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Interview with Alice Snead, March 9, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Alice Snead, March 9, 2004
Date:
March 9, 2004
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Snead, Alice Interviewer: Mims, Luann Date of Interview: 6/9/2004 Series: SENC Health Services Length 60 minutes

Mims: Today is March 9, 2004. I'm LuAnn Mims for the Randall Library Special Collections, Health Services project of Southeastern North Carolina. We are talking today with Mrs. Alice Snead who was a Red Cross director here in Wilmington.

Mims: Good morning Mrs. Snead, how are you?

Snead: I was the assistant.

Mims: Assistant director, okay. If you would start today by just giving us a little bit of personal background, where you were born, where you grew up.

Snead: Do you want me to start?

Mims: Yes, uh-huh.

Snead: Well, I was born in Richmond, Virginia and from an early age, I went around with my grandmother a lot who did so much work. She was one of the founders of the Sheltering Arms Free hospital up there and I wanted to do for others. My whole life has been spent wanting to do for others. I moved down here. Well, first when World War II started I decided I wanted to help the Red Cross.

Well, the first thing I did was to knit sweaters. Well, they left a lot to be desired and I was sure the boys used them to clean their gun barrels. But then I joined the Red Cross, all Volunteer Nurse’s Aide Corps. We were trained at the Medical College of Virginia Hospital by a nurse. It was really like a home nursing course and we learned to take vital signs, give bed baths, change the linens and to do back rubs, to do these things to relieve the sparse nursing staffs in the hospitals. They did not have time to do these things because so many nurses had gone with the troops overseas.

Mims: How old were you when you started all of this.

Snead: Twenty.

Mims: Twenty? And this was all up in Virginia?

Snead: Uh-huh.

Mims: Were your friends doing this as well?

Snead: Yes I had some friends doing it too and I just was so proud to be a Red Cross volunteer. I did it at night because I worked for the government during the day and I would have to get the bus to go downtown in Richmond and quite often on the way to the bus, there would be an air raid siren blowing and you didn't know whether it was the real thing or not. So you ran up on the nearest porch and if the people saw you, they would open the door and you’d go in if you can imagine doing that nowadays (laughter).

I’d ride the bus down and I really was supposed to volunteer for about two hours, but I usually ended up staying down there until the last bus at 12:30 and come home because we were so badly needed and so appreciated.

Mims: Whenever you did your volunteer work, what did you wear? Do you want to hold that up?

Snead: Well let me tell you, it had a white blouse that went under it and I had to make another emblem. The emblem is the Civil Defense emblem with a red cross in the middle and the pin I wore was made, it was a little round (it’s around here somewhere) wooden pin covered with an embroidered Red Cross emblem because the metal supply you know was scarce. In fact people were giving their pans and all over the kitchen because they were so badly needed, the metal was so badly needed.

Mims: You want to hold up the dress?

Snead: Yes, this is a jumper and we wore a white blouse with it and I also had the Red Cross pin on there, if I can find it. Do you see a pin over on that table?

Mims: Yes I do.

Snead: See, it’s wooden painted and it has the Red Cross emblem on it and it’s covered, they didn't have plastic back then so I don’t know what that was, some glass or something.

Mims: Huh, and this uniform was very recognizable in the community as…

Snead: Oh yes, and I was so proud to get on the bus in that uniform. I just felt it was wonderful to volunteer for Red Cross.

Mims: How would people treat you when they saw the uniform?

Snead: Very nice and people in the hospital, of course I did a good part of my work in the Sheltering Arms Hospital because my grandmother had been one of the founders of it. It was a charity hospital. The doctors went over there and took their patients there and they didn't charge a cent for their services. They weren’t allowed to. And it finally became Virginia’s most popular charity.

Mims: Now is this what they call the gray lady uniform?

Snead: No, this is the nurse’s aide uniform. The gray ladies wore gray uniforms and with white collars and they did other things. Sometimes I call what we did the bedpan brigade (laughter) because there were nights as soon as all of the visitors would leave, all the lights would go on for a bedpan you know, if you can imagine doing that (laughter).

Mims: Now did you have an interest in nursing at all? Did you want to pursue…?

Snead: No.

Mims: No? But you liked doing that.

Snead: I like helping other people.

Mims: I wonder how many people were in the volunteer service, and went on to nursing you know.

Snead: There’s just no telling how many Red Cross volunteers there were.

Mims: Well how did you end up coming down to Wilmington? Why don’t we put the dress down so you can sit.

Snead: My husband was transferred down here with a large hotel dry goods firm out of Richmond and what I did for Red Cross then, I didn't go into the nurse’s aide corps, I don’t think they had them in the hospitals then, but I worked on neighborhood drives.

