Miss Sewer Cleaner

I posted about Gaylia Davis, aka 'Miss Sewer Cleaner,' back in 2016. At the time I wondered what became of her. And did being Miss Sewer Cleaner boost her career? Recently I was contacted by her granddaughter, Rose, who supplied an answer, which is appended below, beneath the original post. Not surprisingly, it doesn't seem as if being Miss Sewer Cleaner had much, if any, impact on her career. But she certainly went on to have an interesting life regardless.

October 1951: Gaylia Davis, 17, was awarded the title "Miss Sewer Cleaner of 1952." She reflected philosophically that, "It may be a soggy title but if it helps my career I don't care."

I can't figure out what became of her after 1951. So it's hard to know if it helped her career or not.

Southern Illinoisan - Oct 15, 1951

Detroit Free Press - Oct 11, 1951

Detroit Free Press - Dec 23, 1951

Detroit Free Press - Dec 23, 1951

Update: Below is the text of the email from Gaylia's granddaughter. And below that are some pictures she also sent along.

Gaylia Davis ended up leaving Detroit and following her mother (who had previously divorced Gaylia’s strict Preacher father- he founded a church in Detroit) to Miami! Gaylia’s mother, Ethel, came to Miami Beach to start a radio show! Anyway, Gaylia met a young Cuban man named Ernesto Gavalda. They were both performers and dancers and did variety shows in both Miami and Cuba. Gaylia also traveled for a bit with the Barnum & Bailey’s Ringling Brother’s Circus. She was one of the Amazonian models that rode regally on the elephants.

She (all American girl) and my (Cuban) grandfather (a la I love Lucy) ended up getting married here in Miami Beach and having 6 kids together. The only daughter (the rest are boys) they had, Debbie, is my mother. She was born and raised in Miami Beach. We are still in Miami to this day.

Gaylia ended up becoming a local fixture on the streets of Miami Beach as she decided to live as a homeless evangelist. She was called “Mother Mary” or “the Bible Lady” by locals.

I remember wanting to visit her as teen and having to ask strangers if they knew where the “bible lady” was. They’d point to some park bench or mumble a street name and I’d find her with a tattled Bible in hand and preaching to any passerby.

Gaylia only recently passed at the end of 2018. Up to her dying day, she was still quick witted, humorous, tough, and of sound mind. She could still talk politics, history, and culture.

She has always been an enigma to me and even more so now as I get older myself.

Anyway, thanks for listening and asking!

"This is her and my grandfather."

"My grandfather is the second guy on the left and she’s the last woman to the right."

"the ticket of a show that they both performed in together"

     First Posted: Feb 2016
     Reposted By: Alex - Thu Apr 23, 2020
     Category: Awards, Prizes, Competitions and Contests | 1950s

Way too skinny for the 50s. She, obviously, got flushed down the drain of Hollywood.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 02/21/16 at 10:35 AM
Guessin' she went underground
Posted by crc on 02/21/16 at 12:27 PM
She coulda made alot more money emptying mens pipes.
Posted by BrokeDad in Midwest US on 02/21/16 at 06:25 PM
An old Detroit news story listed her at 34-23-35, which was skinny enough for the 50s. But I was able to find a link to a Gaylia Davis who died in 2009 at the age of 72. Born in '35-36? Would've been the right age for Miss Sewer Cleaner.

Posted by Greg on 02/21/16 at 08:05 PM
I can't shake the impression that the photo of her with the sewer pipes (second from the bottom) shows a giant sitting next to a skyscraper.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I squint, I can't see her as a snake (the tool most commonly used to clean sewers).
Posted by Phideaux on 02/21/16 at 11:49 PM
Greg, the woman in the obituary married her husband whose name was Davis right after she finished high school in Texas in 1955. The sewer girl was 17 in 1951 in Detroit. It's highly unlikely that they're the same person.
Posted by ges on 02/22/16 at 12:43 AM
You're right, Phideaux. Also, the folded boot tops make it look as though she's adding to the sewerage.
Posted by TheCannyScot in Atlanta, GA on 02/22/16 at 08:36 AM
Oh well, ges, I guess the interweb isn't fully functional yet.
Posted by Greg on 02/23/16 at 05:35 AM
If she was homeless and preaching at anyone that walked by I hardly think she was of sound mind.
Posted by F.U.D in Stockholm on 04/23/20 at 10:32 AM
F.U.D. in Stockholm - I think you misunderstood. She wasn't homeless herself. She was preaching and ministering TO homeless people on the streets of Miami Beach.
Posted by Drew on 04/23/20 at 04:02 PM
However she turned out, she did it the way she wanted to. A tip of the hat to her.
Posted by KDP on 04/23/20 at 07:48 PM
Drew: Read it again, "She decided to live as a homeless evangelist"
Posted by F.U.D in Stockholm on 04/24/20 at 03:25 AM
I believe the 'sewer pipe' in the sitting photo is actually flue tiles. They invited a lawsuit from the agent of Miss Flue Tile.
Posted by Virtual in Carnate on 04/26/20 at 10:06 AM
The story her daughter provided omits the crucial question: why and how did she become homeless?
Posted by Brian on 05/07/20 at 09:47 AM
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