeling well. I looked out the window and saw Dad stop his milk wagon in front of our house. He brought me some orange juice.
Our house on 13th Street was fairly small, but part of the backyard was fenced for Bossy. The rest was mostly garden. One day I was privileged to see Bossy give birth to a calf. I was in kindergarten at Linwood Elementary School and told my teacher about our cute little calf. A few days later my entire class came to our house to see the baby calf. Mom served lemonade and cookies.
Since there was no grass in the backyard for Bossy to eat, my brothers each day led her to a grassy area along a creek about two blocks away so she could graze.
When I was six years old we moved to a farm near Moore, Oklahoma. It was called the Johnson Place. We used wood for heating. One day I was “helping” Dad saw logs with a crosscut saw. My First Grade teacher happened to drive by and saw me. The next day at school she mentioned it to me. I felt very proud that I was able to help my Dad.
This time was during the Dust Bowl days of the 1930’s. We had terrible dust storms. Mom stuffed rags around the windows and doors trying to keep the dust out of the house, but a dustpan full of dust came through the keyhole in the door.
One of the most traumatizing events to occur while we lived there was when a friend of my brother, Gene, drowned in a pond near our house. His name was Arbry Lee Davis.
Later we moved to a farm two miles south of the Johnson Place. It was called the Turk Place. It had a two-story house with a large porch on the front and part of the south side.
One evening Mom saw a tornado coming our way. She herded all us children into the stairway. After it was over we surveyed the damage. I especially noticed that the plaster had fallen from the dining room ceiling.
We did not have a storm cellar, so another time when Mom saw a storm brewing we all began to run down the highway to a neighbor’s house that had a storm cellar. The wind blew so hard it seemed all I had to do was move my feet up and down and the wind blew me the rest of the way.506 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 507 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
Another time I was visiting my Aunt Hazel Roller in Garvin County. She was a rural school teacher and lived in a house next to the school building. She saw a tornado coming and hurried us into a cellar next to her house. After the storm passed we came out and discovered the schoolhouse was moved a foot from its foundation, but the house was totally missed.
I dearly loved my Grandmother Roller. When I was ten years old I spent several weeks with her one summer. My Uncle Henry and Aunt Catherine had a baby girl, Beverly, old enough to sit in a highchair. I felt very proud that Catherine let me feed the baby.
Grandma and Catherine canned vegetables from their garden. They put me to washing the jars. Sometimes there were spiders in the jars. I just knew one was going to bite me and I would die. I told Grandma this with tears in my eyes, but I still had to wash the jars.
Grandma sold eggs for her spending money. She let me gather the eggs. We would carefully place them in a box to take to town. She cautioned me to always look in the nest before I put my hand in because there might be a chicken snake in the nest. One day I saw one in a nest. I ran for Grandma to deal with the snake.
It was an exciting time for me when the work crew came to Grandpa’s to thrash his broomcorn. This was during August which was the hottest part of the summer. Grandma had her wood burning cook stove going full blast as she turned out heaping platters of fried chicken, potatoes, gravy, garden vegetables, home made bread and several pies to feed the work crew. I helped with the dishes after the meal. It seemed I had never seen so many dishes.
One day I was raking leaves in the yard and tidying it up. My Aunt Hazel came by to view my handiwork. As I raked away I suddenly saw a bright shiny nickel among the leaves. I exclaimed over the nickel. Aunt Hazel said it must be payment for a good job. Looking back I feel certain she put it there for me to find.
Later we moved a mile east and a quarter mile south of the Turk Place to a farm called the Sullivan Place. It was a mile west of the interurban that ran from Oklahoma City to Norman. One day Mom and I rode it to Oklahoma City to go shopping. When we boarded to come home it was full of sailors returning to their base at Norman. World War II was in full force.
We had several cows that my brothers milked. My job was to turn the handle on the separator that divided the cream from the milk. We put the cream in big cans to take to town and sell. The skim milk was mixed with bran feed and given to the hogs.
Dad changed jobs. He worked for a trucking company loading and unloading truck trailers at night.
We had a big garden, pear trees, chickens for eggs, hogs for pork, and milk from the cows. I helped Mom can vegetables from the garden for use during the winter. Although we didn’t have much money it seems we always had food to eat.
When I was in the second grade at Moore our class was going to put on a play for the school. I really wanted a part in the play. When I came home I told my brother, Gene, about the part I would be auditioning the next day. He spent most of that evening coaching me. The next day when I tried out for the part I was selected. I’m sure it was due to the excellent coaching I received.
I especially remember my Fourth Grade teacher, Mrs. Varndell. I told her something one day and used the word “jist.” She began to correct me and would say “just” to which I replied “jist.” She persevered until finally I said “just.” To this day I am careful to pronounce this word correctly as she instructed.
Beverly and Phyllis Kitchen were friends. They were twins. One Friday afternoon at school Phyllis told me that when she went home for lunch she saw my Dad at the store. She said she asked him if I could spend the night with her. She said he told her I could so I went home with her. The next day Dad came to their door looking for me. It seems this all was a figment of 508 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 509 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
Phyllis’ imagination. Mom was worried to death when I didn’t come home. Needless to say I was also in big trouble.
Another friend was Marilyn Reichert. Her father was the local doctor. I was invited to their home several times. Marilyn was an only child and liked to have someone to play with. They had a lovely two story home beautifully furnished. I was duly impressed and think that was when I first began to appreciate nice things.
When Ann was in the sixth grade the family moved to Evening Shade, Arkansas. The change from the school at Moore to Evening Shade was a cultural shock for Ann and her brothers. The school at Evening Shade was not the same quality as the one at Moore. The students were far behind at the same grade level as the students at Moore. This caused problems for Ann and her brothers. They were looked on as “those smart aleck new kids” by the general student body. There is a detailed account of this in the CHAPTER on Ann’s brother, Gene (Don).
Two successive floods a month apart wrecked havoc on Ann’s Dad and his attempt to succeed at river bottomland farming in Arkansas.
Our family moved to Evening Shade, Arkansas, which turned out to be a disaster. Strawberry River ran through the place. Every time we planted crops it rained, the river flooded and washed it all away.
The Kunkels were our neighbors. They had a riding horse. My brother, Marvin, and I went to visit one day. They offered to let us ride the horse. I was thrilled. Their son, Pug, wanted to ride behind me. They didn’t have a saddle so we were riding bareback. We rode up a hill a ways and turned the horse to ride back to the house. Just before we got to the house the horse jumped a ditch. I held onto the horse’s mane for dear life. Pug held me around the waist. He started to fall dragging me off with him. My arms were around the horse’s neck. As I fell I swung down under its neck. I landed in a pile of rocks beside the road. The horse jumped over me. It felt as if the hoofs were pounding all over my body. I ended up with a concussion and was out of my head most of the night. Luckily I had no broken bones.
