Boxwell Greats: Ike Davis
Camp Cooks have a long history of importance at Boxwell. From 1921 to 1949, Walter Whittaker was the cook at Linton, the Narrows, and the first year at Rock Island. Pearl Schleicher was camp cook at Old Hickory from 1962 to 1994. Ike Davis was another great Boxwell cook.
Davis began working at Boxwell with the Rock Island Boxwell. His first summer with the camp was Whittaker’s last. And like Whittaker, Davis had a long history as a cook for Scout camps. In fact, as The Nashville Tennessean explained, Davis was on his 35th year as a “faithful colored” cook at a Boy Scout camp. The previous experience, as best we can gather, was in Davis’ home of Wheeling, West Virginia.
And this is where the mystery begins. We know very little about Davis. He came from West Virginia. Maybe. He may have come from Arkansas with Akers. He had a brother, Lovey. Maybe. He may not have had a brother, but just a good friend named Lovey. We don’t know when he was born or when he died. And honestly, we aren’t even certain how many years he was at the Rock Island Boxwell!
We do know that he had quite an impact while he was there. He cooked all the meals himself; there was no cook staff beyond Davis (potentially Lovey). This meant he was preparing about 600 meals a day. He made great pancakes and he stayed in a tent by himself near the dining hall tents (across the road from the modern all-season showerhouse).
Perhaps the best description of Davis came from one of Ward Akers’ sons, James. As the “boss’ kid,” many steered clear of James, but not Davis, who Akers described as “like a grandpa.” Davis “was a hoot” and taught Akers how to hambone, a skill he continue to entertain with for decades into the future. Davis told funny stories and “made camp really fun for me,” Akers recalled. Even this isn’t much, but it shows how much one person can make a difference.
The photos this week is of Ike Davis, peeling potatoes at the old Fielding Yost Lodge. The building is gone now, but if you’ve seen the buttercups in the spring, you know the spot.