You’ll probably hear Jim Drum arrive before you actually see him.
Drum is well known for his outgoing and vivacious personality in the Yadkin community.
He was born and raised in New Orleans. An only child, he said that his childhood was a good one and that growing up in the 1950s allowed him a freedom that a lot of children today don’t get to enjoy.
“When I grew up it was a different time; parents didn’t hover like now,” Drum said. “In the summer my friends and I would leave in the morning and go bike all over the city, and nobody thought a thing about it.”
Drum said that while he enjoyed his childhood he wasn’t particularly attached to his hometown and enjoyed the visits he made to rural North Carolina to visit his father’s relatives in Rhonda.
“We would come up here at least once a year to visit my dad’s relatives, and I always liked this area,” Drum said. “New Orleans was great growing up but the actual place didn’t do anything for me. I like to walk and it’s more fun walking in the woods than it is in a city.”
After college, Drum said he enrolled at Southeastern Louisiana College for the worst two years of his life. He said that he loathed the college experience and decided to drop out and move into the workplace instead.
He managed to find a job with the Boeing Company working on Saturn 5 rocket boosters that were integral in putting a man on the moon. Drum worked on an assembly line at Boeing for nearly a year but had a strong urge to join the Army.
Drum’s father was a World War II veteran, and his uncle had spent his life as a military man.
“Growing up in the 50s you either wanted to be a cowboy or a soldier,” Drum said. “I really wanted to join the Army, but in the 60s that was looked on as exceptionally stupid. But there was a draft, and when I got my notice to come in for a physical that was my excuse to join. As soon I was done with finishing school I joined the Army in 1966.”
Drum said he joined the Army as a private and applied and was accepted for officer candidate school while he was still in advanced individual training.
After finishing officer candidate school, Drum served several years all over the world.
“I was commissioned as second lieutenant, and I served two years in Germany with a missile battalion in the late 60s,” Drum said. “I served a year in Vietnam with the First Brigade 5th Infantry Division. I also served almost four years at Fort Louis, Wash. as battalion adjutant, company commander and brigade electronic maintenance officer and division electronics maintenance officer.”
Drum said the Army gave him a chance to find himself and taught him responsibility. He claims he was a dorky teenager with low self esteem and that the Army helped him develop a sense of confidence. He would recommend it to any young person today.
“I always recommend the Army to young kids,” Drum said. “You’re accepted as an adult as soon as you go in. You’re not a kid anymore. You’re expected to be responsible. You’re expected to tell the truth. I can romanticize it more now, but it taught me a lot of things about myself and made me much more relaxed in being myself.”
When the Vietnam War ended Drum said the Army started laying off soldiers and sending them home, so he went home to visit his family. After his visit his father sent him to Ronda to deliver tools to a family member who was opening a business, and Drum said he just never left Yadkin.
Drum eventually found work with Forbush High School as a parking lot attendant.
“The high schools were having some problems with drugs in ‘76, so they got a grant to hire a parking lot attendant. I did that for three months, and then the funding ran out,” Drum said.
He had developed a friendship with the principal and ended up landing a substitute teaching job. He carried on with subbing for several years and worked as a house company manager for the Tanglewood repertoire theatre in the summers.
“I was subbing for seventh and eighth grades combined at Courtney, and the director of the health department called and asked if I would like to be the family planning outreach coordinator and a venereal disease investigator,” Drum said. “The seventh and eighth grade combined was killing me. It was the worst 30 days of my life, so I was willing to do anything.”
After a year Drum was bored with the health department job and realized that it held no future for him, he said. He brainstormed where he would go next, and with no desire to venture into the corporate world he decided to open his own business.
He opened Jim Drum Photography in 1980 with no professional experience as a photographer but a passion and talent that he hoped would provide him success.
“The first 10 years or so were a real struggle, but then everything clicked, and some of the marketing I was doing worked. I started making money, so it was great,” Drum said. “It was so much fun.”
Soon afterward, Drum met the woman he would spend his life with. Drum first saw Lisa Reavis at a church function that he said he attended for the free food. He was instantly smitten with her but was discouraged from pursuing her by a friend who warned him that she was too young and needed to finish her college career.
Drum honored his friend’s suggestion, but a few years later when the two ended up at the Sun Bonnet Festival together he decided to make his move.
“She was doing calligraphy, and I was there for my photography. Suave as I am, I started talking to her and asked her if she wanted to come to my studio one day, because she said she was interested in photography. We started dating after that,” Drum said. “We will have been married 29 years in June. It doesn’t seem like it.
“She was a sweet, young thing, but now she’s not,” Drum said with a laugh. “She’s mean now, and I live in fear of her.”
Drum said that he is grateful for the 30 years he was able to run a successful business. He feels lucky that he was able to get out of the business before digital photography and affordable DSLRs changed the field.
“The way people see photography now is just very different,” Drum said. “When I was in business my business was mostly 8x10, 5x7 and wallets. They would buy them for their friends and family but when now that the world has gone digital you can just take a picture with your phone and send it to everyone you know and there’s no purchase required.”
Since retiring Drum said that he spends his days serving on the Surry Community College Yadkin Center board, the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce board as the public relations chair and on the Yadkin County Arts Council board.
“I come to my office five days a week to check my email, walk to the Post Office and come back and have lunch with someone,” Drum said. “Then I go home and take a nap. It’s been so good. I should have retired 20 years ago.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.