Dr. Sawyer was in Georgia and Alabama inspecting malaria and hookworm control programs from late August to early October 1924,
while his family finished a vacation in northern Michigan and prepared to move back to New York City. In this letter Sawyer
described southern small-town life and diet, local wildlife (e.g., cockroaches), and making the rounds with local Rockefeller
Foundation representative Dr. W. G. Smillie. The "Uncle Bim" that Sawyer mentions was a popular comic strip character
during the 1920s.
Item is handwritten.
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5 (414,553 Bytes)
1924-09-21 (September 21, 1924)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
From Hookworm to Yellow Fever: Rockefeller Foundation, 1919-1927
Andalusia is a nice Southern town and you would feel perfectly at home in it. The flying cockroaches and the flies that get
in your ears remind one of dear old Queensland. There is a nice big cockroach living behind the piano at the boarding-house.
He ventures out on the wall but retires after a quick reconnoitre if we are still at meals.
I arrived here at 9.30 in the evening on Friday, Sept. 19. Dr. and Mrs. Smillie met me at the station and took me to the
home of Judge Rankin, where I have a delightful clean modern room with private bath,--a luxury after Leesburg. There are
stacks of clean towels and there is not a lot of dust anywhere. The room is also cool.
I board across the street where most of the boarders are young school teachers. Between the Rankins and the school marms
my soul is being well looked after. The godless go to church once on Sunday and the rest at least twice. Everyone invites
you to church and then notices whether
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you have gone and comments on it. You are likely to go, too, as there is no other occupation, unless it is spooning, and
I am out of that. The most violent form of spooning seems to be taking your girl to church. I hasten to add that Dr. Smillie
and I went together and otherwise unaccompanied. First we picked cotton for an hour on his demonstration patch.
Close to the porch at the boarding house there is a lantana bush frequented by a humming bird. He hovers about plunging his
beak rapidly into blossom after blossom until the edge is off his appetite and then he sits on a twig from which he can watch
his precious blossoms. If a bumble bee comes around then he darts after it and makes passes at it with his beak until it
flies away. He gives similar attention to butterflies. He has a strong sense of proprietorship.
I am gradually learning the essentials of the southern bill of fare. You must have grits about twice a day, and you mix them
with hash or gravy. This food supplements the principal dish and suppresses any longings for second helpings. Then, you
must have chicken
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with dumplings at Sunday noon. One chicken will do. You vary the noodles to adjust for the size of the table. You eat a
second round of hash, pork, or beans to fill the vacant corners. There is always variety. And then there are the hot biscuits.
The small round variety. They were invented small and hot so as to keep the help busy after the meal starts, everything else
being on the table and passed from hand to hand in economical and sensible fashion. People ought to do a little work for
their food. We can't all earn it by scintillating remarks.
Most the conversation so far has been about Uncle Bim in Australia. No sooner does anyone hear that I have come from there
than he asks about Uncle Bim, and wants to learn if he really owns most of Australia, and if I know him. To-day they handed
me the section in the movies with his picture. I advise you to get acquainted with him even at the expense of paying 10 cents
for a Sunday paper. It is necessary in self defense. If you want to economize keep it dark that you are from Australia.
Mrs. Smillie has a young baby girl just getting her fourth tooth. There are two older children
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of the former Mrs. Smillie who died in Brazil of puerperal fever.
The report of the I.H.B. has three of my photos in it, but none from Australia. Two are from Madras and one from Java. I
saw Dr. Smillie's copy this morning.
I am hoping to-morrow's mail will bring a letter from you, forwarded through Leesburg. If I mail this to-morrow it will
probably not arrive too early to be delivered to you in New York.
Have you enough money to last to the first of the month? I have not received any reimbursements of travel expense and have
wondered whether any letters were received from the I.H.B. and forwarded from Harbor Springs.
Rumor has it that Dr. Leach will be assigned to the State of Alabama for a year as epidemiologist. There is plenty to do
here. I listened to the oral examination of midwives the other day. Nearly all of them were unable to write and only a few
could read. The white women were more ignorant than the blacks. Most of them were very old. Many of the negro women were
uncertain of their age. One said she was here in the slave days and her occupation then was "fanning flies" and helping
about the table.
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One of the women had delivered about a thousand babies.
Alabama maxims by W.A.S.
1. Spare the grits and spoil the food.
2. 'Tis gravy that makes the grits go round.
3. You can build a marble courthouse but you can't keep off the spit.
4. A cockroach in the bush is worth three in the house.
To Blatta Orientalis
Twinkle, twinkle, little Blatta,
How I wonder what's the matta,
Darting all about the house
Like a filthy winged mouse.
2 [and]alusia [NOTE: Sawyer used an ampersand in place of the "and" of andalusia]