The Faith Davies Story

We lost a great benefactor to our community when Faith Davies died in 1996 at age 91. Not only was she one of the most generous people, she witnessed and was intimately connected with the growth of the largest and most important business in our pre-Silicon Valley, the Food Machinery Company, or FMC.

When James Lick (1796-1876) brought trees from all over the world to his estate and mill in the Agnew area, he inadvertently brought a pest from China that invaded all of the fruit orchards in the Valley of Hearts Delight. Faith’s great uncle, John Bean, invented a chemical sprayer to kill the scale pest.

Bean then created The Bean Spray and Pump Company to manufacture the product. While the farmers needed the sprayer, the company needed a salesman. Bean’s nephew was a young vigorous Los Gatan, John Crummey. He would start out each morning riding his bicycle with a Bean Spray Pump strapped to his back, stopping at every farmhouse between San Jose and Gilroy. He sold a lot of pumps and showed great promise. Bean soon advanced Crummey to head his company.

Adjacent to the sprayer plant on Julian Street was the Anderson Barngrover Manufacturing Plant, known principally for its Anderson Prune Dipper and fruit processing equipment.

In 1928 the two firms were merged together to become the Food Machinery Company. It soon became the largest employer in San Jose, and then a nationwide concern. Berkeley banker Paul Davies was hired to handle the merger of the two companies. Davies married one of the Crummey’s three daughters, Faith. He eventually took over the reins as president and expanded the business to be worldwide. Its products added chemicals and military equipment for World War II, notably fire trucks and amphibious landing craft. (A not-much published story was about the demonstration of the amphibian to the military at Anderson reservoir – upon launching, it sank out of sight, drowning all aboard. The fault was corrected and thousands of amphibians landed marines and soldiers on the pacific atoll beaches.)

But Faith Davies was a very special quiet person. My then wife, Naomi, first met her when they were volunteering together at the San Jose Day Nursery. Mrs. Davies gave to almost every legitimate nonprofit agency in the Valley and never sought credit for her good deed, vigorously avoiding any recognition.

In later life she had trouble with her eyesight, making reading very difficult. In her final years I would occasionally bring books-on-tape to her at her home on University Ave. When she found out that I lived on a part of the property where she and Paul lived while awaiting construction of their home, she told me a good story. The Davies lived there in the late 1930s, and their rented house was on the corner of Morse and Fremont Streets. Hospitable people, they invited the owners of the house, two spinster sisters, for cocktails to become better acquainted. After Paul took each order, he retired to the kitchen bar to prepare the drinks. Immediately Faith joined him and cautioned him not to make the drinks too strong for the women were quite elderly.

When the drinks were served, one of the ladies took one sip of her drink, put it down without a word, and did not touch it again until everyone else was finished. Paul noticed this and asked if he could bring her something else, perhaps something non-alcoholic. She replied, “You can bring me another, but this time put some whiskey in it!”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *