By Gilbert E. Davis
Avaiator Test Pilot
It was in the afternoon on Christmas Day that I arrived at Anderson’s
home with less than a quarter of a tank of gas and 50 cents in my
pocket. Scott couldn’t believe I made it. I was so tired that I went to
bed and slept for a day and a half. I used my little brown book to find
a Bishop near Cranford. I found the Short Hills Ward and started to get
to know some of the members. One of the first members I met was Dewitt
Paul who was the executive vice president of Beneficial Life Insurance
Co. I talked to his wife, who when she saw my handwriting, wondered if
she could hire me to do her genealogy in script. The Paul’s home cost
$25,000 a year in upkeep alone.
Karen Daniels (1962)
On New Year’s Eve the Bishop was host of a party for the youth of the
ward and I went even though I didn’t know anybody. I had been at the
party for about fifteen minutes when a couple came in. He was a tall
skinny nerd while she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She
had brown shoulder length hair, brown eyes, and the voice of an angel.
All I could think of was I’m going to take her away from him. Some ten
minutes later she came over and introduced herself and visited for a
while. I had her phone number and address and yes, I took her away from
him and was he ever mad. Her name was Karen Daniels. Our first date was
ice-skating on a private pond and did we have fun. While sitting in my
car to get warm, I could have leaned over and kissed her. I didn’t kiss
her and if I had things might have been different.
One afternoon I went over to Karen’s home and visited with her and her
mother. Her mother was so nice to me. Karen and I went into the front
room and talked until I thought it was nine or ten o’clock when her
father came in and said, “Karen honey, it’s 3 o’clock in the morning.”
I left in a hurry and felt like a jerk.
A week or so later, I called Karen and ask her to the Ward Gold and
Green Ball. She said yes and we talked for a few more minutes and I
said goodbye. When I hung up the phone and walked to the other side of
the kitchen, for the first and only time in my life, I walked on air-my
feet felt like they weren’t touching the floor. Then came the time of
the dance. I gave Karen a white orchid and Mr. Anderson let me take his
pink Oldsmobile. When I took Karen home it was the devil that made me
feel that I wasn’t good enough for her. I told Karen that I couldn’t go
out with her anymore. She said, “Was it something I did? Was it
anything I said?" All I said was no, and that was the last time I
dated her. It bothered me so much to see Karen at church that I decided
to leave New Jersey and go back to Florida. As an interesting note,
during the time I dated Karen Daniels, I was a priest, and the teacher
for the priest class at the Short Hills Ward was Harold Bickmore, the
president of the National Biscuit Company. I quit my job at Western
Electric, sold my hot rod Ford and flew to Florida.
In the summer of 1962, I was back in Florida. I worked construction and
spent time working on my motorcycle. My motorcycle was a road racer and
was really fun to ride. There is no place like Florida for swimming. I
spent a good share of time at Rock Springs and Dream Lake. We used
Blackwelder’s boat for water skiing in Dream Lake. We did most of our
skiing with one ski as it is so much more fun. There was a swimming
pool at Warren’s and we had some fun parties there.
While in Florida I had a dream about Eileen, my elementary school
sweetheart. In my dream, I was west of Apopka swimming in a lake. It
was getting dark so I swam for shore. As I stood up near the shore,
Eileen came toward me and put her arms around my neck, laid her head on
my shoulder and said, “Take me home." Then I woke up, what a
I did a little more work on my motorcycle and took it to Utah.
In the winter of 1963, I was back in Provo and enrolled in BYU on the
basis of my G.E.D. test scores. While at the BYU, I had one memorable
motorcycle wreck with Juli Jensen. We rode up Alpine loop and I was
making good time when all at once I hit a stream of water from some
melting snow. It cut the motorcycle out from under us. I flew over the
handlebars and Juli landed on top of me in the ditch. Juli was shaking
so bad, it took her almost half an hour to get calmed down. We had no
problem on the way back.
