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Published: Monday, 4/26/2004

Performer returns to his Hamler roots

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Chip Davis of the group Mannheim Steamroller talks with Elizabeth 'Mrs. B.' Boomgarden, his first-grade teacher, during his visit to Hamler. She recalls that Mr. Davis was 'a good pupil.' Chip Davis of the group Mannheim Steamroller talks with Elizabeth 'Mrs. B.' Boomgarden, his first-grade teacher, during his visit to Hamler. She recalls that Mr. Davis was 'a good pupil.'
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

HAMLER, Ohio - The day after performing for a sold-out audience at the Stranahan Theater, Chip Davis, the creative force behind the classical-pop band Mannheim Steamroller, was in this Henry County village looking at old yearbooks with classmates, showing his children his old house and school, and shaking hands at a reception in his honor.

The Hamler Heritage Society, which served homemade ice cream and cake to more than 200 people in the Historic Hamler City Hall, printed name tags with four lines that could be checked:

  • I was delivered by your Grandfather Davis (a longtime doctor in Hamler).

  • I took piano lessons from your Grandmother Davis.

  • I was in your father's Hamler High School Choir.

  • I simply enjoy listening to your music.

    And in this southern Henry County village, population 650, several people checked all four.

    Delores Mahlman Rickerd of Deshler, the next village east, was one of those people, although ironically she had never met Mr. Davis.

    Mr. Davis, whose Internet site says he has sold more than 36 million albums over his 28-year career, moved with his family to Sylvania when he was still a boy. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1969 as a classically trained bassoonist, taught music, wrote advertising jingles, and made a name for himself in country music before popularizing his own innovative style. He now lives near Omaha.

    But it was a question about Mr. Davis' youth that Jean Hammer had on her mind yesterday. When her son, Greg, was about 5, he often referred to Mr. Davis, who was a little older, as his "bestest friend" and talked about their "secret hideaway." Greg was killed in a traffic accident on U.S. 24 eight years ago and yesterday Mrs. Hammer asked Mr. Davis just where that "secret hideaway" used to be; her own son would never reveal it.

    Mr. Davis told all: It was a field near their homes.

    His boyhood days in Hamler and the stories of his ancestors' times there have given him material for many a story for his three children. His 5-year-old daughter, Elyse, was familiar with the Black Swamp. His wife, Trisha, said her favorite Hamler story is of Mr. Davis' grandfather being snowed in for several days at a home where he had gone to deliver a baby.

    When Mr. Davis' classmate, Jerry Meyer, opened a Hamler Local School yearbook that showed their first-grade class, Mrs. Davis saw the striking similarities between her husband and their 7-year-old son, Evan.

    Mr. Davis' first-grade teacher, Elizabeth Boomgarden, 93, remembered him as "a good pupil." But apparently she had that opinion of most of the children in her classes, which in Mr. Davis' case numbered 42 students.

    "I never had to spank anyone," she said. "I kept them busy."

    The reception also drew fans of Mannheim Steamroller who had no ties to old times in Hamler.

    Jerry Barrington of Napoleon first heard Mr. Davis' music in 1986 at a Christmas party when he was at Texas Tech University. He bought five vinyl records and has long since replaced them with compact discs.

    Mr. Davis has been a supporter of the Hamler Heritage Society's efforts to renovate the old village hall that was built in 1897.

    Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-724-6102.



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