Dr. Charles “Chuck” Davis
To anyone who has been around since the beginnings of the Guinea Jubilee, Charles “Chuck” Davis needs no introduction. He was the man who turned the dream of a local celebration for the watermen of lower Gloucester into a reality.
It all began 25 years ago, in 1979, when the businesses at Hayes Plaza Shopping Center got together, under Chuck’s leadership, and organized the first Guinea Jubilee. “The idea had been around for some time,” said Chuck. “Somebody just had to make it happen.” Chuck, who with John Hasty was the co-owner of Plaza Pharmacy, is credited with being that person.
Churches, civic clubs and service organizations from the Guinea area were asked to take part. A portion of the letter to the community read: “This event will feature the family and church life, the many skills and crafts they practice, demonstrations of customs and history, business activities, and the great seafood made famous by them. Here is the chance to show others the very best of what our community has to offer.”
And show the community they did. One year when it was pouring rain, the local radio station called to see if the Jubilee would be canceled that evening. “Heck no! We’re not going to call if off,” Chuck said. Once the word went out on the air, the parking lot started to fill as those who had heard the news headed for the shopping center. The band snuggled under the eaves by the grocery store and started to play. More than a few people ventured from their cars and pickups and began to dance. “They were the diehards,” Chuck said. “The performers were all local, like “Boss Hogge and the Country Plumbers,” and people loved to dance to the music.”
For the coming years the Plaza parking lot was filled with the people and friends of Guinea. A parade was added, and the idea of honoring a community member as Grand Marshal, games for the kids and the great food of the local civic groups all became part of the event. Over the year, the Jubilee outgrew its surroundings and, in 1992, the celebration was moved to the grounds of the Abingdon Ruritan Club.
Chuck remained chairman of the event from 1979 through 1987. In summing up his years of chairman, Chuck said, “It was pretty much homespun fun. We didn’t try to be like anyone else.” Chuck admitted that he missed chairing the Jubilee, but he wasn’t tempted to jump back in. “I’ve never lived in Gloucester and lay no claim to being a Guineamen,” he said. But sometimes we must stand away from something to focus properly. Thus his perspective from across the river, as well as over the counter, enabled him to see and appreciate a unique area where a rapidly disappearing and sometimes misunderstood culture should be both celebrated and preserved.
Today, despite the Jubilee’s now spacious quarters and hi-tech sound systems, the down-home flavor envisioned by Chuck Davis and his committee is still evident. May it always be so!