Mims: What is that?

Snead: You know, used to go from door to door collecting for Red Cross ‘cause we weren’t part of the United Way then and you would get a sticker to put on your window you know if you gave to Red Cross.

Mims: Hmm, how long did you do that?

Snead: I don’t know how many years. Then I was a secretary at an Episcopal church and I was called by the director of the Red Cross and offered the job down there. The chapter was down on Front Street in a beautiful old home and I was there for 18 years. I was assistant director.

Mims: What were some of the jobs that you did under that position?

Snead: Well whatever needed to be done. There were only two and a half paid staff workers. The rest were volunteers, but you see that was before all of the women had to go to work you know.

Mims: So you had nice pool of volunteers?

Snead: Oh mercy yes.

Mims: And this is post-wartime by now, right?

Snead: Yes, we moved here in ’55.

Mims: Did you put volunteers in any of the hospitals?

Snead: We had some volunteers in the hospitals and especially in the waiting rooms you know for people who were in surgery to be there with the families.

Mims: Do you remember anything about the hospitals at that time here?

Snead: Uh, well at one time they had the nurse’ aides, but then they had others who…they did whatever was needed but you had your hospital auxiliary you know to do some of the things that we had been doing before.

Mims: Yeah I was trying to get a picture of how that worked. I know that when James Walker was open, they had a volunteer auxiliary, but was the Red Cross in Walker as well?

Snead: The Red Cross did some things and then when we went over to New Hanover, we still did some things but not the same things.

Mims: I know during the war, the Red Cross acted as a liaison between the military and the family.

Snead: They are. That’s one of the things, you know by a Congressional charter, was to work with the military and with disaster. Those two things are mandated and we were the link in communication between the service person and the family and we would get calls at all hours of the night when we did that and a serious illness or death in a family. And if it was a serious illness, we would call the doctor because the military depended on us to verify whatever, you know, the situation was.

We would get a recommendation from the doctor whether or not he felt; it was bad enough for the serviceman to come home.

Mims: And then at that time if the doctor did say that it was necessary…

Snead: Yes, we would call Washington and there was an overseas relay station up there called AM Cross and we had a Red Cross office up there and they sent it by government wire to wherever the serviceman was you know overseas. If he was at sea on a ship, of course, we didn't have a Red Cross representative on the ship so it would be sent to the commanding officer of the ship by service to Armed Forces.

Mims: And would you stay in touch with the family at that time?

Snead: Yes and we would hear back as to whether the service man or woman was coming home and then we would call the family and tell them. And if a service man overseas had his family with him and a member of his family died, it was Red Cross who told the family here of the death, but we never notified of the death of a service person. A Casualty Assistance officer did that. But I can remember sometimes the Casualty Assistance officer would come by and ask one of us to go with him to notify the family.

Mims: Were most of the volunteers female in the Red Cross?

Snead: No, you have so many male disaster volunteers now.

Mims: Now, but initially was…

Snead: Oh yes, you had men who volunteered too. You had to have them in disaster.

Mims: Did you do any disaster…?

Snead: Uh-huh, I have done something of everything (laughter).

Mims: Well, give me a little bit of overview of some of the things you’ve done.

Snead: Well, I did the casework, I took the courses to teach first aid, CPR and some of the other courses because if we couldn't get an instructor you know then the course had to be taught and I would teach it. I found it very interesting. I was there 18 years and no two days were alike.

Mims: Case work that involved working with families?

Snead: Working with families and in that old home downtown, Linda Lavin owns it now, it’s in the old Sprunt house off Front Street. We had a large kitchen and if a service wife came in and she had a lot of trouble, she was real upset, I would take her in the kitchen and fix some coffee and we would sit there and drink a cup of coffee and I would listen to her. A lot of times all they needed was someone to listen who was interested and they solved their own problems.

Mims: And then the first aid, I know that when people are Red Cross certified, there’s no question they know what they’re doing.

Snead: Oh yes, you have the standard first aid, the advanced first aid and then you see the EMT program came along so we no longer train the firemen and the policemen. But you see… at one time we trained everybody.

Mims: You did? You personally or would you bring in professionals?

Snead: Oh we had a lot of volunteers and they wanted to do it. In order to keep up their certification, they had to teach one class a year for the chapter. Then when the Occupational Safety and Health Act came in and all of the plants had to have first aid trained people, I didn't know how on earth we were going handle all of that because it had to be either Red Cross or Bureau of Mines, so needless to say we’re not the Bureau of Mines down here.

