Davis, Grace

Written in 1932

Davis, Grace

Photo of Minnie and Grace Davis, Both sisters wrote autobiographies for NYU English courses, Photo courtesy of Davis Erhardt Collection


The following is a reprint of an autobiography by Grace Davis, in the Davis House of Coram. The autobiography was submitted on December 17, 1932 as part of the requirements for a course in Written English (Section 011.2) at New York University's Washington Square College. Submitted to Professor Boardman at NYU, the autobiographical paper received a grade of A.

To fully appreciate the feeling Grace Davis has for her ancestral home, one must know that her paternal ancestors have held possession of the land since 1752. In England this would scarcely be worthy of comment but in America, where homes are less permanent, it is significant. The struggles of four generations of Davises to wrest a living from the Long Island soil and rear their families have so endeared the homestead to her that she would never consent to its passing into the hands of strangers.

She considers herself most fortunate in having spent her childhood in the open country, free to explore its woods and fields. The sight of a strawberry patch for picking, the smell of blackwalnut stain on one's hands and the feeling of driving into the barn on top of a load of hay are experiences never to be forgotten.

Again, she is most thankful for an older sister and a younger brother. A loving and efficient mother supplemented by a kind and sympathetic father constituted an ideal home environment.

Her early education took place in a typical one room country school. She never remembers being taught anything, but she liked school and by persistently "asking herself another" from an antiquated textbook (such as Warren's Geography) she passed her Regents and entered high school at the normal age.

Graduation from the village high school and later a state normal school prepared her for the teaching position she now holds. She has been happy in her vocation and would undoubtedly choose the same profession again, but she would see to it that she had a more adequate preparation in the beginning. She believes in continuous education, but she also feels that too much "learning while earning" is detrimental.
Miss Davis contends that independence is the greatest asset of the rural school. She has always done things for herself and on two different occasions has attempted to prove that she can earn her living by methods entirely out of the teaching field. At the same time she has been careful to experiment during the summer vacation so as not to jeopardize her position.

Her first venture was that of saleswoman for Compton's Encyclopedia. She was introduced to the job by making a house to house canvass in one of the congested areas of a large manufacturing city. By persistent effort and grim tenacity she succeeded in selling forty sets during July and August, thus making a monthly wage equivalent to her teaching salary. Although she does not regret the experience she does not care to repeat it.

Her liking for the culinary arts is responsible for her second adventure. Having taken a few lessons at the candy institute, she converted her father's asparagus house into a candy cabin and amused herself for three successive summers by selling chocolates and bonbons to the patrons of a high class tea room. The confinement of business forced her to abandon the project. However, she still takes a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction in making candy for herself and friends.

Her once absorbing interest is travel. Contrary to most people, she likes to ride on a fast express. Perhaps her feeling in regard to a train is best defined in the following line by Emily Dickinson, " I like to feel it lap the miles and lick the valleys up." She has made two trips west visiting the scenic portions of the United States and has spent an entire summer in Europe. Natural beauty and the customs of people appeal to her more than the historic phase.

As to books and music she takes the middle ground. She cannot appreciate the extreme classical in either field. On the other hand she abhors jazz and the cheap novel. Music must have a pronounced melody and the novel a realistic and convincing tone if she is to obtain from it complete satisfaction.

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