During the winter my brother, Gene, and Pug fell into the river. Pug caught pneumonia and had an extremely high fever. I believe it was 107 degrees. I was told it made medical history. Mom went to their home to help care for him. Later I heard an ambulance taking Pug to the hospital in Batesville. I remember kneeling beside my bed and praying that Pug would get well. God must have heard my prayers. Today Pug is very much alive and in his seventies.
In the summer we walked barefoot to town on Saturdays. It was three miles. I would have a piano lesson. Then I would meet a friend in town. I would use my ten cents allowance to buy each of us an ice cream cone for five cents. We would walk around town looking in all the stores. Just before it was time to go home she would spend her ten cents allowance to buy each of us an ice cream cone.
One time I was walking home from town. There was a spring a ways back from the road. I was thirsty so I went to get a drink. I heard our truck coming. I began to run for the road so I could ride home but alas, I was too late. I trudged the rest of the way home.
At Evening Shade school started in July. This was strange to me. I learned later school was dismissed in September and October so the kids could pick cotton. Classes resumed in November.
In September Ann, her little brother, Marvin, and her parents moved back to Oklahoma City. They lived a short time with friends, Alvin and Wilma Teel, until they were able to move into their house at 3608 NW 13th Street. They were soon joined by Ann’s two older 510 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 511 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
brothers, Bob and Gene. Her oldest brother, Bill, lived with the Morrow Family at Moore while he went to school there.
Ann was in the seventh grade and enrolled at Taft Junior High on northwest 23rd Street at May Avenue. Her brother, Gene, enrolled at Taft in the ninth grade. He started using his first name, Don, instead of Gene. Her other brother, Bob, enrolled in the eleventh grade at Classen High School.
When we moved back to Oklahoma City I was to attend Taft Junior High School. It was several miles and I didn’t know the way. Mom asked a neighbor boy, Perry Bennett, to let me walk to school with him. My brother, Gene, couldn’t show me the way because he had a paper route. He got up early to throw his papers and then rode his bike directly to school. Perry must have been embarrassed to have a girl walking with him because he stayed about twenty steps in front of me the entire way.
When Ann was fourteen years old she got a job working after school hours at the fountain for Veazey’s Drug Store. They had several stores around town where she worked. She soon became adept getting around town by herself. She was paid forty cents an hour, the minimum wage.
When Ann graduated from Taft she attended Central High School near downtown Oklahoma City. She took typing, shorthand and a business course in addition to a regular curriculum. She worked part time at the Oklahoma Audit Bureau after school hours.
Ann’s older brother, Bill, was in the Navy during World War II serving in the Pacific. Her brother, Bob, served stateside in the Army Air Corps. Her brother, Don (Gene), quit high school and volunteered for the Army a few months before the war ended. He served on occupation duty in Japan with the 11th Airborne Division.
Ann Luvida Davidson – age 15
While in high school at Central Ann became acquainted with Fred Melton, a fellow student. One of Fred’s main attractions was his flashy Ford convertible, a rarity for a high schooler in those days. Fred’s Dad owned and operated the drug store at 14th and 512 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 513 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
Portland Avenue just two blocks from where Ann lived with her parents and younger brother, Marvin.
I had a friend, Mildred Randolph. We sometimes played tennis at Reed Park at 12th Street and Drexel. Usually after we finished our game we went across the street to the soda fountain in the drugstore at 12th Street and May Avenue.
One day after our game Mildred suggested we go to the new drugstore at 14th Street and Portland Avenue as there was a cute new boy working there. We entered the store and sat at a booth to order our cokes. The boy came over and sat down with us. He said, “My name is Freddie. What is yours?” During our conversation he said he also went to Central High School. Before long I found myself going steady with Freddie. His Mom and Dad owned the drugstore. Fred was expected to work until 10:00 p.m. So, I went there and we did our homework together between customers. Fred also worked after school from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at a sign company downtown near my work. He would pick me up and take me home.
Ann began to attend the Church of Christ with Fred. October 1948 Ann was baptized and became a member of the Church of Christ. December of Ann and Fred’s senior year they decided to get married.
I spoke to Mom about getting married and told her I wanted to be married in the Church of Christ. She was very much against this. She wanted us to marry in the Methodist Church where she was a member. She had some firm ideas about our wedding which were not as Fred and I wanted.
December 31, 1948, Ann and Fred eloped to Gainesville, Texas, where they were married in the home of a local Church of Christ minister. They returned to Oklahoma City keeping their marriage a secret. They each continued to live at home with their individual parents while they completed high school. They graduated the following June from Central High School.
In the meantime Ann’s brother, Don, received an honorable discharge from the Army. He was completing his high school requirements in an accelerated course for veterans at Central High School so he could enter college. Though Ann and Fred were keeping their marriage a secret Don surreptitiously learned their secret. He was dating Pat Paschall and agreed to keep their secret a secret.
Don and Pat ran around with Ann and Fred. On two occasions Ann and Fred took Don and Pat in Fred’s convertible on an outing to Lake Murray where Pat’s folks owned and operated a tourist court and convenience store. Once when dining at a restaurant in downtown Oklahoma City they were talking about the unusual things in life they would like to do. Don said he had been jumping out of airplanes and decided that was unusual enough. Fred said he would like to “go bear hunting with a knife.” That caused a great deal of laughter.
Ann did secretarial work and Fred worked at Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City as a window trimmer. This job didn’t last long. Fred was much too creative and artistic to suit the whims of the store manager. Fred then worked a while as a silk screen artist and painter.
Then Ann and Fred moved to Dallas and lived there for over a year. New Years Eve 1949 Don and Pat went to Dallas to visit Ann and Fred to help celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Fred’s brother, Jack, and his wife, Wanda, were also visiting. They all had dinner at Sammy’s Restaurant and then went to White Rock Lake. They made a bonfire to snuggle around.
A few months later Ann and Fred moved back to Oklahoma City. Fred’s father wanted him to go to Oklahoma University to study pharmacy. Shortly afterwards Ann was expecting their first child. Sheril Kay was born March 27, 1951. Fred dropped out of school and took jobs with Steffens Ice Cream Company and DeCoursey Milk Company. Later Ann worked in the membership department of the YMCA in downtown Oklahoma City.514 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 515 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
Ann and Fred bought a home at 3550 Garden Avenue and lived there several years. Their son, Randy Gene, was born January 12, 1953, while living there. Fred again changed jobs and worked for Eastern Electric Company as a field representative which required him to travel extensively. This soon became old and Fred decided to quit.
Ann and Fred bought a small vending business in Carthage, Missouri and moved there. They later moved to Joplin, Missouri. Ann took a temporary job with the law firm Burden & Shortridge where she learned to be a legal secretary. Fred worked in a local foundry while also running the vending business.
Fred began to preach at a small church in Webb City. He felt he needed more Bible training. He left the foundry, sold the vending business, and took a job with a tower company in Fort Meyers, Florida. He attended Florida College in Tampa. Ann got a job with the law firm Cooper & Cooper in Tampa.
