The Bob Davis Tire Company is now merely a part of Sapulpa’s history, but its owners and employees will not be forgotten. This is their story.
Bob Davis was born in McCurtain, Oklahoma, a small community southwest of Sallisaw. His father, Lloyd Davis, Sr. worked in the coal mines and was killed when he was crushed by a boulder at the McCurtain Mine in 1935 when Bob was only ten years old.
Tragedy struck the family again five years later when his mother, Grace Austin Davis, died of cancer. Her sister Elsie subsequently moved into the Davis home to finish raising Bob, his brother, and his two sisters.
The young Davis worked in the coal mines during the summer and quit school in the 12th grade to work full-time in order to support the family.
Bob joined the Navy in the summer of 1943, following the footsteps of his older brother Lloyd, Jr. He went to San Diego, California for boot camp, then to Pearl Harbor. It had been a year and a half since the deadly attack by the Japanese. “They were still recovering bodies from the sunken ships,” Davis told Sapulpa News and Views.
Bob was stationed at Kaneohe Naval Air Station in Kaneohe Bay. The airfield was designed to simulate the deck. His job was to secure the runway for carrier-trained pilots. Bob was assigned to a comparable assignment on a neighboring island until the end of the war when he was honorably discharged on March 15,1946.
After being discharged, Davis contacted his brother Loyd, who was in partnership with Earl Barber at OK Rubber Welders, and came to Sapulpa to work with his brother in the tire business.
While working at OK Rubber Welders, which was down the street from The Little Gem Cafe, Bob met his future wife, Judy Maroutsos, whose parents owned the eating establishment. The couple dated for several months and were married in the First Methodist Church on the corner of Water Street and Lee Avenue in October 1946.
Bob wound up working for the railroad and during layoffs worked at Wickham Packing.
Their first daughter, Diana Kay, was born in Sapulpa in 1948, and in 1949, the Davis family moved to McCurtain, where Bob worked the mines. Their second daughter, Deborah Amelia, was born in 1950. Seven months later, Bob and his family moved back to Sapulpa.
Bob worked at American Airlines in the early 1950s. His and Judy’s son, Michael Thomas, was born in 1953. Shortly after that, AA pilots went on strike, putting Bob out of work. He went to Kansas City, Mo. in September of 1954 to work for GM, building aircraft. The strike was over in a few months and the family moved back to Sapulpa.
Davis became active in the community, joining the Freemasons and being an active member of First United Methodist Church.
In due course, Bob went back to work for OK Rubber Welders as a partner with Barber. Bob’s brother had started Lloyd’s Wheel Alignment, which he operated until he reitred. Bob’s son Mike said that Earl had promised his dad he would sell the business to Bob on a specified date. Five years after that date passed, Davis quit, and at the behest of his banker, J.D. Walts, he opened his own tire shop in October of 1966 at 401 East Dewey Avenue.
His son Mike worked after high school, later becoming a full-time employee aligning with George McMorris.
I remember that when I bought my first car and needed tires, my father told me to go to Bob Davis Tires. I bought several used tires and had flats fixed there. The service was fast, friendly, and, best of all, reasonably priced. The latter was important since I did not have much money as a high school student, and I paid for all my own auto expenses.
Bob and his crew “went the extra mile” for their customers. According to his son Mike, he would buy wheels, and when customers had studs inserted in their snow tires, he would mount them on the wheel he purchased and store it in the back of the shop until winter. This allowed the customer to have snow tires mounted in a matter of a few minutes.
Sadly, tragedy once again befell Bob. On January 11, 1982, the building that housed Bob Davis Tires, Ray’s Style Shop, and The Plaster Shop, caught fire. The Sapulpa Daily Herald called it “a blazing inferno.” The conflagration apparently started in the plaster shop and spread to the tire shop.
According to Mike Davis, his father wanted to retrieve his inventory but the firefighters thought they had the fire under control and told his father “we’ve got it.”
Approximately a half-hour later, the fire chief told Bob he should try to save what he could. The fire personnel were unaware that the section which housed the style shop and plaster shop had at least four false ceilings. Every time the fire personnel had extinguished the fire, it simply dropped to another level of ceiling. The building, as well as the inventory still inside, was a total loss, estimated at nearly $200,000. Bob had a new building built at the same location and reopened in July of the same year. Bob ran the tire shop until he retired in the late 1980s, at which time Mike Davis and George McMorris took over the enterprise.
Mike continued his father’s tradition of excellent customer service. He told me that he once opened up on Christmas to put on a set of tires for a customer.
George McMorris later opened up GM Wheel Alignment and Mike sold the business to Regional Tire in the late 1990s. Mike finished his career working in the HVAC industry as a technician.
Bob passed away on March 16, 2020, and was preceded in death by wife Judy, who died in 2018.
I knew Bob personally and as a customer. He was a gentle, soft-spoken man who loved decency and fair play. He conducted his business and personal life with honor and integrity and instilled those values in his children.