Clara Davidson’s father was a sailboat captain, same as his father before him.
A man of the Chesapeake Bay, Capt. Norman Bryan “carried freight up and down, all around the bay,” says Clara. “Produce, corn, wheat, watermelon, lumber, I believe sometimes coal. He was gone a lot, and we were all always happy when he came home. He’d bring things like oranges and bananas. Things we didn’t see every day. It was exciting,” she says. “He always told us a lot of stories.”
The second oldest of four sisters, Clara was born to Norman and Cora Carroll Bryan in 1921. Clara’s the last still with us.
Clara Bryan graduated from Stevensville High School at age 16, class of 1937, and was valedictorian, an honor she laughingly downplays by saying there were only 19 students, 3 boys, 16 girls, in the class and they had to pick somebody.
BL: “Where did you meet the man who’d become your husband?”
Clara: “I don’t know. I just sort of knew him.”
On reflection, however, it was probably at the Scheel family’s restaurant, The Little Dutch Mill, where Clara first became aware of the big and tall Kent Island farm boy named John Fountain Davidson. “The restaurant was this little white building across the street from what was the new Stevensville High School, and was where all the young people congregated. There was a jukebox and a little teeny space to dance. Later on they sold beer, but not back then. That’s probably where I started going out with Fountain.”
Fountain Davidson was younger than Clara Bryan but Clara says “age didn’t make any difference.” The two married in 1942 and raised six children, Joanne, John, Rebecca, Norman, Margaret, and Harry Jack.
Fountain “liked oystering alright, and he loved to fish”, but never really cared for the life of a waterman. He instead gravitated to road and bridge construction. Fountain passed away in August, 2004.
Clara has always enjoyed music – she loved singing with her friends when she was younger, and liked to dance. I would sew, but I also liked to fish.” Though she can’t quite match Fountain’s record- setting bluefish caught off Queen Anne’s marina in 1979, she does say, “I’ve got some citations myself” with a hint of pride.
Sitting in her Stevensville home on the north end of town, Clara says, “We’ve been here since 1957. When we moved here there was just Stevensville, no Cloverfields, no developments anywhere really. This may sound odd to you, but for a long time we knew by the sound of the car who was going by, whether it was John Benton, Babe Grollman, Walter Denny, we knew who it was. Now so many cars fly by here, zoom, zoom, zoom…I go out with my great-granddaughter when she catches the school bus and I can’t believe the amount of cars that go by.
“I made a list for my grandson of everything I used to be able to buy for a nickel or ten cents – candy, sodas, hamburgers, hotdogs, all that kind of stuff. He was amazed. I remember buying shoes for $2.98. The movies were fifteen cents during the day and a quarter at night.” Clara still enjoys going to the movies, but the costs floor her. She remembers buying a new car for $500. She’s amazed a stop at a gas station can cost folks a hundred bucks.
Besides the cost of things, another aspect of life today that amazes Clara is the pervasiveness of electronics in our daily modern existence. “Tablets, phones, computers. Children today can’t comprehend life without all their electronics. I remember when we didn’t even have electric.
“There’s so much more of everything now,” she says.
“I like the old things, I like to know whose they were and I make sure my children and grandchildren know the family connection. I have things that belonged to my grandmothers on both sides,” says Clara, “and my one grandmother was born during the Civil War.
“I have all the letters my son wrote me from Vietnam,” she says. “I still have some of my mother’s wedding gifts. I have pillows that belonged to my father’s mother. She died when he was young.” She pauses a moment. “Those are some o-o-o-old pillows,” Clara Davidson laughs, “but it’s all important to me.”