A “Tars and Spars” Adventure: CCRC

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CCRC residents dancing in the 1940sMost often associated with the Army, the slogan “it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure” surely can be applied to Coco Davis’s three years of service in the Coast Guard during WW II. Motivated by the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Pasadena, CA native joined the Coast Guard in 1943 as soon as she turned 21, the age at which women could enlist without parental permission. Her earliest job while posted in Washington, D.C. was the “deadly dull” task of typing travel vouchers for ensigns.

However, it didn’t last long. Mrs. Davis’s background in theater, ballet, and modeling gained her an opportunity in public relations as an interviewer on “The Fighting Coast Guard” weekly radio program. It was then that she learned of a musical recruitment show the Coast Guard was producing. Mrs. Davis auditioned and became a part of the 70-member cast that toured 50 cities in 11 months during 1944-1945. One of her fellow performers on the train trip to rehearsals in Palm Beach, FL was none other than the comedic legend, Sid Caesar. “We had a ball on that trip,” recalls Mrs. Davis with laughter.

The “Tars and Spars” show, named after the terms used for male and female Coast Guard members, featured other notable entertainers. Hollywood star Victor Mature and Broadway dancers Gower Champion and Bill Skipper were also part of the troupe. The Coast Guard sold the rights to the show to Columbia Pictures and Mrs. Davis and company spent several months in Hollywood filming. She recollects many star-studded parties attended by Hollywood’s elite.

As one of Mrs. Davis’s Coast Guard assignments, she and the cast toured Pennsylvania by bus selling Victory Bonds. While definitely a less glamorous stint, the group sold millions of dollars of bonds throughout the small towns of PA.

Following her years in the Coast Guard, Mrs. Davis continued to lead a varied and interesting life, spending time in New York, California, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and Europe. She and her husband returned to his hometown of Charlottesville, VA in 1957 and she has been there ever since.

Charlottesville holds great appeal for Mrs. Davis. She cites the small southern city’s history-it is home to three former U.S. Presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and his masterpiece Monticello-and the warmth of its people as a few of its positive attributes. “There is a small town charm to Charlottesville,” Mrs. Davis believes. “People here seem to be genuinely interested in others.” At the same time, she notes that Charlottesville is a major university town, making it very cosmopolitan in many respects.

Mrs. Davis now makes her home at Westminster-Canterbury of the Blue Ridge, an accredited continuing care retirement community located in Charlottesville. After years of entertaining and traveling, she finds it an ideal place to take a break. That is not to say that she is idle for very long. Mrs. Davis remains active with the local Garden Club, SPCA, and various art organizations. At Westminster-Canterbury, she serves on the Decorating and Food committees and maintains her dancer’s figure through workouts in the fitness center.

The security derived from Westminster-Canterbury’s continuing life care is a real asset to Mrs. Davis: “When you drive in the entrance here you get a very nice secure feeling,” says Mrs. Davis. “It’s absolutely the right choice for me.” Mrs. Davis also maintains that the gracious atmosphere, engaging lectures, and top-notch musical performance set it apart from other communities. In her estimation, the people living at Westminster-Canterbury help make it the unique place that it is. “I’m interested in people,” Mrs. Davis states. “And there are very interesting people here.” From someone who has led such fascinating life, that is no small compliment.

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