So I thought it’s better to train all of the industrial nurses in first aid and then they could take care of the people in their plants and that’s what they did. They got the books from us and we issued their certificates when they finished the classes.

Mims: Well, that was a good idea to do that. How about the blood banks? I mean that’s another thing associated with the Red Cross.

Snead: Well, that came here in 1976. I was the first donor and it made me feel so good I just can’t tell you, to think that I may have prolonged a life or saved a life and I was the first donor and my blood type is AB positive and of course only AB positive people can use that.

Mims: Well, how did that come to be?

Snead: Well, the two pathologists out at the hospital came to us and said, you know they had the blood assurance plan at the hospital, and people could give and then a member of their family could receive blood. Well you see with all of modern surgery, they couldn't get enough blood. So I think it was Dr. Singleton and I can’t remember the other doctor’s name, came to talk to us about it and the Vietnam War was over. This was 1976.

We talked about it and decided you know we needed something else because we didn't have any major thing like the Vietnam War, not anything else going on so big and we decided to go into it. And we started, we furnished the volunteers. I mean it was difficult to get it all started, but the first time that you know that I gave was in July of ’76 I believe and it made me feel so good, I came home and did my fall cleaning (laughter).

Mims: Was it a program that caught on very quickly?

Snead: Well we had to, we didn't have any money to put into it you know and yes, they went out and they then hired blood people to come in, blood recruiters you know and at first they sent the nurses and the blood collection things from Charlotte. And then we ended up with a blood center here, you see. I still volunteer for that. I do the registration.

Mims: The people that take the blood, are they nurses? Or volunteers?

Snead: Oh yes, either phlebotomists or nurses. You have to be trained to do that you know.

Mims: I understand, I guess it’s a lot better now to give blood, but like I’ve heard stories during World War II people giving blood and getting sick or something.

Snead: Well you see they didn't know as much about the different types and Red Cross does a wonderful job of finding out if people have something wrong you know like hepatitis and now there’s so much with AIDS and everything as you know. When you pay for the blood, you know when it’s charged to you, you’re not really paying for the blood; you’re paying for the process and all the tests that have to be done. And the recruiters you know….

Mims: Why don’t you go into that process a little bit more. If somebody comes in and wants to give blood what happens?

Snead: Well, they test you first, you know, and if you’re a regular blood donor, then you come in and there’s a booklet you have to read asking if you have been with any wild women I guess and if you’ve been into certain countries, you know, that are having problems. So they’re very strict about the people giving and then it goes through all of the lab process, not here but away from here.

Mims: So it’s sent out of the local area and tested elsewhere?

Snead: It’s tested out elsewhere and then comes back to this area.

Mims: It does come back?

Snead: Yes.

Mims: Now is there still a program where you can pre-donate blood like if you were going to have surgery?

Snead: Yes, they’re called autologous donations and I don’t know whether they started it or not, but they were talking about intraoperative autologous blood programs. You know the blood you lose is recovered and goes through a cleansing process and it’s put back into your body, but now I’m not sure that they’re doing that yet.

Mims: I know some people have religious problems with giving blood or receiving blood. Did you ever have incidents of that there?

Snead: Now that I don’t know. See the blood center has its own person in charge and you have nurses. I think they do a wonderful job. Of course I think everything about Red Cross is wonderful (laughter).

Mims: Well it certainly adds to the community in Wilmington especially with the hurricanes that we had here.

Snead: Yes with disaster and of course, anybody kin to me is going to do some volunteer work for Red Cross. And I have two grandsons who have helped in shelters and one grandson did his Eagle Scout project up there. The week before Christmas is known to be a low week for blood donations because people are so busy so he took a Monday before Christmas and recruited.

He had everything; he had Boy Scouts up there except you had your nurses and all of the Red Cross jobs. He recruited all of the volunteers from his church and his wrestling coach was there and it was just wonderful. They went over goal.

Mims: And that was his Eagle Scout project?

Snead: Uh-huh.

Mims: And you also said you had a granddaughter here locally that’s been involved.

Snead: That’s Amy that you just saw. I had made a Red Cross uniform for my daughter when she was just about 3, and I’d put that on Amy and Amy would go with me places so she felt like she was Red Cross. You know a lot of places she was allowed to go (laughter) and she’s always been interested in it and now she works with disaster and blood services and whatever, you know. When she has time, she works full-time, she’s 25 now.

Mims: Well, let’s go back to whenever you first entered Wilmington in 1959?

Snead:

Mims: ’55, did you get involved with the Red Cross right at that time?

Snead: I got involved with the neighborhood drives ‘cause my children were young.

Mims: But that was part of the Red Cross?

