by Roger Davis, Son of Ralph
It has been so cool how you model railroaders have come into the shop and told me what you
thought of my dad.
I knew the man for 56 years, but in my own home, I had a slanted persepective. Knowing how you guys saw him
helps me know him better myself.
I like to think about the circumstances a person was born into, who his family were, and what the times
were, then cancel out all the givens and I am left with the character of the person.
Ralph was born in
the year of the Great Crash of '29, fourth born of 8 kids, in the mountains of western Maryland. His
mother's side of the family came to Maryland from Nova Scotia. Ten-year-old Thomas Fatkin's family was
shipwrecked on their first attempt to move to Maryland to get coal mining jobs, and 4 of 5 children, plus
the mother, died at sea. Thomas's father Charles carried Thomas on his back until they were rescued,
and three years later they succeeded at getting to Maryland. Thomas worked in the mines 12 hours a day,
seven days a week, and after work he read. He became a school teacher, and was eventually elected to
the Maryland State Legislature.
What Dad got from Fatkin, and the Great Depression times of his childhood, were the habits of hard
work and frugality. I remember once when I was a kid, he asked how long it took me to wash my hands
after using the bathroom. It was less than 10 seconds, so he explained that by turning the hot water
handle, I was causing the water heater to turn on, without ever actually getting any hot water. He
explained that I was wasting money, and I should only turn on the cold.
When little Ralph was 8 years old, the family was better off than they had ever been. Ralph even had
a Red Ryder guitar! Then their house burned, and it was all lost. From that time forward, his mother
was emotionally disinclined to keep living in the same house for more than about a year, so they moved
around frequently. IIRC, Dad went to 13 different schools. You go to a new school, they are ahead
of where your old school was, or they are behind. Either way, you lose out, and Dad always felt he
suffered from lack of education. He was a brilliant man, but he realized the value of education.
Thomas Fatkin, he read. He hardly ever read a "story book", besides GUADALCANAL DIARY, but if he needed
to perform brain surgery, he would get a couple books, and parse every sentence until he fully comprehended
how to do the thing.
Coming Soon: More Links!
More About His Life: Roger's Eulogy
Photos of Ralph and his Family