Davis McCarroll talks about his first impessions of growing up in Gary during a Historical Literacy Experience sponsored by the Gary Literacy Coalition at the Gary Public Library. McCarroll, who is 95 with Astor Tillotson, who is 93, Dolly Millender who is 93 and Martha Naylor, 104 recounted their experiences in Gary. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 5, 2013 2:44PM
Gary residents Davis McCarroll, 95, Dolly Millender, 93, and Martha Naylor, 104, and East Chicago resident Astor Tillotson, 93, reflected on growing up, living and interacting in Gary as part of a “Historical Literacy Experience” sponsored by the Gary Literacy Coalition in partnership with Methodist Hospital.
Held March 27 at the DuBois branch of the Gary Public Library as an invitation-only event, audience members listened as moderator and GLC board member Ben Clement asked each panelist to share some memories of the steel city.
McCarroll said that while he is an East Chicago native, his family moved to Gary in 1927 and lived in the 1400 block of West 21st Avenue.
“My siblings and I walked to Roosevelt to attend school there,” he said. “That was when it was kindergarten to senior levels. I think there are three surviving members of my class that I know of.”
Naylor came to Gary in 1917 when she was 8, adding that as a child, she was not all that impressed with the then-thriving city.
“I was a child and impression was the last thing on my mind,” she said with a laugh. “It was 20 years later when I noticed how great Gary was. Gary was a shining star and has always been good to me and other residents when it came to getting a good education, a good job and a great community. When I look at the city now, I cannot believe the vast difference, especially when I look at how some of the young people dress,” she said.
Terre Haute native Millender came to Gary in 1960 while on sabbatical as a librarian and had a chance meeting with Pulaski Middle School Principal Robert Greer.
“Mr. Greer said a librarian was needed at Pulaski and offered me the position, adding that I could also do a sabbatical after seven years. I took the offer and it became the greatest experience in my life,” Millender said.
Millender continued her career as a librarian and then a historian and author on Gary’s central district.
“The central district had its own banks, businesses, schools,” she said. “It was a thriving community. Gary is a great city. Don’t listen to those who talk negatively of Gary.”
Tillotson lives in East Chicago, but is a member of First Baptist Church in Gary.
“I have a lot of great times in Gary, with relatives who live here. East Chicago and Gary are collective spirits so it is a good time period,” he said.
GLC executive director Era Twyman praised the four for sharing their stories.