Snead: Oh yes, going around and collecting because we weren’t part of the United Way and that’s the way we got our money.

Mims: And did you recruit any people within the neighborhood to start doing volunteer work as well?

Snead: I can’t remember that. I just know I went around because it was something I could take my son who was just 2 or 3 years old when we moved here and I could take him with me, you know to do that.

Mims: How about whenever like when Civil Rights, you moved here in ’55, a lot of Civil Rights issues, did that ever affect anything with the Red Cross?

Snead: No, we don’t get into things like that.

Mims: Because it’s an international program?

Snead: It’s an international humanitarian organization.

Mims: I know you had talked a little bit to me about the history of the Red Cross. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Snead: Well, I have this booklet (laughter). This chapter started November 10th, 1908.

Mims: That’s the Wilmington chapter.

Snead: The Wilmington Chapter it was called then and then in later years it was changed to the Cape Fear Chapter because we branched out and worked in other counties. We had five counties.

Mims: Is that like it is now?

Snead: Yes, it’s still the Cape Fear Chapter.

Mims: Which counties does that involve?

Snead: Let’s see, Bladen, Robeson, Brunswick, Pender and of course New Hanover and after I retired, I was a regional volunteer consultant and I would go around with the blood donor and it did so much good for a volunteer to stand up and say, “I have given blood and I believe in it,” instead of somebody that was being paid to do it.

Mims: What year did you retire?

Snead: In 1984 when I was 62 years old.

Mims: But you immediately went into the volunteer position?

Snead: Uh-huh, the next day I was put on the Board of Directors (laughter).

Mims: You are very serious about this, but you’re right, you know somebody speaking up saying that they had done this on their own, that probably did help a lot. Do you get a lot of retired people doing volunteer work for you?

Snead: Oh yes, now that we have retired people moving down here. You know it’s interesting work for someone to do. I do not know what they are doing cause I’m no longer on the Board of course. I served two different terms, but they’re working with the blood program and you are now a greeter. You know with this privacy law, you know you can’t even ask what blood type you are or anything else. We can give them that booklet to read.

Mims: But I’m sure you got to meet a lot of nice people doing that.

Snead: Oh yes, Red Cross people are wonderful people.

Mims: Do they ever have like volunteer banquets?

Snead: Uh-huh, we had volunteer recognition and that’s where that picture was made of Amy and me.

Mims: Tell me a little bit about that.

Snead: Well they do give pins, like 5 years, 10 years, for your volunteer work. We usually meet over at Ally’s and have a supper for the volunteers and talk about what has been done during the year you know by the volunteers.

Mims: What’s the highest year pin you can think of somebody receiving?

Snead: Well, I have 60 years and that’s it.

Mims: Wow, that’s fabulous. You had said something about when this chapter started, they dealt a lot with the 1918 flu epidemic.

Snead: Well, that’s all in this book. I’d rather you read that. I couldn't recite that, you know I wasn’t here then.

Mims: Well, the question I was leading up to is they keep anticipating a modern flu epidemic along those lines. Would the Red Cross step in at that time if there was another epidemic? Are they geared to handle something like that? Because I know that would be considered probably a disaster.

Snead: It says, “From the very beginning and during the first six years of its existence, the Chapter besides answering all calls for aid and national disasters issued from headquarters took up as its chief work in its most vigilant manner, the local anti-tuberculosis fight on educational as well as practical lines.”

Mims: That’s right. The Red Cross had a TB sanitarium here and eventually became Cape Fear Hospital.

Snead: That’s right.

Mims: So the Red Cross here was in place prior to World War I, prior to the flu epidemic.

Snead: Uh-huh, 1908.

Mims: So they’ve gone through a lot here.

Snead: In 2008 we’ll celebrate our 100th anniversary.

Mims: Wow!

Snead: I hope I’m still around (laughter).

Mims: That would be really neat, really neat. I’m trying to think of what else we need to talk about here. What other aspect of Red Cross have we not touched on, where is their new location? We had talked about the Front Street location.

Snead: All right, the Front Street location, that was an old home. At the end of World War II the men in the shipyard had money left over in their community chest they called it and they gave it to Red Cross. And with that money they bought an old home at 411 S. Front Street, but it was becoming, after we went into blood services.

And they had the building over on 16th Street, people were getting mixed up about, you know, they would go out there for a first aid class and come to us to give blood or something. But anyway it was costing so much to keep that house up so we decided we would merge with the blood center you know as far as the building goes.

Mims: And what year was that? Well the blood center started in 1976.

Snead: Uh-huh and after it started the Chapter went out there, but I have forgotten, I’m sorry, the year that we went out there.

