MAY 31, 1939
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn., Tuesday—The United Daughters of the Confederacy came to tea with me yesterday afternoon on the White House lawn and we had a very delightful hour. In the evening, Miss Thompson and I took the train which deposited us this morning at 11:30 in Johnson City, Tenn. At Bristol I went out on the platform to greet some people who had kindly come down to see me and quite a crowd welcomed us when we alighted from the train here. It being Decoration Day, the Governor is coming to the federal hospital for veterans here and there will be a parade in which some veterans will march. I hope to have the opportunity of meeting the Governor and watching the veterans go by. After that, I have asked to see the camp run by the Optimist Club. I am speaking for this group tonight and am particularly interested in camps for children and the work carried on in them.
Our press conference is over and in a few minutes we will have lunch before we start on the afternoon's occupations.
I looked out of the window of the train this morning while I was waiting for my breakfast, and it suddenly occurred to me that scenes from a train window might give a rather good picture of the variety in the conditions and occupations of our people in different parts of the country. I saw a little girl, slim and bent over, carrying two heavy pails of water across a field to an unpainted house. How far that water had to be carried, I do not know, but it is one thing to carry water on a camping trip for fun during a summers' holiday, and it is another thing to carry it day in and day out as a part of the routine of living. On the outskirts of the town, I saw a wash line. On it hung two brown work shirts, a pair of rather frayed and faded blue dungarees, two child's sun suits and a woman's calico dress. Not much sign of wasteful living here.
Through its open door, I had a glimpse of the inside of a cabin in the hollow below us. It was divided into two rooms, one of them the bedroom with two beds in it. These beds took up about all the available space in the room and it must have been necessary to leave the door open for air. There was a pad which looked rather like the cotton matresses that have been made on WPA, and a quilt spread neatly over each bed. I didn't notice any sheets or pillows.
There has been rain down here and the fields look in good condition. We passed a man plowing in a field with two women not far away hoeing. Beyond, in a grove of trees, there stood a stately house and under the trees was a baby carriage. I caught sight of someone in a flowered dress sitting on the porch. Then I again saw a yard of an unpainted house in the outskirts of a small town and a happy looking woman rocking a baby on the porch while a group of youngsters played in the yard. Happiness may exist under all conditions, given the right kind of people and sufficient economic security for adequate food and shelter.