Gwendolyn Davis Clark
Biography
School staff photo.
Gwen Clark circa 1970.

Gwendolyn Ann Davis was born in San Francisco, California, on April 28, 1912 to Anna Goodwin Davis and Ephraim Rees Davis. She passed away in Bellevue, Washington, on October 22, 1996.

She attended 19 schools during her childhood in California, Idaho, Colorado, New York and elsewhere, as she and her mother followed Dad in his up and down career as a business promoter. The only ones I can name are John Adams JHS in Los Angeles and Modesto HS in Modesto, California, whence she graduated in 1930. Her memory of her childhood faded in later years, but she often spoke of the night in New York City in the 1920s when she went to the opera and heard Enrico Caruso, Amelita Gallicurcci and Ernestine Schumann-Heink together in a single performance.

Gwen's father died within one month of the stock market crash of 1929, leaving her and her mother with the clothes on their backs and not much more. The will to education was strong. Gwen graduated high school and attended two years at Modesto Junior College while working at J.J. Newberry's, in various (apricot and other) canneries in the Central Valley, and at any other work they could get.

In 1932, she transferred to Santa Barbara State Teachers College (now UC Santa Barbara), where she was active in theater and worked nearly full time. Her mother moved to Santa Barbara after one year and managed a boarding house for undergraduate female students while working as a sales clerk during the day.

Gwen earned a teaching certificate and landed her first job at Beardslee School near Bakersfield, California, in 1935. Her stories of the migrant families whose children she taught could have been chapters in The Grapes of Wrath. She remained there until 1942, during which time she met and married Sgt. (later Capt.) Perry Alexander Clark, Jr., who was stationed at a nearby Army air base and later in India. In 1943 she gave birth to her only child, Alex Rees Clark.

The war took its toll of marriages, and Gwen's was no exception. She returned to teaching in 1944 in Montebello, California, and then took a job with the South Santa Anita School District in Temple City, California, in 1945. Mother Anna had come to help care for Rees in 1944, and the three of them moved to a new house in San Gabriel, California (adjacent to Temple City) in 1947, where she would remain for 47 years. Gwen designed the house, supervised its construction, and worked on finishing touches herself. The house was fully paid off by the mid-1950s, whereafter Gwen continued to make the same payments, but into a college fund for Rees.

Gwen served the reorganized Temple City Schools from 1945 until 1972 as classroom teacher, district wide art teacher and librarian. She survived the expected slings and arrows plus the career disadvantage of being female in an era of returning soldiers who could claim miracle military careers (many of which were really typing forms at Fort Ord). Despite the old boy network that saw replacement of the district's female administrators with men during the 1950s, Gwen remained as supervisor of instructional materials until 1970, when she returned to the classroom for her final two years as a teacher.

During her tenure in Temple City in the 1950s, the district grew from one school to six. Gwen was almost single-handedly responsible for the creation of libraries in each elementary school. She bought what she could, asked for more, built the shelves, labeled the books, stamped the cards and argued with the principals (some of whom, of course, wanted to put up football trophies instead of bookshelves). Because her work took her throughout the district, she became one of the best known teachers in Temple City.

During the 1950s, Gwen took Rees all over California and on one trip across the USA. In 1958 they travelled 9,000 miles in 29 days through the southwest, gulf coast, Florida, up the east coast to Boston, west to Niagara and Chicago, back across the plains to Colorado and back home to southern California. Gwen did 95% of the driving, as Rees was officially not a driver yet. Although, of course, they might well have used the same driver's license photo. In 1964 they went to Guatemala and Yucatan.

Gwen and Rees were fortunate to have Anna, who kept them both fed and clean. Anna lived until 1970, by which time Rees had a family of his own.

After retirement in 1972, Gwen travelled to Europe, Morocco, Britain and elsewhere, usually in the company of other retired teachers. She maintained ties to her colleagues throughout her life. Rees and Gwen went to Britain in 1986 and visited all the towns where her grandparents had been born in Wales and Scotland (along with certain obligatory landmarks of derivative cultures to the south and east).

Gwen remained in her home in San Gabriel until Summer of 1994, when she moved to Bellevue, Washington, to live with Rees and his sons, Gavin and Andrew. In the Spring of 1996, she had both knees replaced with prostheses to help her beat a bad case of arthritis. She recovered full use of her legs. The family liked to kid her about growing an inch at her age.

Our fantasy plans included a trip to Sian, China, to see the buried terra cotta soldiers in the ancient imperial palace. We last discussed it on October 20. But it wasn't to be; Gwen died, peacefully we believe, on October 22, 1996, surrounded by her son, grandsons, daughter in law and friends.

I have had the advantage of a superior education and career opportunities that my mother and her ancestors probably couldn't have imagined, much less anticipated. Sometimes it's tempting to think I did it myself. But I know better.

I miss her very much.

Rees Clark (Jan. '97)

small sepia portraits
Ephraim Rees Davis (photo c. 1890-95) and Anna Goodwin Davis (photo c. 1910).

Genealogy Notes & Stories I Heard

Mother: Anna Goodwin, born 1886, What Cheer, Iowa, was the daughter of Lavinia Fleming, born 1859 in Preston, England, and of Thomas Goodwin (born McKay, also spelled McKee; took mother's maiden name on arrival in USA for employment & family reasons), born Beath, Scotland, 1859. She grew up in Trinidad and the nearby coal camps of southeastern Colorado. We don't know why she was in Virginia City when she met her future husband; if you do, please write.

Father: Ephraim Rees Davis, born 1875, Samaria, Idaho, was the son of Elizabeth Williams, born Ystradgynlais, Glamorgan, Wales, c. 1835, and Thomas Davis (Davies), born Neath, Glamorgan, Wales, c. 1820. He was once secretary-treasurer of the Revere Car Co. Like Icarus, he flew high and crashed, but he did it more than once, and he kept getting up. (See also Ephraim Rees Davis.)

With their daughter, they seem to have lived in interesting times -- RC.

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