Mims: That’s interesting to know because I didn't realize they were separate.

Snead: Well blood services was and it is in Charlotte and in some places you know it’s all together. They’re under one head, but here it’s different. We have a Chapter manager and somebody is the manager or director of the Blood Center.

Mims: I talked to a hospital pink lady at New Hanover Hospital…

Snead: I’ve been that too (laughter).

Mims: You have…so you’ve done volunteer work at the hospital as a pink lady?

Snead: Uh-huh.

Mims: What did you do there?

Snead: Well, you know we delivered flowers. We would go up there…if they had a blood sample or something they wanted to get to the lab, we would go and take it for them and when patients were being discharged, you know we would roll them down and take all of their things in a cart you know when they were being discharged.

Mims: I understand that there are still Red Cross volunteers out there.

Snead: There might be some still out there.

Mims: But they work in a separate room, not the auxiliary room?

Snead: They’re not in with the hospital auxiliary because they do a different thing. As I said, one might be in the operating room waiting room to maybe comfort people if they need it.

Mims: And do you remember when New Hanover first opened? Were you out there then?

Snead: No, I was not a volunteer then. I didn't volunteer until after I retired from Red Cross.

Mims: To fill up your time (laughter).

Snead: Well after I retired they then volunteered a lot and then they hired me back for a while, but I said I can’t work but so long you know because I was getting Red Cross retirement. So I did that for about a year, a year and a half, but I found that there was something missing when I was not doing it as a volunteer.

Mims: Hmm, that’s interesting too. What other volunteer work have you done?

Snead: I don’t know, I haven’t had time to do much else (laughter). I’m an Episcopalian and I’ve of course volunteered, I’ve been a Girl Scout leader, a Cub den mother and things like that.

Mims: Just really staying active.

Snead: I loved the Girl Scouts. I had two or three troops and the leader of one of my little granddaughters asked me if I’d come and tell them what studying was like in 1960 and 1970 so I went over there and told them you know there’s really never much different. The children don’t wear uniforms as much as they did.

But it was right after that hurricane Fran, that bad one we had, and I knew one thing they would want to know and the one thing I wanted them to know what you could take, what you were allowed to take into a shelter because they couldn't understand it, they couldn't take their dogs and cats. Now you can imagine a shelter in one of the school gymnasiums where we had them as a rule full of dogs and cats (laughter). You know I explained that to them and other things about …don’t let him get on you (talking about her cat).

Mims: It’s all right, it’s okay,

Snead: Cookie, Cookie, no, come here.

Mims: It’s alright.

Snead: He has to kill the cat and you’re about to get killed.

Mims: It’s alright (laughter). Would the Red Cross do anything with the animals because it seems like there was someplace….

Snead: Well, they could keep them, you know if they had a cage say in the car and then they could take them out to walk them and feed them. I do not know of anyplace you could leave them that Red Cross had.

Mims: When a disaster occurs how do they mobilize? I mean who’s in charge of doing that?

Snead: Well we have someone in charge of disaster, a volunteer, and they call people, you know, and they were right there.

Mims: Out of the area, like I know for instance September 11 up in New York volunteers from this area went up there, didn't they?

Snead: They go everywhere, overseas and everywhere. (Talking to her cat - Now let me tell you something, you’re getting to be a pain in the neck).

Mims: So whenever they’re mobilizing, they call for volunteers from all over?

Snead: They call their volunteers from all over. I know one thing I would do, one of the first things I would do would be to call the telephone company and have more lines put in. That might not be necessary now because they have so many things and they use the email machine and all. We didn't have that then.

Mims: So phone lines were a major source of communication.

Snead: Oh yes and then we had a generator downtown at the old house. Someone had given a great big generator. I’d call on the Navy Training Center over here and those boys would come and start that up for us (laughter).

Mims: And that would provide electricity for the Red Cross?

Snead: If they needed it, uh-huh.

Mims: Now they have those big mobile like RV units.

Snead: Oh yes, things are so different now from the way they were.

Mims: Well, what did they have before they had those mobile units? People had to come down to the Red Cross?

Snead: Well no, because you didn't. You know the places that they went, the shelters had electricity and the reason we used the schools was because we could use what was in the cafeterias, you know the food that was in the cafeterias and we had cots, but they were World War II cots. I’m sure they’re all rotten now. We had wool blankets and they were stored in the attic at Red Cross downtown. The wool blankets and the cots were downstairs.

They would come and get those and take them. I can remember one time when DuPont borrowed some of our cots and blankets because some of their employees were going to have to work you know.

Mims: Around the clock?

Snead: Around the clock and they needed something for them to be able to rest. They sent a truck in. It’s real interesting work.

