Vern Davis, center, receives his trip voucher from Merf Evans left, and a diamond ring from Howard Sather, right, after winning an all-expenses-paid trip to Hollywood in 1951 that included a television screen test.

Museum of Northwest Colorado/courtesy

Vern Davis, center, receives his trip voucher from Merf Evans left, and a diamond ring from Howard Sather, right, after winning an all-expenses-paid trip to Hollywood in 1951 that included a television screen test.

Museum of Northwest Colorado: From Hamilton to Hollywood

Television still was a fairly new innovation when a small-town guy from Craig won a trip to Hollywood for auditions in 1951. Vernon Davis grew up on his parents' homestead south of Craig, near Hamilton, in a family of seven children. During the Depression years, the parents were so hard-pressed that they were compelled to send some of the children to live and work with other family and community members.

Vern came into Craig to live with Ed and Alice (Green) Schrader on West Victory Way where present-day Taco Bell stands. At the time, this was part of R. H. Green’s land, and it still was out “in the country” and had a big barn where the library now sits. Gene Murphy, a schoolboy at the time, remembers walking by the place, and if Vern was outside doing his chores, he would always be singing in his beautiful voice. Musical talent seemed to be a family trait, as Gene remembers Vern’s youngest sister, Eunice, frequently was hired to sing for weddings and funerals.

After serving overseas in World War II, Vern married Ruby Baker in 1947 in Craig. They raised their family here while Vern worked for the Stanolind Oil Company at Loyd south of Craig.

In 1951, the local West Theater, then managed by Merf Evans, held a Talent Quest contest. The contest, sponsored in by Bill’s Supermarket, Howard Sather and the Moffat County Creamery, was held on several Thursday nights at the theater until Feb. 7, when the final eight contestants performed. Vern Davis was selected as the lucky winner of the contest and won the trip to Hollywood as well as a diamond ring from Sather’s Jewelers.

Vern and his wife, accompanied by West Theater assistant Jerry Debolt, were flown out to Hollywood for the four-day, all-expenses-paid trip. The plane, chartered from Eskridge Flying Service, of Craig, was piloted by Bob Hansen. While in California, the couple toured the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studios and were guests on several big network shows, including the Groucho Marx, Jim Hawthorne and Robert Young shows.

Upon returning to Colorado, the couple spent a few additional days in Denver, where Vern made contacts with booking agents and radio stations. After their return to Craig, little is known of Vern or if his musical talents ever again were appreciated outside the Yampa Valley.

The Museum of Northwest Colorado loves to hear about and document family stories such as that of Vern Davis. If you have a photo or story to share, drop by the museum and visit with the staff. You also can visit the museum’s website at www.museumnwco.org and see more local history stories. Remember, “History is Now” and it’s “Your Story!”

Mary Pat Dunn is the registrar for the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

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