Maplewood History: Sterling P. Davison, Jr. Was A Mayor. Who Was Spencer Davis?

For the past few nights I’ve been staring at the computer screen, scrolling through my archive of historic Maplewood documents and photographs waiting for something to jump out and suggest itself for my next blog post.  Nothing has been jumping.

It’s not like I’m running out of material.  I have plenty. The love letters of William Lyman Thomas alone are huge.  But every time I sit down to try and coax a blog out of them I get overwhelmed.  There are far too many to put on this blog. Reading them and trying to decide what will interest the readers is taxing.  I think my brain is shutting down on that subject.

There is also a family story in Jim Fischer’s box that I have been meaning to sort out ever since he gave it to Luke Havel and myself several years ago.  I need to just sit down and do that. It’s an interesting story.

Scrolling through my file on the 1950’s in Maplewood, I came upon three images that I have never run.  They are from the collection of the Maplewood Public Library. All three feature a man identified as Mayor Spencer Davis in 1955 in what I guess are publicity shots.  They are by the photographer Joseph Granich. Mr. Granich was employed by the St. Louis County Observer newspaper that had its offices in Maplewood.

Three photographs are not much, I thought, so I reached for my handy copy of The First One Hundred Years, Maplewood MO where I remembered putting a list of the mayors of Maplewood and the years they served.  Well, guess what? There was no Maplewood mayor named Spencer Davis. There was one in the mid 1950’s named Sterling P. Davison, Jr. I don’t know if it was Mr. Granich who identified the man in the suit as Spencer Davis or someone else.  Did they mean Mr. Davidson? Or was there a Spencer Davis as well? I don’t know.

The information accompanying this photo from the Maplewood Public Library’s collection reads, ” Mayor Spencer Davis-1955-at the future Sunnen business park.”

Here’s a closeup.

This one reads, “Mayor Spencer Davis-1955-Oxford and Big Bend.” I can only speculate on the meaning of this image.  Is the message, “If I’m elected I’ll get this trash cleaned up?”  Or if he grew up like I did he might be saying, “There are some perfectly good concrete blocks down there.”

Notice that even though the pictures look like they were taken the same day, that’s a different fellow with him than the one in the first image. What’s that mean? Nothin’.

Here is the last one and my favorite. The information with this one is exactly the same as the last one. Mayor Spencer Davis-1955-Oxford at Big Bend.  By his pose I’d assume he is getting ready to start the gas engine on that pump.  But by the amount of water coming out the end of the hose, it looks like that engine is already running.  There is a third gentleman with him in this picture.  They are standing next to a small quarry.  I remember reading somewhere about the quarry on that site.  I just can’t remember where I read it.

From this closeup we can easily see that the rope he is posing with is doing nothing. Notice the knot in the end of it. It has been my experience that in order to start that engine you would need to slip that knot into a notch on that pulley on the other side of the engine, then wind the rope around the pulley and give it a hard pull.  The 1955 Oldsmobile body style in the background became a classic.  Many of them were customized.

This is the page from my 2008 book of Maplewood history. As you can see there are no mayors named Spencer Davis.


Perhaps one of you readers will remember somebody named Spencer Davis or more likely whoever labeled the images just got it wrong.

It is much easier to be optimistic at this time of the year.  That last short bitterly cold spell has to be the last.  I always think that if it snows now, it won’t be around for long.

Springtime.  I can’t wait.

Doug Houser       February 18, 2020


16 thoughts on “Maplewood History: Sterling P. Davison, Jr. Was A Mayor. Who Was Spencer Davis?

  1. In the first picture, what do you suppose that is in the upper left? It looks like a spire.

      • Jim, that is curious, isn’t it? I wonder if these images were somehow connected with him? Next time I’m at the library I’ll have to take look at them again. Maybe there is something else on the backs that can shed some light on this name mix up. Thanks for your recollection.

      • Hey Tom, A cursory search on the internet for Spencer Davis anchorman yielded results but they were totally unrelated to what I was hoping to find.

  2. I keep coming back to the obvious Spencer Davis, the singer from his self titled 60s British band with Steve Winwood doing the song “Gimme Some Lovin'”, but that was easily 10-12 years after these pictures were taken (and presumably labeled at the same time)…

    • Your gray matter is obviously working better than mine, Dan. I remember the Spencer Davis Group now but I didn’t until you reminded me. I Googled them and learned the band formed in Birmingham, England in 1963. Our supposedly mislabeled Spencer Davis was here in 1955. That is only eight years difference. Plenty of time to get from Maplewood to Birmingham if you ask me.

  3. Nancy Fennell Hawkins by email asked a couple of her buddies from school, Leon and Gloria Poole who said Davison was the mayor. Leon said Stirling Davison had a restaurant down by the Maplewood Theater.

    Thank you, Nancy, Leon and Gloria. We may never know where the name Spencer Davis came from. Perhaps the photographer stepped over to the Oxford Tavern after he finished the mayoral shoot?

    • Hey Ian, that neon Budweiser sign on the Big Bend side is pretty cool, too. I imagine there are still a few of those around. I dimly remember there was one on Morganford, I think. And also there was one on a tavern at the eastern end of the Grove on Manchester. Somewhere I have a slide of that one. I don’t remember the year but I took the photo when the neighborhood was still so challenging that I didn’t want to stand there for too long with my good camera out.

      • The neon Budweiser sign, I think there is one like it on the front of Pats Bar in Dogtown, at the corner of Tamm and Oakland.

        • Todd, Now that you mention it, I remember that sign at Pat’s. When they are in good shape those signs are very attractive. Thanks for your comment.

        • It isn’t close to Maplewood but there is one like that on BJ’s Bar and grill in Florissant at St. Ferdinand Street and Washington Street.

          • I like the old neon signs. I wish we had some of our vanished ones in Maplewood reinstalled. When I was a lot younger my friends and I did what we could to keep the Falstaff brewery in business. I think someone called it Fall flat. We thought of Stag which was brewed in Belleville, Illinois as being a beer that old men drank. From memory (I haven’t checked the internet) these words were on the front of every Falstaff can, “For over four generations our families master brewers have devoted their lives and skills to the making of this most rewarding beer. This is the choicest product of the brewer’s art.”