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  • damonortt


Updated: Jul 2, 2022

I’m not sure who’s been around here longer than this man. You may know him for many reasons, but he is perhaps most popular for being the crossing guard at the former Enfield Elementary school. If you ever drove through that school zone at the intersection of Paper Mill, Church, and Oreland Mill, you saw him. He may have shouted at you if you were passed the white line. I admit that he shouted at me once or twice, however, I don’t admit to any wrongdoing. That’s between me, the Creator, and the vigilant eye of Rothmeyer (Roddy) Davis.

A few months ago, this veteran, welder, fence builder, father, train enthusiast, historian, and much more, celebrated his 90th birthday. He’s lived right here in Oreland since 1955 when he and his late wife, Diane, bought their house for $13,850. He tells me this often, and even though he has no smirk on his face, I’m convinced that, behind his steel blue eyes, he’s laughing inside, knowing that all of us in the neighborhood paid just a touch more than that. Just a touch.

I live across the street from the old man, and I hear his stories often. He’s many, many things, but that which he seems to be most proud of as of late, is his status of being the oldest living iron worker there is.

Twice, he’s mentioned it to me “The iron workers wrote me a letter and told me that I’m the oldest living iron worker there is in the United States … and Canada. They want to write about me.”

Almost every Christmas he invites the neighborhood kids over to see his model train table. It’s amazing. Many of you reading this may have seen it. For those of you who haven’t, it’s a table approximately ten feet by ten feet, with all the bells and whistles. Very literally. It’s attached to an electric wench which raises it out of the way when not in use. Kids can press buttons which turn various lights on throughout the miniature town. I’m not sure who giggles more: he or the children.

I’m also not sure whether the train table or the basement is more impressive. In 1955 it was a two-foot crawl space. Sometime later, he and Diane dug it out by hand over a five year period, bucket by bucket. This doesn’t surprise me, as she was still mowing their yard with a push mower last year until she got sick. To this day, although he shouldn’t, Mr. Davis still cleans out his own gutters from a ladder.

I had coffee with him a couple days ago on his front deck. We watched people walking their dogs pass by, as well as few dogs walking their people pass by, while we chatted for a bit about his upcoming vacation, my dream of adding an addition to my house, my garden, his garden, and the “so many projects [he] has going on at the same time.”

As he said that, he pressed himself out of his chair; “Oh! Speaking of projects” and motioned with his hand to follow him.

We winded through his garage on a path much like a narrow deer trail though a jungle of scrap lumber, old tools, boxes of who-knows-what, an old bicycle, a vehicle nearly identical to the one in the driveway, and jars of nuts and bolts too numerous to count. We emerged on the other side of all this antiquity to his homemade pool in the back yard. Don’t get the wrong idea, though; it’s lasted as long as the pool at Oreland Swim Club. Roddy builds to last.

However, recent heavy rain had muddied the water beyond hope for a little chlorine, so he was draining it with two pumps, and needed to check on the progress.

As he shoved the pump farther into the deep end of the pool with a pole brush, I asked him if he’d mind if I wrote a blog about him.

“The iron workers want to write about me … my daughter writes about me.” He didn’t give a clear answer, as he was preoccupied with scrubbing the final remnants of mud into the deep end.

Before I could segue back to the question, he began talking about the figures painted on the bottom of the pool. Disney characters, Sesame Street, SpongeBob, The Peanuts, and even a cameo of Scarlet and Ashley from Gone With The Wind. Some of the characters have the dates on which they were painted. 2006, 2014, 2021. He drains his pool every so often, it appears. These were “new additions.” First it was a massive trivial pursuit game. Next there was the massive Philadelphia Flyers logo when they won the Stanley Cup in 1972.

“It was huge. It attracted the news. A helicopter flew over and filmed it, but if it actually made the news, I don’t know, I never saw it. Something more interesting must’ve happened,” he said, obliquely commenting on media sensationalism.

The concrete steps to the pool, which preceded it by a year, initially leading to nowhere, were poured on July 1, 1962. It’s written in the concrete. “I told my neighbors I just loved building steps,” he said. “I might just put more in.”

Last summer, I was honored to be invited over to swim anytime “Bring your little girl!” he demanded. We went over and had a perfectly average time in a pool with neighbors. It seemed very normal. Two of their daughters were there, a couple grandkids, and about three great grandkids.

I sat next to Mrs. Davis as I watched my daughter splash around with her extended family, many of whom still live in the township. She mentioned that so many kids learned how to swim in that very pool. “I didn’t cover it in the winter. It would freeze four inches thick. The kids ice skated on it!”

I pictured a calendar flipping, June, 1963, June, 1964, June, 1967, ’70, ’75, ’95, 2021, the pool marking the beginning of each summer. Family and friends surrounding the pool, having big conversations about Kennedy, Vietnam, Watergate, Clinton, 9-11, and small conversations about gas prices, neighbors, ice cream sandwiches, bandaids, floaties.

It was clear that this was the happy place for Mr. and Mrs. Davis. Years of memories. Decades of memories. Steps climbed thousands of times by three generations of tiny feet growing bigger by the year. Layers of memories painted over layers of memories, over and over again, lying down below the cool blue water. Blank spots here and there, waiting for new ones.

When it was time to leave, Mr. Davis, in an action with more intent than I had ever seen from him, hushedly but directly pointed to my daughter and said to me “tell her to say thank you to Mrs. Davis before you leave.”

I’m afraid to ask, but that may have been her last time at the pool, as she passed shortly afterward. To me, this thought is quieting. I’m just an out-of-state transplant who landed across the street from them. And my little girl and I were invited into their happiest place as though we were family. I was humbled.

So is this about Roddy, or is this about Diane? I’m not sure there is a difference between the two. But if we’re lucky, really, really lucky, it could be any of us. Springfield Township is full of ordinary people making their own ordinary memories. Generations of good times worthy of the news, but not sensational enough to be on T.V. The ordinary rarely gets the credit it deserves, but it doesn’t mind at all.


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Trish Ciocca Henigan
Trish Ciocca Henigan
Jul 06, 2022

I am so happy you featured Roddy in this blog, I lived next door from Roddy and Di for 17 years. (My daughter and her family live there now). During spring and summer as I worked in my yarden, he would talk to me at the fence telling me the most interesting stories about Springfield township. Many times Di would have to call him away to get him back on track of doing his chores. He was always willing to give advice (and yelling at us to "don't do that")to us newbies on pool maintenance, which was greatly appreciated. I loved how his family came to his pool and I could hear them laughing and singing show tunes. Roddy woul…


Dottie Ortt
Dottie Ortt
Jul 01, 2022

What a wonderful description of truly sincere, friendly neighbors you only find in small town America!

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