A year later Ann went to work for the law firm Gibbons, Gibbons & Tucker. During this time Mr. Sam Gibbons ran for Congress and was elected. He served in Congress until 1996.
While Fred attended Bible classes at Florida College he also preached for the 40th Street Congregation, and later the Castle Heights Congregation in Tampa.
After three years of Bible study Fred accepted a position as minister of the Church of Christ in White House, Tennessee. While at White House Ann and Fred’s son, Bonny Len, was born February 3, 1960, at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ann and Fred moved from Tennessee to Alvin, Texas, near Houston. Fred helped establish the Park Lane Church of Christ Congregation in south Houston.
One day while Ann and Fred were at work their house caught on fire. Neighbors saw smoke coming from the roof upstairs. They moved everything out of the downstairs before the fire trucks arrived. They had very little water damage.
It looked like rain so we moved everything into a vacant house a mile away. We lived in this house when hurricane Carla hit. This was our first hurricane. It was a very traumatic experience.
We decided to buy a home with some land. After looking for about a year we bought five acres with a house northwest of Houston located on West Montgomery Road. It was hardly more than a trail. Years later it became a fourteen-lane highway. We owned this property forty-four years and saw many changes in that part of Harris County.
Ann went to work for the law firm, Crouch, Cole and Pacetti, in Houston. Mr. Cole was blind. He was not only a lawyer but also a Texas State Representative. Her responsibilities were greater than for most secretaries because Mr. Cole relied on her to read and be sure the papers he prepared were correct. He also wanted to know her impression of clients. He later ran for the State Senate and won. Ann helped with the campaign along with her other office duties. It became quite a heavy workload.
Ann decided to change to a larger law firm where she would have fewer responsibilities. She became legal secretary to Wiley Caldwell, a lobbyist and senior member of Fulbright, Crooker, Freeman, Bates & Jaworski, a very prestigious law firm. She learned politics from a very different perspective working for a lobbyist. During this time Fred worked at the Houston Public Library, attended school at South Texas University, and helped establish the Cy-Fair and Lang Road Church of Christ churches.
Our son, Randy Gene, had a difficult time in the junior high school that had over two thousand students. One teacher in particular often embarrassed him in front of the class. He would leave the classroom and go sit in the principal’s office. This ultimately resulted in him being expelled.
We made arrangements for Randy to live with my Aunt Blanche on a farm near Elmore City, Oklahoma. There he attended a small rural school that seemed to suit him better.516 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 517 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
When our daughter, Kay, was nineteen she met and married Chris Vaughn. In 1970 they had a daughter, Honey Ann. Kay became seriously ill and was hospitalized. She had an infected kidney removed.
In 1970 Fred received a church letter asking for someone to help with church work in Europe. Fred answered the call. He, Ann and Bonny moved to Tonbridge, England, a quaint, picturesque village. It was an exciting and broadening experience with Fred preaching for Church of Christ churches in England, Germany, and Switzerland. It was also a great opportunity for them to travel throughout Europe, the Eastern Communist countries, and parts of Asia. Four years later Fred began work with Saint John’s Lane Church of Christ in Bristol located in the West Country of England.
While Ann and Fred lived in England, their daughter, Kay, had two children, Julie Lynn and Roman Christopher. Kay had separated from her husband and was having problems. Fred came to Oklahoma City and brought Honey, age four, and Julie, age two, back to live with them in England.
When Bonny was fourteen he traveled alone from London to Bern, Switzerland to visit friends. They loaned him a motor bike and he spent his two-week stay exploring Bern and the surrounding area. He returned by train to Paris, then to London and home to Bristol.
Randy Gene continued to live with Ann’s Aunt Blanche at Elmore City, Oklahoma, and finished high school. He married Donna Shelton and they had a son, Culley. The marriage soon ended in divorce. Later Randy Gene married a local girl, Pamela Gwinn Gorden. They had a son, Shane. But, that marriage too ended in divorce. However, Randy Gene and Pam have since twice remarried and divorced each other.
Elementary schooling ends at age fifteen in England so Ann and Fred returned to the States so Bonny could finish his education and be eligible for college. They moved to Waller, Texas. Fred worked as a Church of Christ minister. Ann worked for Computer Sales, Inc. as Executive Assistant to the Senior Vice President of Marketing. This was the most fun job she ever had as she was constantly planning parties, fishing trips, golf tournaments, and other exciting outings for customers.
Ann worked a number of years with the international computer company. They awarded her canal boat tickets for two plus airfare to England for her years of meritorious service. She and Fred chose the Llangollen Canal because of its picturesque mountain setting, the attraction of a tunnel and an aqueduct spanning the beautiful Dee River and Valley. They however had not reckoned on the infamous five stair locks near Wrenbury, the unusually low level of the canal because of drought, and a music festival that was in full swing at Llangollen. Following is an account (condensed and edited) of this trip written by Fred:
We checked in at the British Waterways Station and had a fifteen- minute instruction on how to operate and maintain the canal boat. It is shaped like a cigar with an outside tiller at the rear. We loaded our baggage and supplies and set out on the Grand Union Canal.
Shortly, we encountered our first lock. You are on your own when negotiating a lock. Ann hopped off and tucked into the first lock-arm, a six by eight timber six feet long. It didn’t budge. A boatload of young toughs had entered the lock with us. They waved Ann aside and triumphantly opened the gate while shouting about their strength and ability. We held back and let them get far ahead.
A slight drizzle of rain began. I donned a slicker and captain’s hat and stationed myself at the helm. As we glided up the canal Ann ducked down into the galley to prepare tea and scones. In a few minutes I shouted, “Lock ahead!” Ann scampered up from below and exclaimed, “I haven’t even started fixing tea.” I retorted, “I can’t help these locks.” Ann said, “Well, I’ll have a hand at the tiller myself after the next lock and you can open and close the gates.”518 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 519 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
Ann was less than adequate as captain. Canal boats respond slowly to the helm. Turn the helm sharply and hold it too long and the boat over reacts. After struggling at the helm Ann reluctantly said, “You are going to have to steer this boat.” I replied, “It is settled. I shall be captain and you can be first mate.” Ann said, “Evidently I’m to be second and third mate, plus cook and bottle washer, as well as, maid and washer woman. Some holiday this is turning out to be!”
After several locks Ann began to tire. We had gotten only a cup of tea and a few cookies to eat. We moored for the night at Wrenby Mill. I walked a short distance to a stone bridge over the canal. I looked back and Ann was washing clothes and hanging them to dry. An approaching boat veered too far to the other bank to miss our boat. A man on the boat chastised Ann for mooring where the canal was too narrow. Ann shouted, “If you had been watching where you were going you wouldn’t have ended up in the mud.” After extracting themselves from the mud-bar they floated downstream muttering, “Stupid woman.” Ann shouted, “I’m not the one that got stuck in the mud.” I was determined to give Ann a “cook’s night out”, so we went to the Dusty Miller, an exquisite little canal side pub for an evening meal.
