Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Summer/105/Section 10/Alton Poe

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Alton Poe
BornUnknown
Carteret County, North Carolina
DiedUnknown
OccupationDairy Farmer

Overview[edit | edit source]

Alton Poe was a dairy farmer who lived in Carteret County, North Carolina his whole life, only leaving to serve as soldier in World War I. In 1938, he was interviewed while driving home from the Duke Hospital in Durham by Leonard Rapport for the Federal Writer’s Project.

Biography[edit | edit source]

World War I[edit | edit source]

Two American soldiers run towards a bunker.

Poe was drafted in September of 1917 to serve in World War I. He was the oldest boy in his family and the only one eligible for the draft. He left North Carolina for the first time when the military sent him to Columbia, South Carolina for training. After finishing training, he went to France where he was promoted from a private to a corporal. Poe also learned sharpshooting and joined the rifle team while in France. Fighting in the trenches exposed Poe to many traumatic events, including watching his captain die from a bullet wound. Due to these harsh conditions, Poe was diagnosed with shell-shock and burning bones. These conditions affected him for the rest of his life.

Poe's Life as a Dairy Farmer[edit | edit source]

At the end of the war, Poe decided to return to Carteret County to pursue farming, just as his father did. In 1921, Poe married a woman from the local area and together they adopted one son when he was eighteen months old. Around 1930, Poe decided to start dairy farming. He would bottle and sell the milk his cattle produced in nearby Morehead City. Although he enjoyed this work, his farm was in bad shape, so in 1935, he decided to sell his cattle and move his family to a new farm in Carteret County. Here, his family grew crops for a year before trying dairy farming again. However, this time Poe sold his milk to a local creamery. The money he earned from his farm was just enough to support his family, but they still faced economic hardship throughout Poe’s life. Poe hoped to move his family to Pinehurst, North Carolina to raise ayrshire cattle, as he heard they were more profitable milk producers. Poe often encouraged his son to stay in school in order to find a more lucrative career in the government.

Social Issues[edit | edit source]

The Impact of Shell-Shock on Veterans[edit | edit source]

Combat stress reaction
WW2 Marine after Eniwetok assault.jpg
A U.S. Marine, Pvt. Theodore J. Miller, exhibits a thousand-yard stare, an unfocused, despondent and weary gaze which is a frequent manifestation of "shell shock"
SpecialtyPsychiatry

When soldiers began returning to the United States after the end of World War I, many were afflicted with shell-shock. American society emphasized the idea that shell-shock was both curable and preventable.[1] There was a sense of urgency in the states to move on from the war after its termination.[2] Thus, much of society ignored the impact of shell-shock. Little was done to help affected veterans and much pressure was placed on individuals’ families to help with care.[3] “Pension policies complicated matters further. Anticipating that veterans would seek monetary payment for permanent injuries, progressive reformers had restructured US veteran benefits to discourage what they saw as veteran dependence on government handouts.”[4] Thus, veterans often did not receive government assistance for hardships faced during reintegration into civilian life either. It was not until the onset of the stock market crash during 1929 that the public’s focus began concerning veterans’ needs because many people saw similarities between their own economic hardships and the government’s lack of focus on veterans.[5] This shift in the American mindset was key in helping gain traction for the rights of veterans struggling with mental illness. Much reform would come to be seen during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt with his policies under the New Deal.

How the Government Reformed Education During the Great Depression[edit | edit source]

National Youth Administration was a Vocational Guidance--brush-up classes to improve typing ability.

Due to widespread economic hardship, many children had to drop out of school during the Great Depression to help support their families. In the rural South, this problem was especially prominent, causing many schools to have to close their doors.[6] However, simultaneously, there was a growing awareness surrounding the importance of public education in forming a strong base for the economy.[7] Many people began realizing that an education system in which all children attend school would help minimize social class division and allow for more equal opportunity.[8] Due to this growing concern for education, many parts of FDR’s New Deal focused on education, including the National Youth Administration (NYA). The New Deal included this organization as a response to problems identified among America’s youth.[9] Some of these included poor children permanently leaving school and lack of guidance and job opportunities for students.[10] Across the country, high schools worked to improve schooling conditions and increase retention rates by changing curricula to better meet the needs of students.[11] “For the first time in the history of the nation, the federal government began to offer education courses, primarily in the basic skills.”[12] Through this, more students learned to read and write, aiding them in finding jobs after graduation. Business opportunities also became openly available to students, as the industrial sector pushed for vocational training in schools.[13] With this training, the NYA helped students to find work opportunities after graduation.[14] Altogether, these actions worked in unison to help make public education more accessible and beneficial for all children in America.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Annessa Stagner, “Healing the Soldier, Restoring the Nation: Representations of Shell Shock in the USA During and After the First World War,” Journal of Contemporary History, 49, no. 2, 263 (2014), https://journals-sagepub-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/doi/pdf/10.1177/0022009413515532 (accessed July 14, 2021).
  2. David Chrisinger, “The Army’s Message to Returning World War I Troops? Behave Yourselves.” New York Times. July 31, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/31/magazine/world-war-i-veterans-treatment.html (accessed July 14, 2021).
  3. Stagner, “Healing the Soldier,” 263.
  4. Ibid., 267.
  5. Chrisinger, “The Army’s Message."
  6. Matthew Lynch, “Comprehending How The Great Depression Influenced American Education.” The Edvocate. September 2, 2018. https://www.theedadvocate.org/comprehending-great-depression-influenced-american-education/ (accessed July 14, 2021).
  7. Alexander Rippa, “The Business Community and The Public Schools on The Eve of The Great Depression,” History of Education Quarterly, 4, no. 1, 33 (1964), https://www-jstor-org.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/stable/pdf/367255.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A0d999b759f35d79951a64796d5cd2a03 (accessed July 14, 2021).
  8. Ibid.
  9. Jeffery Mirel and David Agnus, “Youth, Work, and Schooling in the Great Depression,” Journal of Early Adolescence, 5, no. 4, 495 (1985), https://journals-sagepub-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/doi/pdf/10.1177/0272431685054007 (accessed July 14, 2021).
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid., 498.
  12. Lynch, “Comprehending How The Great Depression.”
  13. Rippa, “The Business Community,” 35.
  14. Mirel and Agnus, "Youth, Work, and Schooling," 495.

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Chrisinger, David. “The Army’s Message to Returning World War I Troops? Behave Yourselves.” New York Times. July 31, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/31/magazine/world-war-i-veterans-treatment.html (accessed July 14, 2021).

Lynch, Matthew. “Comprehending How The Great Depression Influenced American Education.” The Edvocate. September 2, 2018. https://www.theedadvocate.org/comprehending-great-depression-influenced-american-education/ (accessed July 14, 2021).

Mirel, Jeffery and David Agnus. “Youth, Work, and Schooling in the Great Depression,” Journal of Early Adolescence, 5, no. 4 (1985), https://journals-sagepub-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/doi/pdf/10.1177/0272431685054007 (accessed July 14, 2021).

Rippa, Alexander. “The Business Community and The Public Schools on The Eve of The Great Depression,” History of Education Quarterly, 4, no. 1 (1964), https://www-jstor-org.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/stable/pdf/367255.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A0d999b759f35d79951a64796d5cd2a03 (accessed July 14, 2021).

Stagner, Annessa. “Healing the Soldier, Restoring the Nation: Representations of Shell Shock in the USA During and After the First World War,” Journal of Contemporary History, 49, no. 2 (2014), https://journals-sagepub-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/doi/pdf/10.1177/0022009413515532 (accessed July 14, 2021).