I got interested in gymnastics and was doing very well. One day I was
working out on the high bar and didn’t have enough chalk on my hands
and I slipped off the bar at about 10 o’clock high. My spotter thought
I was doing a flyaway dismount so he didn’t try to stop me. I missed
the mat and hit the hard wood floor (hard wood over concrete). I landed
on my head and shoulder which could have killed me or resulted in brain
damage. God was with me again, as I was only knocked out for a few
minutes with optic damage, where I couldn’t see right; only lasted for
a few hours.
I found Karen Daniels at BYU, and ask her out on a date but she said
no. My grades were good and I was having a good time, so goodbye Karen.
My sister Mary Kay was giving flute lessons to a beautiful talented
Helen Gardener. She had been a junior at B.Y. High when I was a senior
there. She and I drove to Lagoon, north of Salt Lake City to hear the
Four Preps. I had also taken Helen to a dance, Oriental Autumn at
Wasatch School on October 26, 1962. I finally finished my oil painting
of Helen. I climbed up the drainpipe at B.Y. High and into the bathroom
window on the second floor. I then went down stairs and hung my
painting of Helen in the main hall. It had an engraved plaque on it,
“Outstanding Senior Girl of 1962”, and was that painting ever
beautiful! One of my best, I’d say. I finished the term with a 3.07 GPA.
My grandmother Katherine’s time had come. She died at 90 years old.
Mary Sue (1963)
In the summer, I spent time at Daytona Beach and did we have fun. Mary
Sue was a beautiful girl with long black hair and the most perfect
hands I had ever seen. I painted a picture of her, a back view showing
her perfect hand on a rock. I had been spending time over at the
Haddocks and one night Mary Sue and I were in the living room alone.
She leaned up and kissed me. The next day I told her, I just didn’t
feel right about the relationship—I broke her heart.
University of Utah
I was spending most of my time in the fall of 1963 working at the
University of Utah for Jelco Construction Co. of Salt Lake City. I was
earning money to go back to the BYU. I worked during the day and
attended two night classes at the U of U. Just before I stopped working
at the U of U, a big backhoe broke a high-pressure water main. This
sent 50,000 gallons of water and tons of mud into the heating tunnels
and flooded the basement of the Parks Bldg. Up to 30 lb. boulders
landed in the parking lot along with a flood of water. What a mess, mud
everywhere. Oh well, it just meant more pay checks.
While working for Jelco, I rode my 10-speed bicycle to live with the
Duggars family in Bountiful. They had been so kind to me in Florida. At
this time, I was buying surplus airplane parts with hopes of building
Just before starting classes in the fall at the BYU, I saw something I
just had to have. It was at Guthrie’s Bicycle Shop, a beautiful, well
built, Adams unicycle. I only had two weeks before school started in
the fall of 1964 to learn to ride the unicycle. When I first tried to
ride the unicycle, I thought no one could ride one of these things.
Well, I did learn to ride the unicycle and could ride straight, in
circles, down stairs and ride carrying books in both hands. I was the
only student with a unicycle that was allowed, bicycles were not
allowed on campus. I hit a patch of ice one day and the books, unicycle
and myself were scattered all over the walkway. Another time, I was on
a sidewalk west of campus, since I was so quiet the girl I was
overtaking didn’t hear me. Result, I almost knocked her down when she
jumped in front of me.
BYU (fall 1964)
I enrolled in the fall semester and everything was going fine. One day
in the science center, I helped a girl on with her coat. That was the
beginning of a budding romance. She was a German Princess and we dated
for about a year. Her name was Heidi Woljen and she was a delightful
beauty. We had some fun times until we broke up.
My classes were a little harder for me and my GPA was 2.77.
I entered the gymnastics intramurals and I took second place.
At the end of the semester Ross and I built a luggage trailer out of
the rear end of an old Studabaker. Ross bought an old oil burning
Plymouth that we hooked to the trailer and loaded it with trunks, etc.
We picked up our riders and headed to Florida.
