A Legacy to Remember: “Recollections of a Common Man” (ABC’s Ministries, 2018) is a biography of Pam’s late cousin Duard Vinson Gillum (aka, “Tiny” or “Gill”, 1925-2011), a survivor of The Great Depression, The 1937 Flood, and World War II. The biography stems out of Mr. Gillum’s autobiography Recollections of a Common Man (Xlibris, 2011).
Why did Pam retell Mr. Gillum’s story that he had already told? First, Pam wrote A Legacy to Remember to honor Tiny knowing how much he wanted his descendants to benefit from reading his life story. Additionally, Tiny had a desire for one or more of his descendants to write the last chapter of his life. In Recollections of a Common Man (Xlibris, 2011), he wrote in the book’s conclusion,
This book, in addition to being a chronicle of my life and times, is left to those who will succeed me, whether they be family or friends, or both. To them, I entrust the final chapter, hoping that someday, someone will take what is thus far advanced and carry it forward . . . that he, she, or they will chronicle events subsequent to these and of their lives and times . . . and in so doing, continue this as a book of Family Heritage. (p. 211)
Before Pam read Tiny’s autobiography, Recollections of a Common Man (Xlibris, 2011) she knew little about her father’s roots. Knowing how close Tiny and her father were as children, well, actually their entire lives, she couldn’t wait to learn more about her roots. One thought Pam had after reading Tiny’s tribute about her great-grandmother Mam-Maw Keaton (aka, Mam-Maw Smith) was that she was glad Tiny had such positive feelings for her; because honestly, she would not have liked her, or at least, she wouldn’t have appreciated her use of tobacco. Don’t think Pam wouldn’t have told her either!!!
After reading Recollections of a Common Man Pam’s love and respect for Tiny, who shared her love of the Lord, grew by leaps and bounds. He was so humble. He also enjoyed life in spite of having experienced so much tragedy in his life—the Great Depression, living in poverty, World War II and the death of a child, which triggered a divorce. Many people would have been bitter having lived through all that; but, not Tiny. He was always very kind to everyone. Everyone loved him, especially Pam’s father and her.
Knowing how hard of a time Pam was having promoting her own book and getting book sales, she wanted to help Tiny in promoting his book. She started loaning her copy of Recollections of a Common Man (Xlibris, 2011) to personal friends whom she thought might like the book. The most common response was, “I liked the book; but, I was distracted by all the typos and grammatical errors.”
With the responses from her friends about Tiny’s book, Pam thought, I could edit the book for him. However, God did not clear Pam’s schedule and lead her to edit Tiny’s biography, add a final chapter with more photos, and self-publish A Legacy to Remember until 2018, seven years after Tiny’s passing.
The Legacy of D. V. Gillum
Born into Poverty
No doubt, people in today’s world would say that Tiny grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. His father, a coal miner in Kentucky, left his mother when Tiny was three years old. For a short stint during his preschool years, Tiny and his two older brothers traveled around with their father; however, that didn’t last long. Tiny’s mother who lived in Ashland, Kentucky soon became responsible for rearing her sons. With the depression in full swing, what was she to do?
Desperate for some way to survive, Tiny’s entire family (consisting of eleven in all) joined forces and “occupied” a three-room shack bordering the city dump. There, they paid no rent. In fact, they didn’t even have the owner’s permission to live there. They simply assumed squatter’s rights and took the place over! (Orgeron, pp. 10-11)
Pam was heartbroken to read of the horror stories that her family, including her paternal grandparents, had experienced during the Depression, including no running water or electricity, living mostly on “hoecakes” (made from cornmeal, salt, and water), and the children sleeping on pallets on the floor where rodents from the dump commonly invaded their quarters. Fortunately, Pam’s father was born after the depression sparing him from having to endure such horrible circumstances.
The School Years
During his school days, Tiny kept busy playing baseball and marbles, working at a local Mom and Pop store, and, of course, getting into mischief with his brothers. One of his most memorable experiences during that period of time was the 1937 flood. During the flood Tiny, his brothers, and mother were forced to evacuate their small second-story apartment where they lived at the time. Local churches fed and housed the family.
Tiny graduated from Coles Junior High School in 1941; but, dropped out his sophomore year to do what he believed was his “civic” duty to join his brothers and serve his country fighting in World War II. Not really old enough to join the military, Tiny lied about his age to get accepted.
World War II and Afterwards
During the war, Tiny served as a quartermaster in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS LSM #36. He and his fellow sailors helped invade islands in the Pacific controlled by the Japanese. After the war, returning home via Southern California, which Tiny fell in love with, he vowed he would return there someday to live. With few jobs in Ashland, KY a couple of years later Tiny hitchhiked his way back to Southern California with only his ninth-grade education and war experience in hand. He eventually became a department head for Rockwell, even working on the Apollo Moon Landing and Space Shuttle Projects. Aside from his work in the aeronautics industry, for 18 years Tiny volunteered as a Little League baseball coach.
Referring to Pam’s cousin as a mere survivor is an understatement, to say the least. He thrived in the midst of adversity to overcome much tragedy while maintaining an optimistic attitude that encouraged others around him. No doubt Tiny touched a lot of lives. He also left a lot of life lessons that many individuals in today’s society will glean from reading A Legacy to Remember: “Recollections of a Common Man”. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at local bookstores, upon request.