Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Susan B. Hicks

Hicks, Susan B.
White, Jane
Date of Interview: 
Red Cross; World War I; World War II; Camp Green; Charlotte; Atlanta; Washington
Ms. Susan Hicks gives a history of the Red Cross starting about the time of the first World War up until World War II. She explaind the kinds of services they offered and talks about the people they served.
Charlotte; Atlanta; 1910s-1940s
Interview Setting: 
Interviewed as part of the WSOC-TV Oral History Project. Interviews conducted at either the downtown public library or the Midtown Shopping Mall.
WSOC-TV Oral History Project
Collection Description: 
The Oral History Project of 1979, headed by Dr. Edward Perzel, was an effort to gather and preserve spoken recollections. Interviews were conducted with older citizens, primarily over the age of 65, who were encouraged to share their memories and stories.
Interview Audio: 
JW (Jane White): This is Susan Hicks. It's nice to have you here at with our Oral History presentation and I'll just turn the microphone over to you, you may talk about the Red Cross and then other things.
SH (Susan Hicks): Alright. I thought that since many other people have already given some many anecdotes and, and interesting history about Camp Green that I would give a little history of the Red Cross which was a complete outgrowth of the camp. In the days of the first, up until after the First World War in fact, the Red Cross only functioned during wars and disasters, and of course wherever there was a camp as we had here at Camp Green, there was one Red Cross office on the camp usually headed by a man and then in the adjoining town as in this case Charlotte, there was another Red Cross office, under the headquarters of Atlanta which was the district Red Cross association at that time. That office was to serve the families of the men both in Camp Green and a local man wherever they were scattered in camps over the United States or in service abroad. We, it was decided at that time, that probably, this would have been about 19, the January 1919 I would say; a few months after the armistice, it was assumed that all these offices would close. The camps would soon be closed up and the Red Cross offices, of course on the camp and also an office would closed. And because of that there was a vacancy here and I was sent from Atlanta to fill out the time which they thought would be about six months and also probably to help close up the office. During that time we continued to work which was very interesting and a very full days work. We did a limited type of social work with the families when necessary. We were both gave loans and gifts of money to hardship cases. We served as a liaison between the military and the families. We filled out allotment papers and later on as the men came home from service we did many things for them, such as help them get into government hospitals and get their back pays and all the governmental things that you could possibly do. We also had some other interesting things we did at that time, and just in that spring we had the second big flu epidemic here. It was nothing like as extended, extensive in fatalities but it was very, very heavy all through this section. The, we had had, the city health department was in it's infancy. It was headed however by a very fine man who was a good organizer too, and he called together the existing agencies. As I think of them now there really were none except the Red Cross and the old associated charities and probably some church works that were done but we had no welfare department nothing of that kind at all, but he called them together and assigned what whichever ones there were, certain duties. Now the duty of the Red Cross was to take the entire charge of nurses. To provide nurses, get them wherever we could and put them in homes that were necessary. We even had the authority to remove one if somebody was just keeping it when it was unnecessary and put it into one that was necessary. Fortunately we never had to do that, because people were most cooperative and we had no problems about that. We did, however, send to Atlanta, and getting great number of nurses to come up from, to serve Huntersville. Huntersville had hardly a house that didn't have a victim in it. And I remember one time going into one, because we would have to go around and see a lot about this thing, the staff there was just three of us really on the staff. I was the executive, Ms. Alma Oates who belonged one of the oldest families here was my assistant, and a very wonderful Negro director who had charge of the Negro work under us, her husband was the Professor of Greek and Latin at Johnson C. Smith University, a very wonderful woman. And it made a great contribution to Charlotte, not only there but later on with the probation department, but anyway, our, our besides that we had to go to all these homes and I remember once going in and there were six people in one bed. But every house had had a case of it, we didn't have anyone--. Well anyway that was just one of the little extra things that the Red Cross was asked to do. Well also during that six months then, before the office closed, the national headquarters had been toying with the idea that perhaps the time had come for there to be a local, I meant local peacetime organizations and they decided to experiment with it, using the offices already established as these camp offices all the us, all over the United States, there were certain ones of course very few. So they tried to, they wanted to do that and although I had planned to leave at the end of the six months, they asked me to stay on. They didn't want to change horses in the middle of the stream. So I was very happy to stay on and see the new thing going into existence. We continued, quite a while doing just what we'd been doing really and truly. The only difference was that we were no longer under Atlanta, we were responsible only to Washington and then we even had to have our own campaigns for money, before that of course we were supported by Washington, but that was quite a job that had to be done but the people in town rallied. Now I do want to go back and say one more thing about the Red Cross which I had nothing to do with whatever, but before I, before that, the main thing that had been done outside of this office was with a campaign. That had been a very, very active organization, headed by the cream of society in Charlotte frankly, and they performed a wonderful service as the soldiers came through and the trains and all that kind of thing. That had practically disintegrated, by the time, by 1919 and but it kept going for a little while just as sort of a social organization but no further service really but its something that definitely ought to be mentioned here and I, Mrs. Van Landingham, was the, ( ) Lanningham was the head of it and she had a crew as I said they were really the cream of society in Charlotte that handled that thing. Um, yes.
JW: Excuse me, with the Salvation Army on the scene at the time?
SH: Yes, we, yes. We did have the Salvation Army. It was a very meager, very meager organization but that was here, I had forgotten about that, that was about the only three, the associated charities of the Salvation Army and the Red Cross the only thing outside, the City Health Department was just starting, just very meager in itself. Well anyway I was for example, then so, we just, that was fought then. As we came a local and autonomous organization we were responsible to Washington but we didn't have any of the services now that they have. We just went on with what we were doing and except one other thing. The associated charities being the only social service organization here did nothing outside the city limits and of course even then Charlotte was expanding a little bit and we decided something ought to be done in the county and it was agreed that the, our office would take over a limited type of social work in the county. We had some very interesting cases I remember one of the first ones was a family that had a hydrocephalus child, no place in the world in North Carolina to put it at that time, and we made arrangements some how to get some help so the parents could work. I mean it was that sort of kind of thing we did. Another very interesting case that we had was a family it was a wonderful heritage, but through no fault of their own had come into financial difficulties and were, we, they were referred to us. We were able to find the mother a job and that family became not only self supporting but have made great contributions to Charlotte. I recall no names of course but it's a very wonderful family really and truly. That was the sort of thing that we did. We had a very limited sphere to do it in. We had a limited staff and we couldn't do a grand very limited money but we did make some contribution until of course there was no welfare department in those days you see, or anything of that sort. The, after this, eventually then the Red Cross began expanding various, into various services. In junior Red Cross and various things until now of course we know what it is. I don't, for a while, I, I personally moved out of town for a while and I didn't know, but there was a time that it was very limited in what it was doing. It didn't have the impetus of course if the war was gone and it hadn't, it had actually taken on all of this other thing and it was not until the second World War came on then that it became an utterly revitalized and all over the United States for that matter but certainly here in Charlotte but we had the, again, the very finest of our citizens here taking a part in revitalizing it and signing it, and some of us who had been connected with it before did volunteer work and some of the things and that, 'till it had finally grown into the great organization that it is today.
JW: Yes it is.
SH: And so I think that's about enough, don't you think that's enough?
JW: Yes.