Proud Server Davis reflects on her 65-year career at The Spot
There is no such thing as a job for life these days, but Cleo Davis has proved that there really could be 70 years ago.
The sprightly 89-year-old, who only retired five years ago, worked at The Spot Restaurant in Burnaby Street for 65 years during which time she has seen a number of owners, staff and customers come and go and always has an interesting tale or two to tell.
Ms Davis fondly remembers her first day on the job, standing on a mineral crate to slice the bread and cheese.
“Everything had to be done by hand the cheese and bread had to be cut everything,” she said.
“We had to check that everything was right before we started the day serving the customers.
“Then we had to get down to the real work waitresses had to be waitresses and cooks and roadsweepers the lot.”
Work in those days was particularly hard starting the first shift at 7am until 2pm and the second from 8pm to 3am and then between 2pm and 8pm the next day before starting all over again, according to Ms David.
“The Spot was always a busy place,” she recalls. “It was the only restaurant open to everybody with no segregation.”
In its heyday, patrons would include movie star Charlton Heston and boxing legend Muhammad Ali, as well as the bands and theatre performers, who often used to come down to Bermuda and would call in to The Spot for a meal before and after a show. Mr Ali’s appearance drew quite a crowd with people queuing up outside the window to get a look at ‘The Greatest’, she said.
Then there were the hotel staff who would drop by at 3am between shifts.
“Everything has changed now of course,” she said. “When I finished work at three in the morning we had to sweep everything and wash up all the dishes by hand for the next day.”
Ms Davis said that current owner Thomas (Ted) Powell, who she affectionately refers to as ‘Doc’, ranks among one her best bosses, and together with former business partner Tony Figuerido, they made a formidable team.
“Tony would take no nonsense and neither would Cleo they whipped me into shape in pretty short time,” said Mr Powell.
“People would come in and ask for Cleo by name. You could depend on her 110 percent she was always there.”
Motivated by a will to give her daughters a good education, Ms Davis would work day and night including New Year’s Day and Good Friday.
Burnaby Street also undergone some big changes over the past few decades, with new businesses coming and going, as Ms Davis recollects.
“I remember when the Hamilton Hotel burned down when I was working at The Spot and then the next time when the Bermudiana Hotel went up in flames,” she said.
“Then there was Burger Island which also caught fire.
“They always said they were going to put The Spot out of business, but they never did.”
The Mid-Ocean News also used to print on site at the building next door where C-Travel is now based and the Police barracks were just around the corner with the police officers from England coming in for their daily cup of coffee and roll. Politicians were also know to hold their meetings regularly at The Spot.
“It was like a home from home for them,” she said. “They would come in for breakfast and dinner and I often had 40 policemen to feed of a night.”
She also recalls seeing the riots of 1977 following the hanging of Erskine (Buck) Burrows for the murder of Police Commissioner George Duckett and Governor Sir Richard Sharples during her time at the restaurant.
Under her watch, Ms Davis has overseen a number of staff who have gone on to start their own businesses and make a name for themselves internationally, including one who became a partner at a law firm, two who currently produce music on Broadway, one who has owned a number of restaurants and cafes throughout Bermuda, one who now manages a shipping company and another who has his own cleaning business.
Among those who formed the backbone of the team during her time were head chef Allister Virgin, short order cooks Winifred (Winnie) Robinson and Rose Maxwell and Helen Caines, who according to Ms Davis washed dishes by hand faster than two people could, as well as Howard Joynes, Veronica Wade and Patricia Richardson.
“I will always remember The Spot as a fun place,” she said. “We worked hard but we always enjoyed ourselves too.”
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