From plant pots to Swiss chard, 'Hilty' makes it all
After 30 years in construction, Hilton Davis decided to take some time for himself.
A plan to spend a year at home turned into two and then three.
Eventually he decided he would never go back. What kept him occupied were the miniature Bermuda buildings he made out of fibreglass – replicas of the State House in St George’s, of Flatts Post Office; of mailboxes shaped like cottages.
“I loved making them,” he said. “They never talked back. I would often give them to people as gifts.
“One neighbour will bring me things before he takes them to the trash. He said I’m the only person he knows who can make something out of anything.”
He designed a line of planters from PVC pipe scraps and cardboard. A local garden centre picked up the design and had several manufactured in the United States but, to his dismay, they did not stand up well to high winds.
“It was called the Hilty Planter,” Mr Davis said proudly. “They sold for $80 apiece. They weren’t manufactured properly. I would have done some things differently.”
Today, he keeps several in his back yard along with old bathtubs and water tanks he has repurposed into plant pots.
When he’s not making things he loves gardening and is able to produce everything from onions and carrots to Swiss chard and roses out of the soil.
Although his knees are bad, crutches help him get around.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “There are so many people who grumble that there is nothing to do. But if you put your mind to it, there will always be something you can do.”
He developed a love for plants working for Manuel and Carrie Moniz on South Road, Smith’s.
The family grew Easter lily bulbs for export. It was Mr Davis’s job to collect the bulbs from the field after they had been dug up. They were then washed and shipped to New York where they were brought to flower before being sold.
It’s a passion he says he will take “to the grave”.
“It keeps the mind occupied,” he said. “You don’t have time to think about things.”
It takes the 85-year-old back to his younger years, a time when life seemed simpler.
“I would go back to those days any time,” he said. “Those were wonderful days. Most people didn’t have anything, but they were happy. Our families used to be together and shared what we had. We went on picnics in the neighbourhood.”
His father, Hilton Sr, worked for his grandfather, Cecil Bradford Davis, a mason.
“When I was little he would leave home at 5am to collect materials,” Mr Davis said. “We didn’t have any trucks. We had to go by horse and cart. Many a day when I was just a little tot, I went with him. I can remember up Ord Road, they used to cut stone and there was a hill. I was so small that when we went down the hill I had to hold on because I used to slide off the seat.”
The lifelong Hermitage Road, Devonshire resident attended a small, private school on Peet Point Lane until Harrington Sound Primary opened in nearby Smith’s, in April 1945.
“I was there when it opened,” he said. “I was ten years old.”
Kenneth Robinson was the principal, and didn’t take any misbehaviour.
“When you had to have a flogging, you had a flogging. I thought a flogging was dinner,” he joked. “I got my share all the way. Many a time it was because of my disposition. I was a naughty one, many times.”
He did well at geometry, and can still explain Pythagoras’s theorem. It came in handy with his masonry work.
“In mason work geometry is where you start,” said Mr Davis, who left school around the age of 15. “Some people nowadays are fortunate enough to have instruments that can lay out a building, but when I started we used measurements to square a building up.”
In 1966 he married Illys. The two have a daughter, Kim Roberts.
For a brief time he ran his own business.
“I realised you can’t let bad habits get in the way of business,” he said. “I had a bad habit, playing cards. Most people fail [because they are] playing cards and nightclubbing, because the business doesn’t get the attention it should get.”
He joined D & J Construction as a foreman, and led large building projects all over the island.
The former Sandys hotel, Lantana Colony Club, was a frequent customer.
“The first time I went up there Mr [John] Young appreciated what we had done,” Mr Davis said. “One day he said to me, ‘I want you to go around and get everyone’s sizes and get them something.’ Mr Young bought the staff new work shirts.
“I thought that was a good gesture.”
The hotelier became a great champion of D & J as a construction company and Mr Davis as foreman.
Today Mr Davis feels proud driving around Bermuda seeing many of the houses he worked on years ago, still looking good.
Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them