Point Loma’s Jack Allen Davis – Pilot and Adventurer of a Bygone Era

by on October 23, 2017 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

A young Jack Davis

By Brett Warnke

San Diego historian Karen Scanton presented “Read the Book Before you Fly ‘Em,” a lecture focused on Point Loma’s Jack Allen Davis, Jr. at last Thursday’s – October 19th – OB Historical Society’s monthly event.

In a series of slides at the newly branded Water’s Edge Faith Community – formerly the United Methodist Church -, Scanton offered a biographic lecture focused on the life of a local adventurer.  Davis was a flyer but he was also a yarnspinner—“the train tore down the tracks and tooted its tooter”—and a speculator who bought and sold surplus aircraft after World War II.

Davis built and operated Red Sails Inn (closed in September 2016) and later, Palomar Airport.  In one of Scanton’s examples, Davis bought small planes like the Howard DGA-15P and when he met airport workers on the runway who looked on in awe, pointing to several Howards, notoriously difficult to land, that had crashed and lay in ruins nearby.

Karen Scanlon at OBHS event, Oct. 19, 2017. Photo by Brett Warnke

What’s amazing to a contemporary listener is how a working guy like Davis, the son of a commodore who died in 2006, was able to start a business and buy and sell 59 planes in his lifetime.  He would simply sit down and read the manual before getting in unfamiliar planes.  He seemed to be a fast learner about anything with wings.

True, it speaks to the savvy of the man, but also a bygone era when the possibilities for regular people in the country — to start businesses or purchase planes for profit — were so much greater.

“I vowed that I would become a pilot one day,” he told Scanton.

The smalltown atmosphere of San Diego allowed for Davis to learn to fly at Camp Kearny and even squat for years on the waterfront and operate a business until, with a smile and a shrug, he was directed by a port official to legitimately purchase property for a small business he could start.  Could you even imagine how such a “freeloading squatter” would be treated by the Point Loma yacht snobs today?  The fines?  The scandal?

Postwar abundance allowed men like Davis the opportunity to pursue their interests in ways young people today, burdened by debt and low wages and few options, simply cannot even fathom.  Davis’s story was of a man who soared, taking wing, in his words, “like a homesick angel.”

But it was a confident and fairer economy that offered men like Davis fair wind to pursue their dreams.  In today’s treacherous waters, so many young men with Davis’s pluck are oddly becalmed and would likely look on the high-flying, charming pilot with nostalgia, awe, and a bit of jealousy.

Editor: Here’s an interview of Jack Allen Davis from 1998 – part of the San Diego Historical Society’s Oral History Program. He passed away on June 24, 2006 – here’s his obituary from the San Diego U-T. Also, see Karen Scanlon’s article at The Beacon from just about one year ago.

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avatar Karen Scanlon October 23, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Hey, thanks, OB Rag, for the ‘toot’ on my presentation on Jack Allen Davis, Jr. at OB Historical Society last Thursday. There is so much more material on Jack and his buddies, Sailor Main and Ed Barr, than I had time to present, but we covered some good air space. Interesting to note, the boat launching ramp on Shelter Island is still located where Jack Davis told Port Director John Bate to put it. That ramp is being rehabilitated in the months to come. Hats off to Jack!
Karen SCANLON

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