Next day there was a lot of boat traffic on the canal. By the time we got to the stair lock at Whitchurch there was a traffic jam. Ann was busy running from gate to gate as we negotiated one lock after another. I tried to help as best I could, but I had to control the boat, didn’t I? The lockmaster watched Ann as she struggled with one of the gate arms. “You have the wrong kind of gloves,” he observed. “Here let me exchange gloves with you so your hands slide off the gate better.” He was happy as we took his picture while chugging upstream.
The next night we moored at Ellesmere, an interesting village that was a busy commercial center when freight moved in England by way of the canals. A few miles from Ellesmere Ann got off onto the bank to run and lift a cattle bridge. I cleared the bridge and turned to the bank so Ann could get on. She was running to catch up. She reached out and grabbed the boat railing just as the boat drifted away from the bank. I shouted, “Hang on! No, turn loose!” Too late. Her toes were spiked in the bank and her fingers clutching the boat railing. She was perpendicular spanning the water between the boat and the bank. Down she went into the canal. In my effort to help her I swung the boat toward the bank just as she fell. That banged her pretty good. “Back off,” she shouted, “I can’t take much more of this.” She dragged herself on board and we stopped for tea. I hugged and kissed her and said, “You’ll feel better after a good night’s rest.”
I was impressed with Ann’s stamina and durability. Permit me to digress, perchance a young man perusing these pages who is searching for a wife would be advised to seek a bride, having not only spiritual traits, but physical ones as well. Broad shoulders, sturdy back, strong legs that are pleasantly utilitarian so that in her autumn years she might travel to distant and exciting places with ease.
The next morning our boat would not start. I noticed we spent the night slightly tilted against the bank. I walked two miles to a village, called for a company mechanic. In about an hour two chaps arrived, drained the diesel, primed the fuel system and sent us on our way.
The canal became increasingly narrow and shallow. At length we entered a narrow tunnel about four hundred feet through a mountain. It was black as pitch. All we could see was the small light at the other end. Ann thought it was spooky. Beyond the tunnel the boat bumped rock bottom. The helm had become hard to handle and the boat difficult to steer. After supper, I dove into the canal and wrestled the rudder back into its harness.
At last we reached the aqueduct with the village of Llangollen six miles beyond. The aqueduct and valley were impressive, but the number of boats on the canal caused pandemonium. We turned around and started back.
The weather was nice, except for a little rain. The scenery was superb. The night moorings were pleasant. Meadows and steams divided by hedge rows and rock fences made a patchwork of pastoral charm. These framed a beautiful scene of grazing sheep and cattle perfectly in tune with nature, yet hidden from the eyes of the common tourist. Though Ann did most of the cooking and washing we occasionally ate at quaint 520 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 521 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
pubs and chatted with the locals. Canal travel is wonderful and allows travelers to observe the rural country, life at its finest.
Near disaster struck at the last lock as we were about to enter the Grand Union Canal. One of the poles on the boat is equipped with a hook on one end to hold the boat back to keep it from hitting the gate as the water rushes in from the high end of the lock. I was manning the gate and was positioned on top of the lock. Ann was holding the boat back with the long pole. I was at the gate when I saw Ann dive headfirst into the water in the lock. She bounced off the hull of the boat and became wedged between the boat and the lock wall. I realized this could be serious. Ann was a pitiful sight hanging there whimpering, glasses askew, hair plastered to her head, and about to be crushed between the boat and lock wall waiting for the other shoe to drop, which it did. Her new $300 pair of glasses slipped from her face and sank to the bottom of the lock. I jumped down and pulled Ann onto the boat. The lockmaster saw what happened and rushed out of his little house with a rake. I had already slipped into the lock and feeling for the glasses. I finally found them with the rake. “The pole slipped,” mumbled Ann, “it happened so fast.”
The next day Ann was black and blue. “There isn’t any place on my body that doesn’t hurt,” she moaned. Two days later I called British Airways to confirm our flight to Houston. The voice on the other end said, “Your flight left thirty minutes ago, Sir.” We had miscalculated our return date by one day.
Finally arriving home, Ann downed several aspirins and fell into bed. “Ann,” I said, “Our next trip should be more structured. Perhaps one of those planned African safaris. What do you think? Ann, Ann, ANN!”
Property taxes on their Houston property increased to the extent that Ann and Fred decided to build storage units to generate income to pay the taxes.
We weren’t sure how well they would rent. To our amazement people rented them faster than we could build. They actually would move in as we were constructing the walls between the units. Initially, we built six storage buildings and three boat stall buildings which more than paid the taxes.
Bonny took flying lessons shortly after he returned to the States from England. He soon soloed and became a private pilot and then went on to become an instructor. He attended Florida College where he met Angela Hutchison from Dickson, Tennessee. They married the following year and moved to Waller. Later they had a daughter, Xanthea Leigh.
Ann and Fred leased a small airport near Waller. Bonny became a Cessna dealer and gave flying lessons. In the 1980’s a recession set in and flying lessons were one of the first cut backs people made. In the meantime Kay had reconciled with her husband, Chris, and moved into a mobile home on the property and managed the storage units.
Ann and Fred saw the need for a mail delivery service in the northwest Houston area. They soon had three separate routes. One each for Fred, Kay, and Bonny delivering incoming mail and picking up outgoing mail for banks and other companies.
Bonny felt the need to work for the Church of Christ. He left and became the minister at a church in Wayne, Michigan. Ann and Fred hired a young man, Charles Gant, to take Bonny’s place as a driver.
While in Michigan a son, Zane Pierce, was born to Bonny and Angela. Two years later they moved to Lyndhurst, England, and began work with the church in Brighton. Their daughter, Zara Jill, was born in England, but they registered her as a citizen of the United States. They lived in England three years and then returned to Columbus, Texas, and later to Houston where Bonny preached at the Pinehurst Church.
In the meantime Kay was again having marital problems with her husband, Chris. They soon divorced. Kay began to date Charles Gant and two years later they were married. Kay drove one of the 522 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 523 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
mail routes and Ann quit her job at Computer Sales to manage the storage units. Charles took another better paying job and Ann also drove one of the mail routes. The company Charles worked for transferred him to Dayton, Ohio. They reorganized the routes and sold the one Ann was running.
Later Kay and Charles became missionaries for the church. They spent eight years in Russia. They moved to Nizhny Novgorod (previously Gorky) just a year after the famous wall came down. In 1994 Ann and Fred visited Kay and Charles while in Russia. Following is Fred’s account (condensed and edited) of their experience:
I don’t think I shall ever be quite the same again after my trip to Russia. My first impressions began at St. Petersburg as we descended through an ever-darkening layer of clouds into a doleful and forbidding place. Ancient Aeroplot jets with a stark and deserted look lined the airfield. On arrival passengers from the British Airways flight were bussed to a small terminal building and into a Spartan hall with four immigration booths. The expression “Russians never smile” took on a new meaning when faced with these immigration officials. They finally released us to pick up our baggage. We had to snatch it quickly from a conveyer belt else it would go outside into the rain for another trip around.