Homebuilt Sports Car (1964-1965)
I sold the Plymouth and bought an English Ford Angela and decided to
build a little sports car. I worked over at the cape and loaded boxcars
to earn money for the sports car. I cut, welded, and bent to form the
parts for the car. The engine was a little four cylinder flat headed
Ford. I used the tubes from a swing set for my frame. The front of the
body and the seats were fiberglass. The gas gauge was a PDI gauge like
they used in a B-17. The engine was supercharged and it would really
go. The stock clutch would slip because the springs were not strong
enough. I had to use truck clutch springs to stop the slipping. The
little sports car was loads of fun to drive and I later traded it to
grease Mike for a 1950 Jaguar XK-120 roadster. When it was rebuilt it
would do 134 miles per hour. The girls really liked my Jaguar.
I had been working on my Jaguar in Provo and Carl Ruediger and I
decided to go to California. Since the Jaguar engine wasn’t rebuilt yet
I took a bicycle frame and welded it and made a tow bar for the Jaguar.
The Jaguar was loaded to the top with tools and Jaguar parts. Carl’s
Volkswagen would tow the Jaguar. Carl’s VW was loaded to the roof too.
Up the hills we would be doing 25 mph while down the hills we sometimes
hit as high as 90 mph. We got a two-bedroom apartment in Fullerton and
While in this apartment, I had an experience with the power of the
devil. It happened one night about 2 o’clock. The streetlight was
shining through the window and a light wind was making the door bump. I
looked at the door and just knew that there was something so evil on
the other side of that door I wouldn’t open it for $1,000,000. As I
looked at the door, the evil power hit me and I tried to call for Carl
to help me. I couldn’t speak, was not able to move or even blink my
eyes. All the time, I felt that if I couldn’t get help I would be
killed. I prayed in my mind and bang, the evil power was gone. I sat
there for a few minutes wondering if it all was a dream, and bang, it
hit me again. This time I did what Moses did. I commanded the evil
power to depart in the name of Jesus Christ (since I had the
priesthood) and bang, it was gone for good this time. For the next few
nights, I slept with the light on. This was the worst thing that ever
happened to me. It was like the evil power that tried to destroy Joseph
Smith. I didn’t see a light to counter the darkness and evil, but I
know that prayer and the power of the priesthood is more powerful than
Carl and I had jobs and I rebuilt my Jaguar engine in the kitchen in
our apartment. We got S&H green stamps and used them to take dates
to Disneyland. We went to the Friday night danced in Long Beach. There
was always something to do in California. I sold the Jaguar to Carl and
bought a 1954 Ford for $40 dollars. I sold the Ford and bought a 1957
Chevy. It was a fine car. Everything was fine, that is, until I blew up
the engine on a trip to Utah. I had to get a short block for the
engine. I sold the 1957 Chevy.
In the winter of 1966, I took a trip to Michigan. In a couple weeks, I
had a job at Lear Avia working on aircraft autopilots, gyros and all
other electronics. The pay was good and I was able to save money. I
lived with Viola and John Armstrong. There is so much snow on the roads
in Michigan that they have to use a lot of salt. The result of all the
salt is the rusting of the cars to the point that body parts rust and
fall off. In the company parking lot a car had a front fender fall off
and the driver just drove on and left it. When I gave my two weeks
notice at Lear, I got a nice card from all the workers in my section
that was entitled Mister Congeniality, I was impressed.
I had a lot of good times at Viola’s daughter’s home. The Streeters
were a fine family and I was looking forward to seeing Pam after she
came home from BYU. I went with the Streeters to see my first James
Bond movie. The Streeters had on old 1959 Chevrolet station wagon that
died in their yard. Since I didn’t have a car, I bought it for $50
dollars. I pulled it over to Armstrong’s home and took the engine out
in their back yard. The Streeters had pulled off the cylinder head and
let antifreeze run down into the cylinders and rusted all the pistons
up tight. I took the crankshaft out. With a big piece of wood and a big
hammer I beat the pistons out. The cylinders were sanded and cleaned.
New piston rings and bearings were installed. When I finished my $50
car ran fine.