Mims: I know they were good about providing dinners, food you know organizing that. Is that organized throughout the community, like you contact businesses?

Snead: No, I think the Salvation Army does a lot of that. You know we have definite things that we do and they do. We provide care and food for the victims. They help the workers, that’s the way it was.

Mims: I’m trying to think of my personal experience with the Red Cross and it seems like they were distributing water or something when one of the hurricanes hit down at the mall.

Snead: Oh yes, they will do that.

Mims: Make sure everybody had fresh water.

Snead: Uh-huh.

Mims: What I’m trying to find out is the stuff that you guys are distributing, where does that come from? Is that within the community or is that a surplus from out of the community?

Snead: Well, if it has to come in from outside the community, we can get it.

Mims: And just under the guise of Red Cross and people will be more likely to donate to that organization for that. Because I know with September 11th, that was a huge mobilization of volunteers.

Snead: Oh yes, that’s why they, Red Cross just depleted what it had almost. They did an awful lot. I am not real sure every little thing they did, but they did an awful lot and we sent volunteers from here up there.

Mims: Now the little communities that surround Wilmington, the Cape Fear Chapter organizes for them as well?

Snead: Yes, well we have volunteers in those chapters. Like we have a blood recruiter in those areas, those counties.

Mims: And now you have that mobile blood mobile that goes around.

Snead: Uh-huh, the blood bus (laughter). I have had such funny experiences sometimes with servicemen and situations.

Mims: Well, why don’t you go into one of those stories?

Snead: Well, I remember one time we had a message from overseas that a commanding officer had been to the Red Cross over there and he said that one of his men who he valued highly was home on leave and he wouldn't come back and he was AWOL and he wanted this serviceman to know that if he would come back that he would forgive him for doing that.

So I called his mother, they gave us the number, and she said, “I can’t do anything with him and I’m worried to death.” She said, “He’s in a bar downtown.” I said, “What’s the name of the bar?” and she said, “The Barbary Coast” and I went, “Oh well.” So I decided I would go down there. We wore uniforms then and I went down there and I saw the policeman on the beat you know because he walked around.

I said, “I must go in the Barbara Coast and if I’m not out in five minutes will you come in,” he said, “Yes,” so I walked in there and you know here’s this little gray haired lady in a Red Cross uniform and there was one young man sitting and I knew who it was. I went up to him and spoke to him and he spoke to me and I told him the situation. I said, “And if you will come with me now and turn yourself in to the commanding officer at Fort Fisher, Fort Fisher was here then, they will see that you get back to your base.” And I said, “He’ll take you by your home to pick up your gear and you will be forgiven. Your commanding officer has assured us of that.” So I said, “If you’ll come with me, we’ll go to Red Cross.” Do you know that he came with me. We got in the station wagon, went on down to the Red Cross and I called the executive officer or the 1st sergeant I believe he was at Fort Fisher and he came to get him and everything was fine (laughter).

Mims: But it just took that little bit of effort to get him to come back.

Snead: And somebody he trusted. Like people used to tell me, how can anybody turn you down, it’s like turning down their grandmother (laughter).

Mims: You said you were in a uniform. Can you tell me what that uniform looked like?

Snead: Uh-huh, I had one.

Mims: That’s what you would wear?

Snead: And listen it was wonderful having these to wear everyday to work. And then for some unknown reason, they decided they you know wouldn't wear uniforms anymore. But you know it’s amazing how many people would stop me on the street and ask me things because I was with the Red Cross, that I could help them about things.

Mims: That’s nice that you saved that. When did they discontinue wearing uniforms?

Snead: I really don’t know. It was just before I retired… I think. Some people just didn't like them. And then we had a winter uniform that was a navy blue blazer with a gray skirt and a white blouse with the red cross. But people had more respect for you in the uniform.

Mims: Well, easy to recognize within the community.

Snead: Yes.

Mims: And like you said, you went into that bar…

Snead: If you can imagine me as proper as I am (laughter).

Mims: So Fort Fisher was still going then?

Snead: Yes it was and you had the Loran Station down there. Then we had Air Force out at the airport. You know we handled a lot during the Vietnam War.

Mims: I didn't realize there was still something out at the airport because I talked to someone who was out at the airport doing Red Cross work during World War II, but that continued through Vietnam?

Snead: I don’t know, it seems like it was an air wing out there, I have forgotten now. And you had the Coast Guard boats here you see.

Mims: Right.

Snead: We did things for them.

Mims: Was that the North Wind?