After negotiating customs we stood in the lobby waiting for Reta, our Christian contact. Shortly a small plain woman with straight hair and sad countenance appeared. Managing a smile she said in perfect English, “Have you been waiting long?” Without another word we followed her through the terminal to a row of waiting taxis. Although we stood waiting on the curb none of the waiting cab drivers approached us. Reta was looking beyond the cabs. At length she approached a tall better dressed man with a lapel clip that said “TAXI.” After a bit of bargaining we settled on fifteen pounds sterling (about $22). Reta said it was too much but we assured her it was okay. She said, “These people are sharks.” She meant mafia. For about ten minutes we rode in silence except for an occasional direction by Reta to the driver.
On arrival at Reta’s flat, a tenement building thirteen floors high, we entered via a keypad through a steel door that when shut reminded one of the unforgiving slam of a jail cell door. We went down a dark hallway to an elevator that had the same kind of forbidding door. After ascending ten uncertain floors we stood in front of Reta’s flat. The first door was of the aforesaid steel emplacement, the second a heavy wood door with four large dead bolts.
Once inside we took off our shoes according to Russian custom and settled in. At that moment the real Reta emerged. One who has a heart of fine and pure gold. In one of her two small rooms she had prepared her own bed for Ann and a chair unfolded beside for me. She would retire to a cot in the kitchen. In her tiny apartment Reta became transformed into an “old mother hen” anticipating and supplying our every need. Never had we witnessed such kindness and love among strangers as she showed us.
The next morning we set out with Reta for the train station in downtown St. Petersburg to buy a next day ticket for an eighteen hour train ride to Nizhny Novgorod, where Kay and Charles lived. We made our way past decaying buildings, down dirty streets and past unkempt areas of grass and shrubs to the underground Metro line. Street vendors were everywhere. Sellers were mostly women and children with perhaps a single item to sell–a shirt, or a blouse. Beggars were at intervals along the corridors of the underground. We got on the appropriate subway train. I stood near the door. Ann and Reta sat but it began to get crowded. After a few stops it was wall to wall people. I thought not one more small person can get on. At the next station at least twenty-five more got on. At the next stop, to my relief, we all got off–you had no choice. We were swept en mass to the other side of the platform and into a waiting train with passengers already pressing their faces against the doors. We swayed to and fro in one nauseous mass for two more stops. I could barely see Reta pinned beneath shoulders and arms.
Disembarking we walked to the train station where Reta asked for a very nice two place sleeping compartment for us on 524 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 525 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
the train to Nizhny. The clerk said to Reta, “It’s very expensive.” (63,000 rubles, about $31.50.) It seemed to please Reta to reply, “I’ll take it anyway.” We took Reta to a nice restaurant for lunch. Then we went on a sightseeing boat tour that charged foreigners three times the rate for a Russian.
The next day we insisted Reta call a taxi to take us to the station. An old beat-up Russian Lada (automobile) arrived in due time. When the driver saw our bags he snapped open the trunk with a screwdriver. It had enough “stuff” to start a respectable junkyard. Reta turned away embarrassed. A small bag went in the trunk–the rest in the back seat with us. Weaving, screeching, and honking (he had a good horn) we made our way through the streets of Saint Petersburg to the station. Reta paid him 10,000 rubles ($5 American) a fourth the price from the airport for twice the distance. She saw us onto the train and approved our compartment. She said, “Only deputy ministers, movie stars and certain businessmen travel in this kind of compartment.” Others make do with board seats at the back of the train. With the sound of Russian music on the intercom we sped into the night headed deep into the hinterland.
The next morning Kay, Charles and a Russian named Oleg met us at the station in Nizhny Novgorod. After negotiating another Russian bus ride we arrived at their flat. It was a dismal place. The only redeeming feature was the Volga River flowing within a hundred yards. Nizhny Novgorod is the third largest city in Russia.
The next several days I lectured through an interpreter at church meetings. A number returned to the nightly meetings. One person was Natasha, a Jewess who taught English with a German accent. She insisted I be interviewed by a newly formed trading company in Nizhny that wanted to import goods from the United States.
After the meetings Kay and Charles decided to accompany us as far as Moscow on our return trip to St. Petersburg. We gathered at Natasha’s apartment for a last meal of chicken and unleavened bread. It was wonderfully done and we took some with us to eat the next day. Natasha arranged for us to stay with kinsmen near Moscow. On arrival we found they moved out of their two room flat so we would have a place to stay. A sister-in-law (another Natasha) came from across the city to attend to our needs. She prepared meals in a communal kitchen and tended to Ann who was very ill from eating the day old chicken. Our every need was met.
Natasha is a scientist teaching at a local institute. Her husband, Uri, is a technician at a paint company. They took us on a sightseeing tour of a famous monastery at Zagorsk which is a Russian Orthodox religious center. When we came out the door of the monastery an old woman had a boy about eight years old by the hair violently shaking him. I commented that the old woman was sure disciplining her little boy. I was promptly informed the boy was not her son. He was a beggar encroaching on her territory. He was crying in a pitiful way. Kay and Charles went to a kiosk and bought food for him. When they got back he was rummaging in a trash bin.
Before we left we all gathered for a group photo. Natasha and Uri showered us with candy and gifts. They with a neighbor, Luba, accompanied us on the long walk to the train station carrying our luggage. Uri insisted he purchase our train tickets to Moscow. We embraced each warmly and took our leave. Never had we received such devoted attention by absolute strangers. Most Russians we met didn’t have many worldly goods but they gave their utmost expecting nothing in return.
Moscow was the low point of our trip. I recall an old Englishman years ago said, “I had just as soon live in a coal mine as Moscow in the winter.” It wasn’t even winter and I couldn’t agree more. I have seldom witnessed such filth and degradation as in the train station near Lenin Square. I’ve never seen so many drunks–men and women. The public toilet was like something out of Dicken–holes in the floor for both men and women. It cost 100 rubles (5 cents) for entry. The stench was so bad people staggered out holding kerchiefs over their faces. Wouldn’t you know? Ann had to avail herself to the facility. Red Square and the Kremlin were anti-climatic. I just wanted to get out of there.
On the train back to St. Petersburgh a rough looking Chinese and his Russian interpreter joined us in our overnight cabin. Kay and Charlie were fit to be tied. The cabin was supposed 526 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 527 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
to be for two, but as Charlie said, “This is normal for Russia.” Actually, the Chinese was very courteous and the Russian quite intelligent and affable. He spoke three languages including English. We talked several hours. He said, “I can’t believe I’m traveling with Americans.” Ann replied, “I can’t believe I’m traveling across Russia on a train.”