Just before I left Michigan, I met Linda at a church dance. She was
cute and had dark hair. When the dance was over she said she needed a
ride home so I took her home. She had two little children, one about
four and the other five. Linda fixed dinner and as we visited she told
me that she was divorced. As we sat down to the table to eat, the
five-year-old boy turned to me and said; “Are you going to be our new
daddy?” That was something to think about. After the children were in
bed, Linda and I sat in the front room and with my arm around her we
talked. As we talked about this and that, she said she knew my cousin
Chuck MacCarther and had lived near him. Chuck was the first boy to
kiss her when she was 16. She was all worried; because she was sure she
was going to get pregnant. She told me how mean her husband had been
and then told me that her divorce was not final yet. And here I was
sitting with my arm around a married woman all alone. I said goodnight
and went home. I never saw Linda again before I left Michigan but we
did write letters to each other for a while.
My 1959 Chevrolet Station Wagon
I packed up and left Michigan and headed for Utah. I made good time as
I could make about 80 miles hour with my Chevrolet. My overhaul job had
worked out fine. I was flying down the highway in Kansas when bang,
bang, something happened to my engine. I shut down the engine and
pulled off the valve cover. Now I could see the problem. A valve spring
collar had broken and let the exhaust valve fall into the cylinder. I
looked in my toolbox and found a piece of copper tubing, which I split
and wrapped it around the valve after I removed the valve spring. Well
the old wagon could still be pushed up to almost 80 mph on five
cylinders. I didn’t stay long in Utah before Charles Snider and I were
headed to California. Oh yeah, I had fixed my engine in Utah where I
could use my father’s tools. Now I was running on all six cylinders
again. Charles and I made a quick trip to California. We stayed with
Carl DiProfio in Anaheim for a couple of months during which time we
pulled the engine out of my station wagon and put it in Douglas’s truck.
Boeing 747 Jet Airliner
I now had a Volkswagen Bug. Charles Snider and I went to Salt Lake City
to answer an ad for aircraft workers for Boeing. We would be working on
the largest airliner in the world. In the fall of 1968, Charles and I
were loaded up and headed for Washington. We had just got across into
Washington when my car died. I checked for spark, there was no spark.
The points were OK, so it must be the spark coil. We were in the middle
of nowhere but as I kicked around in the logging co. parking lot, lo
and behold, I kicked up a spark coil. It wasn’t a VW coil, but it
worked. It was a miracle! We got back in the bug and drove on to
Everett, Washington. There were so many people moving in to Everett
that after a couple days looking for a place to live, we thought we
would never find one. Charles and I finally found an apartment and we
went to work at Boeing.
The 747 were so big that the building was the largest building in the
world. I worked on the wiring in the big wings. The wings were so big
that they held over 20,000 gallons of fuel. At the root of the wing it
was so big that you could put up a ping-pong table and play there. It
was a tight fit in the wing near the tip but I could still wiggle in.
There were bicycles all over the building to carry blueprints and small
parts. The engines were Pratt and Whitney JT9Ds and had an 8 ft.
opening at the face of the big fan.
I had some flying lessons while I was working for Boeing. In October, I
flew and boy were the clouds a problem! They would roll in and they
made it really hard to find the airport. I was flying in a Champion 7AC
and was it ever fun.
When I was finished at Boeing, I loaded up my VW with so much stuff
that I burned up my clutch. Then my generator burned up and I limped
into Provo, Utah with my lights so dim I could hardly see the road.
Industrial Dynamics (1968-1969)
I designed a wheel and brake for light aircraft and tooled up to
produce them. The wheels were cast aluminum and the castings worked
fine. It was a different story when it came to the caliper for the disc
brake. There was porosity in the metal and the brake fluid leaked
through the caliper. The only way to stop the fluid from leaking was to
cast the caliper in cast iron. All this put our deliveries behind and
we started having mad customers. We had invested a lot of money in
tools and things were not looking too well.
| The Early
The Teen Years
Young and Single
The Wheel Chair