My cousin Bob Davis, a member of Veritas Lodge 608 in Indianapolis, was likely the coolest guy I've ever known. From my earliest memory of him, he was tinkering with cars that were junky heaps of metal and turning them into automotive masterpieces. I was amazed at his drawing abilities – the sketches he drew, to me, belonged in some art gallery. He was an Eagle Scout. A product of the 1950s, he could out-jitterbug any of the kids on the old American Bandstand show. He loved all things Marilyn Monroe and all things James Dean. He turned his basement into a museum of 1950s memorabilia. He took me for rides in his dune-buggy.
Bob was also an accomplished jazz drummer. I'm told he played for many famous acts as they toured through Indianapolis, including playing alongside one of the greatest drummers ever, Buddy Rich. On a couple of occasions, he took me to the smoke-filled nightclubs where he was working. I was way too young to be there, legally or otherwise, but I sure had fun.
If all that wasn't enough, Bob had a job working with Indianapolis 500 race drivers Eddie Sachs and Bobby Marshman, helping them to promote whatever products their celebrity could help sell. The fact he worked with Indy race drivers was alone enough to brand him as the coolest guy in town as far as I was concerned – because if you're a kid growing up in Indianapolis, you're probably a race fan. I certainly was.
As race day dawned in 1964, I'm sure Bob was there not only to cheer on his work-buddies but also to see some of the all-time greats: Jack Brabham, Jimmy Clark, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, and the incomparable A.J. Foyt. All the buzz was about a new guy, Dave MacDonald, who was driving a low-slung "car of the future."
The race began, and as the cars crossed the start/finish line at the end of the first lap Bob watched Jimmy Clark in the lead followed by one of his favorites, Bobby Marshman. The cars came around again and Bob followed the two leaders into the first turn. When he turned to see the rest of the field he said he saw something his mind really couldn't process.
Black smoke. Fire. Chaos.
The entire north end of the track was on fire. The ENTIRE north end. Thick smoke billowed up several stories above the track like the mushroom cloud from a nuclear test.
Coming out of turn four, Dave MacDonald in the "car of the future" had spun. His car skidded across the track, hit the inside wall and exploded in a fireball. He ricocheted back across the track where Eddie Sachs plowed into him, his car also exploding.
Eddie Sachs, Bob's friend and arguably the most popular driver at the Speedway at the time, died. Later came word that Dave MacDonald had also been killed.
After the disaster Brother Bob continued to work with Bobby Marshman, but things understandably weren't the same. Then, later that year, the unthinkable happened. Marshman died in yet another fiery crash at the Phoenix Raceway. The events of 1964 stunned Bob to the core.
Brother Bob found other ways to make a living. He was a jack-of-all-trades. He could fix anything. He continued to build custom cars and was a co-founder of the Indianapolis Custom-Car Show held in the huge parking lot next to, what else, a 1950s-style drive-in. The last car he built was a customized 1952 Chevy that was the subject of several magazine articles and won many awards. In later years his business card touted the fact that he and his wife Peggy were "the world's oldest teenagers."
Bob passed away in 2016. His gleaming black custom Chevy sat outside during the services and carried his ashes to his final resting place.
With all his talent and all the things he could do and do well, there was one thing he couldn't do. He never went to another race.
Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasonsblog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.