We arrived in St. Petersburg at 5:00 a.m. Vladimir, the Russian, was determined to see us through the terminal until Reta arrived. The Chinese insisted he carry our luggage. After an hour Reta arrived. She led us through a gang of mafia cab drivers to the street. There she approached a regular checker cab.
Back at Reta’s flat we relaxed. Reta fussed over Ann who was still somewhat ill. Reta fixed a murky “brew” of herbs and told Ann to “drink it right down” which she did. Her eyes teared and her head spun as it burned a path to her stomach. With quivering lips Ann exclaimed, “What was that?” The “remedy” had been heavily laced with cognac. Ann took some other pills provided by Reta’s sister, Nadia, and began to mend.
Nadia was a younger copy of Reta. She stayed for dinner. Tears came easily when she spoke of the government and unjust Russian laws. After a while her fears and anxieties waned. She even smiled and laughed a couple of times. Someone said, “I like to be with Americans. They are so happy.”
We waved goodbye to Reta and Nadia and negotiated customs and immigration without a problem. As our British Airways Boeing 737 rose over the Baltic Sea through a layer of clouds to where the sun always shines, I could scarcely restrain my tears as I pondered, “Will Russia ever smile again?”
A few years later Ann and Fred again went to Russia to visit Kay and Charles. Following are excerpts (condensed and edited) from Fred’s account of that trip:
We were welcomed by another dreary day as we arrived in Nizhyy Novgorod. The ubiquitous “militia” guard stood by as we funnelled into a single door constructed according to Communist specifications. We were met by the ominous immigration. These unsmiling Russians spend ten to fifteen minutes perusing your papers. Customs inspected our bags and asked how much money we were bringing into the country. They released us through swinging doors to be greeted by a small group of wellwishers, including Kay and Charles. They presented Ann with a bouquet of flowers and warmly greeted Tara Lynn, an American friend of Kay’s. We proceeded to the curb. An old tarp covered Russian truck came smoking out of the parking lot and stopped in front of us. Ann and I were given the seat of “honor” in the cab with the Russian driver. He could speak no English. The Russians waiting in front of the terminal recognized us as Americans expecting a limousine to collect us. They watched in amazement when we all jumped into the old truck. An old Russian woman looked horrified. I loved every minute of it.
There is a new class of people beginning to arise in Russia called “new Russians.” They are usually entrepreneurs who are very wealthy either by honest or dishonest means since the fall of the Communist regime. All the way across town we were surrounded by old rusty buses belching smoke and spitting fire, laden with passengers peering through dirty windows. A pedestrian doesn’t stand a chance in Russia. Even on a crosswalk. If a car or bus hits you it is your fault. You shouldn’t have been there.
We made our way directly to a hotel where Ann, Tara and I had to have our visas stamped. Entry rules now require you must have your visa stamped at a hotel within three hours of arrival. Charles advised we take a shower at the hotel, a primitive affair that at least had hot water. Kay and Charles’ flat was devoid of hot water that had been shut off to their section of town. It remained off throughout our stay. Water is heated at a central plant and piped underground to outlying flats.
Disembarking from the old truck the women and I squeezed into a four by four elevator with our baggage while Charles and Tara ran up the stairway to open the flat door. We pushed the ninth floor button because someone had destroyed the eighth floor button which gave access to Kay and Charles’ flat. We got off at the ninth floor and walked down to the eighth floor. The 528 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 529 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
apartment was guarded by two large doors, a steel implement replete with sliding steel deadbolt and a second wood door with deadbolt. We settled into quite a comfortable little flat.
We noticed right away the people looked healthier, dressed better and smelled quite a bit better. A commotion drew us the window. It was a funeral procession for an old man in an open wooden coffin followed by a small band of several horns. He was surrounded by family and friends.
In the countryside I was impressed that the country looked a lot like Texas just west of Houston only instead of pine trees there were tall slender white birch trees. I was surprised to learn Russia is filled with both small and large lakes and rivers. Potato fields were everywhere. Wheat, strawberries and other fruits and vegetables were abundant but I did not see corn. Vodka is made from potatoes that are subsidized by the State. It is cheap and adds to the woes of an already problematic society.
We visited one of the many crowded markets in town. Food and clothing were abundant. People still “hawked” their wares along the walkways but the quantity and quality are much better since our previous visit in 1994. The scent from the meat and fish stalls was disagreeable but the vegetable and flower stalls were quite pleasant.
We visited a Russian Orthodox Church surrounded by a large graveyard. I was struck by the density of the graves. A great many died in 1947. I asked our Russian friends why. They gave several explanations such as deaths from WW II, that Stalin purged the country killing more Russians than the war, and a great famine raged across Russia then.
Don’t get sick in Russia. If you have to go to a dentist you must first go to an unknown pharmacy and pick up your own anesthetic and needle. If you are in the hospital you must provide your own food and linens.
A very pleasant highlight of the trip was having front row center seats for a piano performance by Vladimir Viardo, an extremely talented Russian living and teaching in America. After the concert we joined the crowd strolling along the promenade beside the Volga River. We sipped tea in a little cafe on the banks of the river as the evening sun slipped below the horizon.
All our exit papers were in order due to Charles’ experience and diligence. A rather anxious but amusing moment occurred as we passed through customs. A nervous customs man asked in broken English, “Do you speak Russian?” I replied, “Nyet.” One of the three Russian words I learned while there. He began to inspect Ann’s tote bag. He seized on a half-used roll of Cert mints. He turned it around and around in his hand evidently inquiring in Russian what it was. Ann tried to show him it was mints intended for your breath.
All and all our trip was most enjoyable. However, I would not recommend Russia for a vacation unless you have someone in the country that knows the language and can “walk” you through. Our Russian friends insisted on giving Ann and I a party at Kay’s flat. Although they can’t afford much, they insist on bringing a small gift every time they come to visit. Several gifts were hand made and of excellent beauty. We now have a special section for Russian gifts in our home near Flatonia.
Over the years Ann, Fred and Bonny gradually built and expanded the storage facility as they continued to operate the specialty mail delivery service. They also built and operated a private mail boxes facility. As their business grew and became more successful Ann worked in the office.
Looking toward retirement Ann and Fred began to look for property within two hours of Houston. They found ten acres a few miles southwest of Flatonia, Texas, with a house and purchased it. The house was an old 1890’s style farmhouse. It had been used for hay storage and was in terrible condition. Over the years it became a weekend refuge as they gradually restored and improved the old farmhouse. Fred wanted to give it a definite Old English cottage appearance. Ann’s brother, Don, wanted them to restore it as a Texas farmhouse on the prairie. He said he would “puke in the yard” if they made it into an English cottage.530 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 531 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
Nevertheless they restored it as an English cottage and Don didn’t puke. In fact, he and his wife, Pat, helped with some of the labor to build an extension dining room to the “cottage.”
