Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Joy Davis, Inc.

It sounds almost like the lead-in to an off-color joke of sorts; “A furniture salesman, car dealer, and the justice of the peace walk into a trading post…” The joke would seem wilder if they all turned out to be the same man. Such are exactly the facts about my grandfather, Charles Joy Davis. He was a jack-of-all-trades, and a master of most. Throughout much of his early married life, Joy Davis could be considered an amalgamation of vocations and talents – if he could make a living doing it he did it. This was out of necessity, and not out of impulse or licentiousness. He understood what it was to be a man, and that meant doing all that he could to raise a growing family, and provide for their necessities in life.

Charles Joy Davis, with child, in the shadows of El Morro National Monument.
In 1921, following their marriage, Eulla Eliza Merrill and Charles Joy Davis began operating the Ramah trading post. As incentive, they newly married couple lived in a back room at the trading post. They were eventually relocated to run the Inscription Rock Trading Post about ten miles southeast of Ramah, near El Morro National Monument. 

Another transfer came and Joy and Eulla relocated to Zuni Pueblo where they began operating the Zuni Trading Post. The Zuni people, though this was the Roaring 20s, still lived on the corn, beans, and squash they had grown since before written history, supplemented with a little meat from an occasional deer or a sheep from the herds introduced by the Spanish. They sold their pelts to Trading Post, which were then shipped to New York. Contracts with wholesalers in Albuquerque provided the post with goods to sell and money to buy wool. In those days, the trading post had a "bull pen," the area in the middle of the store surrounding the potbellied stove where the Indians stood. The trader kept behind the counter and handed goods over from the stock in back. The high shelves were full of coffee, sugar, yard goods, pots, pans, kerosene lamps, and reels of colorful ribbon. There was also a social element in the trading post, especially on those bitterly cold winter days when people could spend some time gossiping around the glowing stove and do a little trading, too. While working in the trading post industry Joy honed his gift for gab, and learned to speak Navajo and Zuni. By the time 1924 came along, the Davis family had moved to Gallup, where Joy worked at the L G Shanklin Hardware and Furniture, and rented a home at 109 South Second Street.

They bought a home at 110 E Mesa Ave, just down the street from where Eulla’s sister May and her husband Dick White were living, they having moved to Gallup to establish the White Elephant Storage and Moving Company. 

Soon after, Joy was hired to operate the Crystal Trading Post about 50 miles north of Gallup. The family home was rented out and the whole family moved to Crystal.

Within the year, the family returned to Gallup and Joy took a job as manager of the McKinley County Hardware Co. In early 1927, another venture came Joy’s way and he entered into an agreement with Albert Lebeck. Together they bought the Oakland Pontiac dealership of Gallup, and Lebeck-Davis Motor Company was born. 

The Gallup Independent, June 1927
The Gallup Independent, April 22, 1927
On 3 April 1927 Joy bought Lebeck’s half of the dealership, renamed it Joy Davis, Inc. and was immediately “in the money.” 

The Gallup Independent, June 1927.

General Motors had introduced the Pontiac brand in 1926 as the 'companion' marquee to their Oakland division. Within months of its introduction, Pontiac was outselling Oakland. In 1927, Pontiac became the top-selling six cylinder engine in the U.S., ranking seventh in overall sales. 

In July, Joy leased space at the Grand Hotel at 306 W Coal Avenue, in Gallup and began to expand his business. 

306 W Coal Avenue, Gallup, NM
By November Joy opened a dealership office in Farmington, New Mexico. Initially Joy's business partner, Lawrence Clawson, was to run the Farmington branch, but business ventures in Ramah kept him from fulfilling his responsibilities. Joy split his time between Farmington and Gallup until he could hire George Williams to manage the Farmington office.

His expansion continued when on 12 January 1928, a grand opening dance and celebration took place at their new location in the Iehl building at 506 W Coal Avenue.

Iehl Building - 506 W Coal Ave, Gallup, NM
12 January 1928, Grand Opening of Joy Davis, Inc at 506 W Coal Avenue.
Joy Davis is at the lower right wearing a light colored suit, with his elbow bent pointing towards the crowd.
During 1927 and 1928, as side notes to the dealership, Joy was the Crosley radio dealer for western New Mexico[1] and dabbled in real estate, selling hillside lots in the newly annexed Highland Park addition of Gallup.[2]

Sales continued to increase, and so did Joy’s ideas for the business. Utilizing bold ideas Joy advertised in The Gallup Independent, even taking out an entire page in the newspaper to advertise a used car sale that included 25 gallons of free gas with every car purchased during the sale. He joined forces with other local businesses to support and advertise products such as Veedol oil, which was carried exclusively by Gallup Mercantile Company. He joined those same local businesses to welcome “the Methodists” to town for a convention hoping to lure them here for future business. 

His business prowess was remarkable. In April he acquired Mutual Motor Service, as the on site repair and service department for the dealership. In August, Joe Dunn joined Joy as a partner in Mutual Motor Service, which was quickly renamed D & D Motor Service. 

Pontiac, in August of 1929, granted Joy membership in the coveted 52-Car Club, he having sold over fifty-two vehicles during a single year. Car sales at Joy Davis, Inc., in a nutshell, were record breaking.

A lot can happen in two months, however. "Black Tuesday" struck Wall Street on 24 October 1929, and the Great Depression rumbled its way west; when it did, Joy could hold on for only a year before he was completely broke. Earlier that year Joe Dunn broke off and began selling the Nash line of automobiles under the business name D & D Motor Service. Joy downsized, moved his corporate office to the White Elephant Storage and Moving Company, and relocated his car lot to the Hart Building at 312 W 66th Avenue (US Route 66).[3] In 1930, he moved again, this time relocating the dealership lot to the Frkovich Garage on 5th Street, next to the Piedmont Hotel at 502 W 66th Avenue. Before Joy could catch himself he found he had lost his dealership, his home, $50,000, and his health.

On 1 April 1930, Joy packed the family and moved to Salt Lake City where had obtained a position as a sales representative at Joe Carpenter, Inc. Salt Lake City’s Oakland-Pontiac dealership at 47 W Fourth South Street.[4] The family lived in Salt Lake City for about a year, renting a home at 241 Belmont Avenue. In June of 1931, Joy and the family returned to their Ramah roots, where Joy opened a blacksmith shop, and built a house. Within three years Joy was elected Justice of the Peace and served in that capacity until he took a position with the Department of the Interior as a master mechanic; that job eventually led to another with Arizona Sand and Rock and the family moved to Arizona, but I'll save those details for another day...

And so, there you have the story of Joy Davis, Inc. A simple story of a simple man who was determined to do his family right in whatever profession he held be it trinkets, hardware, furniture, automobiles, or what have you.

Charles Joy Davis, circa 1950.

[1] Crosley, considered the Henry Ford of radios, began producing radios for the masses in 1920, selling them for a mere $7 per radio. Other brands sold for upwards of $100 apiece.

[2] Highland Park is situated southeast of downtown Gallup, in the foothills, taking in that area south of Route 66 near Ford Drive, south and east to Boardman Drive then west to where Boardman intersects with Second Street then north to East Logan Avenue on the north west. 

[3] Only a portion of the Hart Building remains, the main portion of the property is now a parking lot for the City of Gallup.

[4] Fourth South Street was eventually renamed University Avenue

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