Snead: Well at first you had the Mendota and then you had the Ponchatrain. Every time a new commanding officer came, I would go down and have lunch with him in his quarters and I liked that because we usually had steak and lobster or something like that (laughter) and let him know what the Chapter offered. I must say about the Coast Guard, we rarely had to help any of them. They kind of did for themselves.

Mims: Well you talked about medical issues and death and that kind of stuff, how about good news? Were you ever get to share good news with service people?

Snead: Well, with the babies.

Mims: How does that work?

Snead: You know there was a thing that said, “When the waiting room is in Vietnam and the delivery room is in Wilmington, who tells the father he has a baby?” Well it’s Red Cross. See we could do that.

Mims: How would that work? The hospital would notify you of the birth.

Snead: The family here you know would notify us and then we’d verify it of course and then send the message over and the Red Cross would tell them.

Mims: Would tell the officer in charge or the serviceman?

Snead: Well, everywhere there was a military base; there was a Red Cross representative. We called them field directors.

Mims: And so they would give the news?

Snead: Uh-huh and if it was bad news you know, it was going to be a shock to the service person, they would get the chaplain to go with them.

Mims: Do you think it’s the same thing today as whenever you were working, the same kind of system?

Snead: Well, the way they have the computers and everything, but I think the system is the same, that you’d have to verify things, you know. That’s what the military depends on us for.

Mims: Right, so it’s just not somebody calling in and saying this and the service person gets told not the right thing cause that could be kind of distracting I’m sure.

Snead: And sometimes they would try to get them home when there wasn’t any reason to you know except they wanted them home (laughter).

Mims: Did you ever have opportunity to travel with the Red Cross?

Snead: I never went out of Wilmington. I mean I’d go you know to the surrounding counties, but no, I never went overseas. I’ve been to Portugal, Spain and Morocco, and they have Red Cross over there, but I never did anything for Red Cross.

Mims: On a global basis. Well, it certainly has enriched our community to have Red Cross here and it sounds like your life was definitely different because you were part of the Red Cross.

Snead: Oh I just loved it and growing up with a grandmother who spent her life doing for others, she really did. And I would go with her and as my granddaughter said in that , you know she just liked the good feeling she had.

Mims: So a young person coming along today looking to participate in something like this, how would you tell them to get involved?

Snead: Well, I think they’d have to talk to the Director of Volunteers, Paula Recko around there. I don’t know what they have in the way of youth activities now.

Mims: But isn’t it kind of better to get people involved at a younger age?

Snead: I think it is and to have them, you know, to love the Red Cross.

Mims: There’s no program to try to include high school kids. I mean they have a lot of time and energy (laughter).

Snead: I really don’t know. At one time we did. I started something, working with the health occupation teachers called ‘Volunteens’. We gave them that same kind of course you know that I had from the home nursing course and they could go, well they didn't do bed baths and things like that, but they could go and read to the patients and they too had uniforms. See the candy stripers out at the hospital had red, don’t they, and then we had blue. I was in the Altrusa Club and was the community services chairman so we bought uniforms for the girls.

They went to Davis. They were supposed to go to places that were non-profit, you know, and they went out. I can’t remember the number of places that they went to help out or they would just sit and talk to the older people and they loved having them. I remember one girl saying that a man handed her a urinal and she didn't know what it was so she poured the water down the drain, filled it with crushed ice and took it back (laughter).

Mims: Is that program still in place?

Snead: No.

Mims: What happened to it?

Snead: I don’t know. See they had a change of directors, you know, and things just changed.

Mims: Hmm, that’s a shame cause it sounds like it was a nice program.

Snead: Oh yes, we had a lot going and I felt like children, you know when they reach a certain age, they should know something about first aid and we had a junior first aid course and I went over to the… I don’t know whether it was the school board or what and asked if we gave the books because we had a drive in the schools and they gave money and the money was just spent on youth things, and I said, it would be nice, I can remember as a fourth grader in Richmond that the Red Cross offered us swimming lessons and I thought wouldn’t it be nice if the fourth graders could take this junior first aid course.

So we trained the teachers as instructors and they agreed it would be a good idea cause it wasn’t going to cost the school anything, you see. And we had several mothers to call and say things their children had done to help others. You know one said that one of her children had something stuck in his throat and we had taught that child to do the Heimlich maneuver and it came out. The child might have died.

Mims: Was this a program put in place in the school system?

Snead: Uh-huh and then it too stopped. Well we stopped having the first aid; I mean the roll call in the schools. You know the children would get a button and then give their nickels and pennies and dimes. You know how everything is changed now.

Mims: Well that’s a shame that we’ve lost track of that cause I think that young people should be involved at an early age.

Snead: Uh-huh and not to do some big thing, but it’s also important to know what not to do you know.

