Following his discharge from the Army Medical Corps in May 1919, Dr. Sawyer accepted a position with the Rockefeller Foundation's
International Health Division. His first assignment was to initiate and oversee a hookworm control campaign in eastern Australia.
He and his family arrived there in August, settling in Brisbane. Sawyer traveled frequently for this job, and his letters
home describe some of the unique features of Australia's geography, economy, and population. In this letter he added comments
on the trouble caused by alcohol. (Sawyer was a non-drinker, and seems to have supported the alcohol prohibition campaign
NOTE: The original document is written in pencil on thin paper, and as a result the image is difficult to read.
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1920-05-20 (May 20, 1920)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
From Hookworm to Yellow Fever: Rockefeller Foundation, 1919-1927
Again I sit beside the dwindling, flickering candle. It does not seem to be quite so cool to-night.
We have had an interesting day at the Aboriginal Settlement, and I have a few photos that will be interesting. One of the
striking things about the abos [sic] is the good grade of English that they talk. I heard one say "Au revoir" in reply
to a "good-bye", and they use the same idioms and inflections as the average Queenslander. And yet they are living
in all sorts of extemporized shacks with log fires inside them, and they go shuffling about barefooted in rags.
My room is over the saloon and I hear all the arguments. Yesterday a drunk spent much of the evening trying to sing Annie
Laurie at the top of his voice. It was all sentiment--tearful sentiment--and no tune or intelligible words.
Then there was a terrific
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argument between the bartender and a "guest" who was being urged to depart under threat of violence. Judging by the
length of the discussion I take it that the bar-tender is a man of loud words rather than action. He told us that bar-tending
was a most degrading business,--he used to run a store in Indoowpilly [?]. He had decided to sell a man drink only while he
had money and then refuse to give him any more. He couldn't stand this everlasting begging for credit, and he wasn't
going to give any more. When their money was gone they would get no more drinks at his place.
I have a reservation (I think) to leave here Saturday night and arrive in Brisbane Sunday. So "au revoir". Lots of
love to you and the three nice little girls.