One day Fred and Don went to the lumberyard to buy lumber for the rafters. Fred went into the office to buy some small items needed for the job. Don busied himself pulling pieces of lumber from the rack for the rafters. He carefully ‘eye-balled’ each and every piece to be sure there was no warp and they were straight. He rejected several pieces that failed his inspection. He had carefully chosen about two dozen pieces. When Fred came back he said, “Oh, no. I want the warped and crooked pieces. They give it character.” Don shrugged.
Ann, Pat and Don helped Fred frame the roof. It was no easy job framing an open roof with warped and crooked pieces of lumber, but they managed it to Fred’s satisfaction. The room does have a quaint ‘character’ with an arched ceiling and large exposed cross beams.
For a time Fred preached at the Pinehurst Church in Houston. After a while he decided he didn’t want to work full time. Ann and Fred became members of the Yoakum Congregation in Yoakum, Texas. Fred preaches part time at various churches as they need him.
Deciding the mail route was too confining Ann and Fred sold it. Bonny became manager of the storage business. Ann and Fred were able to spend more time living and working at the Flatonia cottage.
Ann and Fred decided one day it would be a nice vacation to have all the family go to England on a canal trip. They contacted Kay and Charles in Russia, but only Kay was able to make the trip with them. Following are excerpts (condensed and edited) from their account of their canal vacation in England:
We had talked for months about a “family outing” to visit England and go on a canal trip. Bonny went to England a few weeks before on business. He met the rest of us at Gatwick Airport with a rented van. We loaded up in the van and went straight to Dolly’s Pantry for a noon meal and the proverbial cup of tea. Next day we met Kay at Heathrow Airport. She flew in from Moscow. There would be five adults and three children on a fifty-six foot narrow canal boat for fourteen days. We remained berthed at the marina three days while Kay sorted out her visa situation.
Early Tuesday morning we ventured out into the River Severn, the first leg of the Avon Ring up the Stourport Canal to Birmingham, then back down the River Avon on the Grand Union Canal to Bill Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-on-Avon, thence to Evesham, Tewkesbury, and back to port at Upton on Severn. We were going to have to ‘hump it’ to make 150 miles at a flank speed of six miles per hour and negotiating over 100 locks.
British Waterways Board provides water points along the canals and rivers where boats can replenish their supply of fresh water. We could take on only a limited amount of water at a time. The women were constantly looking for water points. They took turns preparing aromatic meals that would waft up through the hatch to the helmsman. This aroma with the sights and sounds of the canal and pastoral countryside tended to create delusions of grandeur not easily forgotten.
On the River Severn leg all the kids were disgruntled because the locks were power operated by an attendant. “When do we get to open a lock ourselves?” they complained. The kids were all over the boat like ants. If they were on the front they wanted on the back. When on the back they wanted on the front. It was the same with the locks, back and forth from lock to boat and boat to lock. Zane lost his footing and went into the lock water. I grabbed him by the seat of his pants and pulled him on board. After twenty consecutive hand operated locks on the Stourport Canal the kids were complaining, “Do we have to open another lock?”
Since the Avon Ring stretch would take most of a day we decided to moor for the night between two locks. The lower locks were leaky and the upper locks held fast, thus the entire area between the locks drained overnight. We awoke the next morning grounded on a muddy bottom. We had to open three locks above to get enough water to float the boat.532 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 533 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
Birmingham awaited us on the other side of a long tunnel through the mountain. A very small light shone at the end of the two-mile tunnel. Half way through Bonny killed the engine and lights amid screams of anguish from the rest of us. Birmingham is a murky and grim industrial area with many derelict factories. A huge wharf rat scurried along a brick ledge just in front of our wake. He turned and gave us an angry stare before scurrying into an empty warehouse. In Birmingham we visited the Black Country Museum, a self-contained village of shopkeepers dressed in dated costumes of the Industrial Revolution. It was like a step back in history two hundred years. We passed through the industrial area and were soon overlooking a huge shopping mall with a monorail connected to modern office flats. We soon came to Cadbury’s chocolate plant. The kids went to look but came back disillusioned because they wanted five pounds for a tour and a “free” sample.
We dined the next night at a local pub. We now were dining out most evenings. We took an open upper deck bus tour of Stratford-on-Avon and visited Shakespeare’s home and Ann Hathaway’s cottage.
We made our way downstream to Eversham, a beautiful little Cotswold village where Kay took the train to London to catch her flight to Moscow. We arrived back at our marina at Upton on Severn in time for Angela to tidy up the boat one more time. Bonny went by train to Haywards Heath in Sussex to pick up a van to take us to Tunbridge Wells for the weekend, and then to Gatwick Airport Monday. We took a less traveled road to Gatwick down leafy country byways and quiet villages as golden autumn colors bid us a grand farewell.
Ann and Fred have always had a wanderlust about them for travel. They like to visit offbeat and out of the way places. They seldom ever take the usual tourist treks to the usual tourist spots. They love the experience of meeting and getting to know people in their social and cultural environment. One such trip was to Malta in 1996. Ann and Fred made contact with a couple on the island through a mutual English friend in Tunbridge Wells. Following is Fred’s account (condensed and edited) of their trip:
The Mediterranean Sea has always been a charismatic ancient center of civilization holding many mystical secrets in its memory yet to be discovered by those who venture into the soul of this wonderful world of days gone by.
As the gentle dusk of evening slowly extended its arms around this ancient sea, our flight from London descended into a ring of shimmering lights along the shoreline of the timeless island of Malta. This jewel of the Mediterranean has a long and interesting history involving many ancient people including important events in the life of the Apostle Paul.
A narrow cobblestone street led us to the home of George and Carmen, Malta natives. They had invited us to visit and stay with them in their five-story flat. It was two rooms wide with a winding stairway to the roof. They had lived there “forever”, and no wonder. George said their rent was the equivalent of seventeen American dollars per month. It was located within the ruined walls of a bastion built around the 17th Century by the Knights of Malta. It reeked with Mediterranean flavor.
We were shown to our bedroom on the third floor. It was a marvelous little room with a balcony overlooking the rooftops and old church steeples of the inner city and waterfront cove. Lace curtains flowed through an open window with a gentle breeze bring-ing in the sounds and smells of this island life in this strange world.
Malta’s history extends almost as far back as written records. It was a key trading port for the Phoenicians about 1000 B.C. It has been occupied by the Romans, Arabs, Turks, Spanish, French and English. Much of the Western World remembers Malta as the island upon which the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked in about 60 A.D. and he was shown “no little kindness by the barbarians” living there. St. Paul’s Bay has been marked by a cross and is promoted as a tourist attraction.
George is of Greek extraction while Carmen is Maltese. I’m not sure what races are involved in the term Maltese. They showed us all hundred and twenty-two square miles of the island in an old Russian Lada automobile. It was exciting to ride with George. He approached every intersection roundabout at breakneck speed. He said that whoever got there first had the 534 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 535 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
right of way. The only roads that got maintenance were the ones traveled by visiting celebrities.