Mims: That’s true and I’m a parent of a child who’s taken many Red Cross courses and find that a lot of her friends do not even know about these. So you know a change in the community as to what is…and I know the CPR courses there have to be renewed every year, right to keep you certified?

Snead: Uh-huh.

Mims: So that’s something once you get started on it, most people want to continue?

Snead: Uh-huh, oh I believe in all of that. And as I told you I took care of my husband here for eight years. He was in a recliner, he couldn’t stretch out and I fed him through you know a gravity feeding bag. He couldn’t swallow, he had cancer of the throat and the skills that I learned in that course during World War II I used taking care of him, helping him up out of the chair. He could go to the bathroom if I helped him.

Mims: I’m really surprised you didn't gravitate towards a nursing career with your benevolence.

Snead: No, I was very sick as a child. I had scarlet fever. I didn't have rheumatic fever, but I had a strained heart muscle and the time that I would have gone into that, I don’t think I was really strong enough because I had to give up going to gym and do things like that.

Mims: Because there was an excellent nursing school here with the James Walker School of Nursing. Did you ever come into contact with any of those nurses?

Snead: I did a long time ago you know. James Walker was here when we came here.

Mims: Do you have any memories of that at all?

Snead: No, I had a D&C over there (laughter), that’s all.

Mims: So you were personally over there.

Snead: I just feel like anything can be done through Red Cross. I just have so much faith in their mission you know.

Mims: If somebody wanted to go into the Red Cross and be a professional instead of a volunteer, what type of background would they need today?

Snead: I don’t know. Of course the background I have would enable me to do a whole lot.

Mims: Well you were trained in one aspect and then went into it professionally in another aspect and I just wondered…

Snead: Well I didn't know what I was getting into, but at that time my husband was a disabled veteran and he was in the Veterans’ Hospital and I knew I was going to have to go to work and I was only working three days a week at the church. When the director of Red Cross, who I did not know, called, she said I’d been highly recommend cause you have to have somebody special who doesn’t mind giving a lot of extra time without getting extra pay for it (laughter).

Mims: Who was the director that hired you?

Snead: Martha King.

Mims: What was she like?

Snead: She was very likeable and there for almost 20 years and she too loved the Red Cross.

Mims: Who replaced her, do you remember?

Snead: A man replaced her, well I shouldn’t say that.

Mims: It was a change in direction a little bit?

Snead: Uh-huh.

Mims: Well, I can’t think of anything else to add unless you can think of something else.

Snead: I can’t think of anything. I can talk about the Red Cross for two or three days you know. I just love it and I believe in it.

Mims: Are there any other stories that come to mind?

Snead: Well, I’ve had so many things. You know as I told you every day was different.

Mims: Right and that variety helps keep you involved with it because you’re curious to know what’s going to go on today. Is there ever a time when people come in and it’s like I am just so worn out doing this you know that you don’t know if they’re going to be able to come back because they’re like tired of it or whatever.

Snead: You mean volunteers?

Mims: Yeah, did you ever find that?

Snead: No, I think people who volunteered loved it. And I’ll tell you another little story. I went in there one morning and the other two were there. We had Martha and then we had a half a day secretary and I came in and they had their ears to the floor. This was down, they had a basement on Front Street. They said they kept hearing something go da da, da, dot. And they were afraid. You know they had lot of vagrants walking around down there. Somebody was in the basement.

And I said I don’t know what, but we were afraid to open the door to the cellar, the basement so I called Captain Corbett at the Police Department who was one our board. I told him about it and I said, “I don’t know whether somebody’s in there or what it is.” So he came down with two detectives. They pulled their guns and they started down the steps and a red headed woodpecker came and landed on the hat of one of the mean (laughter). We had a big laugh out of that.

Mims: The downtown area wasn’t the best during that time.

Snead: No, and I know they had an article in the paper one day about “Man is saved by CPR given to him by a man who had a Red Cross course,” and it went on to talk about this wino was walking down the street and got a cork stuck in this throat and this man came on and did the Heimlich maneuver, you know what that is and got the cork out. When they asked the man, where had he learned to do the CPR, he said, “in a class taught by Alice Snead” (laughter).

Mims: So you indirectly saved somebody’s life.

Snead: ((laughter) Yeah.

Mims: How great! Well I want to thank you for talking to me today.

Snead: Oh I’ve enjoyed it; I just hope it doesn’t sound crazy.

Mims: Oh I think it’s going to be great, just great.

Snead: There are a lot of other things and if you want to read this, I’d like to have it back. It’s about the beginning of Red Cross. I didn't know what you wanted.

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