Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Uncle Thurman was a Gandy Dancer. . .

I came across a short film "Gandy Dancers" online that reminded me of my paternal uncle, Thurman Callen who retired from the railroad. Uncle Thurman was the eldest child of my grandmother, Lucy Callins and  Prince Mixon born in Dallas County, Alabama in 1917. Uncle Thurman was many things to many people. To his 11 siblings he was known as Brother, to his children he was Daddy, to his nieces and nephews "Uncle Thurman",to our extended family he was known as "Cut'n Thurmon" and to the members at Pleasant Valley Baptist he was known as Deacon Callen. Uncle Thurman was a real go getter, an entrepreneur, outgoing and very disciplined. During his life he served in the Army during WWII at Fort Benning, GA, barbered and worked for the railroad in Alabama which he retired from. Uncle Thurman stayed behind in Alabama to take care of the family property after my grandmother and his siblings joined the millions of African-Americans leaving the South during the Great Migration for New York. 

Gandy Dancers Trailer

I remember my Uncle Thurman as someone who always had something to give you. On one of our annual family trips to Alabama and  Mississippi, my uncle gave us a large paper bag of hard candies; lollipops, candy sticks etc. After we got back home, my two brothers and I ate the entire bag of candy and of course we got in "trouble" for it. But it was worth it! Eating at his house with my he and my aunt Edith, his wife, cooking was always good eating. Some of the very best Soul Food I've ever eaten, an even tie with my Aunt Doris.

Uncle Thurman passed on in 2007 at the age of 90 years old after a brief sickness. His funeral at Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Jones, Autauga Co., Alabama was standing room only. Family members attended the funeral from all over the country.