Celebrating our Local Women's History
Stories from Women Living in the Southeast Valley as told by CGCC Students in partnership with Gilbert Historical Museum
Oral History of Flora Bell Davies
 

Oral History of Flora Bell Davies
Interviewed by Danielle Johnston March 12, 2008

Flora Bell Davies is not only my great-grandmother, she is a strong, independent woman who was ahead of her time. She is loving and the most generous person I have met. Respected by everyone in her family, along with her thirteen grandchildren and great-grandchildren, no one dares to call her "granny" or even "grandma"; it is "grandmother" or "Flora Bell," no exceptions.

Her mother, Callie Lily Smith was born and raised in Arizona, and her father Edward Beachamp came over in a covered wagon. Flora Bell was born in 1920 and raised in Arizona. Her parents owned and both worked on their farm until her father received a job as an office supply salesman in the city. While her father was away, her mother still kept up the farm along with raising three children: Flora Bell the eldest, Alita her younger sister, and their younger brother Eddie. They grew up on the farm playing and helping their mother and did not even having indoor plumbing until Flora Bell was in sixth grade. Her parents were the biggest influence on her as she was growing up; they showed their children continuous love no matter what and taught them that family was the most important thing. They taught their children the importance of hard work and to never give up.

Flora Bell attended the local middle school and went on to attend Phoenix College. She had been playing softball, along with her younger sister Alita, which became a big part of her life. Playing softball was a big deal for women since many people thought that the women had no place playing a "man's" sport. Flora Bell did not let this stop her, and she barely heard people saying derogatory comments. She was a part of a traveling softball team called the "Cantaloupe Queens". Softball was not only an important activity in her life, it was how she met her first husband, Larry Walker. Larry was not just her husband, he was her softball coach. To many people now this would be controversial for a coach to date his/her athlete; moreover, Larry was several years her senior, adding to this controversy. Flora Bell was in her first year in college and only nineteen when she married Larry. At that time, the university's rule forbade any married woman from attending the school. Flora Bell saw this as just another rule and did not take it hard, but she was friends with the dean of the school's son who was very upset about her forced expulsion. Just a couple years later, this rule was reversed, but Flora Bell saw no point in going back after being gone for so long.

The early years of Flora Bell and Larry's marriage were not pleasant ones and not years that she wishes to look back upon. Although, she did receive three wonderful gifts out of her marriage, her children: Larry (named after his father), Jim, and the youngest a girl, Linda, all of whom are still alive today. Flora Bell raised her children alone, leaving to catch the bus for the city early in the morning before they even got up to get ready for school. She remembers wondering and hoping they made it to the school bus on time.

There are many stories of her children but her fondest memory is of her two eldest boys (at times maybe too protective), always looking out for their younger sister. Flora Bell knew that she had three amazing children and did not have to worry about them. One story of how her sons looked out for their younger sister (although elaborated by the two men) is the story of Linda's first date. Both Larry and Jim were "big men on campus" and other boys were afraid to ask Linda out. So the first boy who built up enough courage to ask her out showed up and knocked on the door only to have her older brothers answer. The young man showed up with flowers and candy in hand; when Larry and Jim answered the door, Larry ate the candy and Jim ate the flowers before Linda even came to the door.

Flora Bell worked in the city, first as an office secretary. Later she worked at the Superior Court as the Superior Judge's secretary, which she enjoyed the most. As a woman in the working world, she experienced that most of the men she encountered were respectful and many of them were her friends. Although she would not go into detail, she did say there was one man who said things that were very inappropriate but after that he never would say things to her like that again. One memory that she had from the Superior Court was one that you would never hear of today. Two attorneys were discussing a case outside the courtroom, and one of the gentlemen spoke of his client pleading insanity and the other turned to the window and said, "Well we will open that window and tell him to jump out; if he does we'll know he is really crazy". This made her laugh to think that; now attorneys would never be heard speaking outside closed doors about their clients or in front of people for that matter. She said the two men went on with the conversation not paying any attention to her.

To Flora Bell, the women's movement did not have much of an impact on her life. She says she was already grown and living her life so she never really took part of the fight, although she thinks it was very necessary and she would not be living the life she is today without it. Flora Bell to me was already ahead of her time without her even trying to be or thinking she was. She was a divorcee, raising three children on her own, and working in the city along side powerful men. Also she not only played softball when women's sports were not socially accepted, she excelled at her sport. Flora Bell was inducted into the Arizona Softball hall of fame in 2006.

She has paved the way for young women everywhere without even realizing her impact. She says that there is no aspect of her life that she would want to redo except making her first marriage more pleasant by working harder at it. She was remarried in 1965 to "Buzz" Davies, a wonderful man that everyone was happy to see her with. Flora Bell is now 87 and will be turning 88 in August. She is a strong, independent woman who is loved by everyone who meets her, and she is one of my greatest role models. She still lives her life by what her parents taught her: that family and hard work are the most important things in life.

Photos courtesy of the family.

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Flora Bell (right) along with her sister Alita, brother Eddie, and their parents Callie and Edward Beachamp

Flora Bell and her younger sister Alita