Carmen was a wonderful cook. We always drank Coca-Cola at meals which suggested the water supply wasn’t the best. George teaches welding and crafts at a local polytechnical school and preaches for the church.
While George was at school for the day we accompanied Carmen by bus to the Capitol City of Valletta across the bay. The bus plummeted down narrow streets at white-knuckle speed. Wiping sweat from our brows we finally disembarked at our destination. We wandered through quaint shops and stopped for tea at an outdoor cafe listening to church bells across the square. The port looked no larger than ten football fields yet an American aircraft carrier was there for several days.
It still remains that the real joy of traveling is much more than just sight-seeing. If it were not, I probably would never leave home. To me, it is participation in the lives of others whom you have never met but can identify with for a short time. It is always rewarding to find those who are completely honest and open and who will not take any recompense, even for their expenses.
Ann and Fred have a passion for things English, thus they have taken several trips to visit Merry Old England and its environs. In 1998 one such trip was the result of an ill-fated plan to visit the Emerald Isle that went awry, so instead they spent a few days reminiscencing in some of their old haunts of Devon and Cornwall. They then went to Bristol where they borrowed a car from a friend and drove to Glasgow, Scotland. From there they decided to visit the Hebrides. Following is Fred’s account (condensed and edited):
We decided to visit the Hebrides, a place that has held a fascination for me ever since reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped. I longed to witness those fabled desolate realms inhabited by the MacDonald, MacLeod, Stuart, and Campbell clans.
After an enjoyable farm bed and breakfast on a hillside overlooking Loch Lomond, we left the car at the airport and hopped a flight to Stornaway, a remote village on Lewes Island in the Outer Hebrides.
We rented a small car and ventured to the far side of the island. Black heather and stunted broom dominated the desolate moorland. Occasionally we caught a glimpse of a lonely cottage high upon the moors. None of the cottages had paint, very little brick and virtually no wood, just dull stone construction. Constant wind and rain wore the paint off unprotected buildings. The few trees were stubby, bent and gnarled.
As dusk approached we chanced to find a quaint village overlooking a quiet bay and rugged stretch of shore. We found a bed and breakfast that happened to be the home of none other than Angus MacDonald, retired seaman and more recently constable of that district. His wife, Arlene, was a sturdy and friendly woman of considerable talent. She was also a sometime constable in Stornaway. They both spoke fluent Gaelic.
After an excellent evening meal of crab cakes, vegetables and trifle we retired with Angus to a room with a great window overlooking the bay and ocean beyond. We watched the evening shadow edge its way along the rocky cliffs while each wave died among the myriad of pebbles along the beach. The sharp but pleasant scent of peat wafted through the room as it smoldered in the fireplace. Angus reminisced about the days when he was at sea. He had been around the world a number of times and had been to Houston several times. Presently, Arlene served tea with biscuits. She joked about her family being the honorable ones on the island while Angus washed up on shore after a life of crime at sea. As I gazed around this warm room filled with family remembrances of their life on this island I wouldn’t trade these rare moments for a palatial suite at a posh hotel–not for a moment.
The next day, being the Lord’s Day, we asked Angus where we might attend church. We attended an orthodox Church of Scotland a few miles distant as observers. That evening we went to church with Angus and his son who is a steward on a mainland ferry that docks at Stornaway.
We awoke the next morning to a steel gray sky laden with low dark billowing storm clouds amid a stiff wind. Midmorning found us at a remote tip of the island at a stone fenced 536 William E. “Bill” Davidson Family 537 ANN LUVIDA DAVIDSON
graveyard. Angus directed us there to see the MacDonald family gravestones, as well as those of ancient clansmen and the occasional body washed ashore by an unforgiving sea. The gravesites were sheltered in a tiny cove amid huge cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I pulled my heavy overcoat around my shoulders and climbed some awesome cliffs by way of an ancient pathway high above the angry waves lashing large stone islands near the shore. The cold wind tore at my coat as I gazed spellbound out to sea toward America.
That evening Angus invited us to join his family in a community sheep shearing the next day. Sheep roamed at will around the island and fences were rare. The women of each family held and sheared the sheep after the men identified and caught the ones with their mark. I had on a sweater and coat. I was cold. Angus’ daughter wore a light sweater and shorts. Her legs were beet red as she kept shearing without a complaint.
As it was we stayed with Angus and Arlene the entire four days of our visit. The Hebrides, cloaked as they are by that “brooding Scottish sky” constantly purified by wind and rain, are hauntingly beautiful. I can quite understand how someone could seek spiritual solace and freedom from the riggers of modern humanity and feel they have discovered spiritual fulfillment in a place such as the Hebrides.
After nine years in Russia Kay and Charles moved to Almaty, Kazakhstan to continue work for the church. Ann and Fred had never heard of the place and did not even know where it was located on the planet. In a few months Kay and Charles invited Ann and Fred to visit, so they set about making plans and arrangements.
Kay and Charles invited us to visit, so of course Fred and I made our plans. We were to leave on September 18th. We had our tickets in hand and bags nearly packed when September 11th happened. Most of the family begged us not to go. I was in a quandary of indecision, but Fred was adamant not to be deterred by the terrorists. We set off on the appointed day and arrived in Almaty without incident.
We were pleasantly surprised to see how progressive Almaty is. The nearby mountains are beautiful. We made several trips into the mountains and played in the snow. We seldom ever see snow where we live. We spent one day at the Grand Canyon of Kazakhstan and were within eyesight of China.
A few days after we arrived the war in Afghanistan began and we were a little nervous about our return trip to the States. Charles mapped out a train route for us to take across Russia and Europe in the event we were unable to get a flight from Kazakhstan. As it turned out our flight was still operating and we arrived home safely.
After a few years with Ann’s help the place in the country near Flatonia looked more and more like a little bit of the English Countryside sitting in the middle of the South Texas plains. They spent many weekends relaxing in the country and working to improve their ‘get-away’ in the country. Fred did all the considerable brick work and became quite an accomplished brick mason. He built an elaborate fishpond with a small Dutch-like windmill. He made a rampart sort of like one on an old English castle. It became known as “Fred’s Folly.” It has minimum living quarters and an upper deck where to sit and gaze across the Texas plains at the setting sun. The most recent project was a rather large aviary with live plants and places for birds to nest. The latest report is a pair of canaries hatched off at least two offsprings.
When Fred isn’t busy building something he is usually busy thinking and planning what to build next. Only God and Fred knows.
In their seventies Ann and Fred retired and moved permanently to their English cottage near Flatonia. They set aside a small plot for a family cemetery. Planning ahead Fred set their headstone for their exact burial plot. Two years later they sold their storage business and property in Houston. Their only connection to Houston is now Bonny and his family.