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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Carroll Lupton, April 2, 1980. Interview H-0028. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Health conditions in Burlington, North Carolina, during the Great Depression

Lupton discusses the general health of the working community in Burlington, North Carolina, during the 1930s. According to Lupton, most health problems at the time were resultant of poor nutrition, which he understood as a byproduct of the economic crisis generated by the Great Depression. At the time, Lupton was especially concerned about the healthcare of pregnant women and he explains his own policy of encouraging pregnant women to seek medical care throughout the duration of their pregnancy, rather than following local customs of waiting until the time of labor.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Carroll Lupton, April 2, 1980. Interview H-0028. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

MARY MURPHY:
Well, were the people generally healthy? Were there any problems that were very
CARROLL LUPTON:
We had some nutritional problems. But I don't think it . . . pertained to one particular area, but it was more or less to the economic condition of the people. Like when we went there. Every year, when I first went there, one or two little children died with diptheria, because they hadn't been vaccinated. And they called the doctor when the kid, they thought it had what they called "croup." You know what croup is? That's when they can't breathe. [gasps in imitation] After about twenty-four, forty-eight hours of that, they'd call the doctor, and says, "The baby's had croup." Or the child. And you look in their throat. Walk in the room, and you smell the stuff. (Some of us could, and some couldn't. I don't know, some people's noses are better than the others.) And you walk in, and you find the kid is dying when you see it. I used to, lots of times, take them in my car; I'd go get them to the Duke Hospital, from down in that area, in about thirty-five, forty minutes. That's about as good as you can do today. When we used to take off with the mother and the kid, we weren't fooling, because I knew they had to be somewhere they could get expert attention. Once in a while, we'd get one that lived; about half of them would be gone, twenty-four, forty-eight hours. We used to get some nutritional diseases, like anemias, and pellagra. I would see some pellagra every year. And they'd come out of that area, and areas like that. Now, there were other villages around Burlington who had these textile peoples, and we had tenant farmers out in the country. Although they had gardens, some of them were not too industrious about their gardens, and the diets. They were eating fat pork and cornbread and And they'd get pellagra. Now we don't see that anymore. Most everybody has a decent diet. A vitamin deficiency, in the United States, for a person who's eating a regular diet, is almost unheard of; contrary to the fact that they sell millions of dollars worth of vitamins every year. People get them whether they need them or not, and think it helps. It wasn't customary, too much, when I started, for women to go for prenatal care. I used to fuss at them about that. Most of the time, they'd wait till they got in labor, and then call the doctor, if they could find him. I used to insist on it, and fuss at them something terrible if they waited until the last minute. I wanted them as soon as they thought that they were pregnant, to come and see. Come in at regular intervals: weight blood pressure, and see about whether they were anemic, and get the things that the women ought to have for that. I think that's pretty common, all over the country, in the last twenty, twenty-five years, now, for pre-natal care. But that was not the case in those days, and those people, when we (1244) first started, they wanted to know what in they world you want to get up there for so early. They want to wait and call you at the last minute. I said, "Well, we might want to go fishing, or take a vacation trip, or something, and we want to know who's expecting, who isn't; and if we've got to get somebody to substitute for us-another doctor-while we're gone, we want to be able to alert him as to what might happen." And to tell the lady, have the nurses get word to her: that I might not be there, and in case I wasn't, who was going to be covering.