Elizabeth Martin and A.C. Allen – By Mary Allen Hall
My parents, Elizabeth Martin and A.C. Allen met each other while working in the NYA program in Newton, Alabama in 1938. My mother was from Enterprise, Alabama and was a recent graduate of Alabama College in Montevallo, Alabama. My dad was a student at API (Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now know as Auburn University) in Auburn Alabama.
My mother will be 100 years old October 10, 2017 and would be happy to share her remembrances of the program. My parents were married for 62 years—both had a career in public education. My dad was a Marine fighter pilot in WWII.
We interviewed mother in 2010 and she described their meeting:
“Can you tell about the first time you met Daddy?”
“Well, the first time I met A.C. was in Newton, Alabama in the summer of 1938. I went there to work with the NYA, which was a stimulus project which was promoted by FDR. We had about 25 girls on the project and they came in and made mattresses, quilts and from time to time the government would send a truck down with clothes especially with winter coats and suits. Each resident would select a suit and coat because at that time the economy was so bad that people needed clothes, and of course these girls needed work to do.
I met A.C. as he cam down with a supervisor to meet us because he was going to be stationed with a boy’s group in Ozark, Alabama. And the boys would come down and plant gardens down at Newton so the girls would have fresh vegetables and so that they could can the surplus products. The first date I had with A.C. was in the summer of 1938. We cam to Dothan, Alabama on our very first date and from there we saw each other every day. The thing I remember most about his work at Newton was that I always knew when he arrived because he always wore boots and he cam down the hall very confidently, making a very loud noise.”
“What kind of car did he have?”
“He had no vehicle of his own. At that time I had a vehicle so that anytime we were able to have a date we went in my car because he was in between semesters of the sophomore and junior year at Auburn. He was working that summer to make some money to go back to school and we were limited with transportation and money was in very shot supply. I think I made $25.00 a month plus my room and board. So those were very difficult times.”
“Did you think he was handsome?”
“Oh, I thought he was very handsome and he really did strut with those big, heavy boots. And of course he was very confident of his good looks and his wonderful physique. And after that summer he went back to Auburn to college and I was transferred from the Newton project to a project on the campus of Auburn where I worked with girls who were in college and who needed room and board in order for them to go to college. They earned enough money to pay their tuition by providing meals, cooking meals and serving meals to the boys on the project. Now, wasn’t that interesting?”
“Did he plant a good garden at Newton?”
“Oh, he had a wonderful garden at Newton! The most snap beans you have ever seen in your life. He was down at Newton quite a lot and we always enjoyed seeing each other. We had much fun even though we didn’t have any money.
At the end of that year which would have been 1938-39, I decided to go to Iowa State University to get my master’s degree. So, I left Auburn and went to Ames for two years to get my degree.”
End of interview portion relating to the NYA project.
The following notes were found on note cards Mother put together regarding the project. I imagine she presented the project at a meeting or during school. Following is a transcript of the five note cards.
Card 1: “Since all of you are interested in Home Economics and its opportunities and possibilities in various fields, I would like to say in the beginning that I think that the entire set-up of the NYA Residential Projects is definitely home economics. When we opened the project in Newton, a group of about 25 girls, a building which needed repair, a rew chairs, cots, and a limited amount of kitchen utensils constituted our equipment. Our first task was to make the building livable and equip it with necessary furnishings.
Card 2” “We began collecting apple, orange, and prune boxes, barrel nail kegs, and everything that we thought might have a possibility of becoming a chair, stool, dressing table, or what-not. Each girl was given the responsibility of equipping her room. The boxes and the barrels were soon made into attractive dressing tables, chairs, stools, and settees. In addition to this inexpensive furniture, each girl made bed spread and curtains for her own room. After looking at bare walls for a while they decided that a few pictures would add to the attractiveness of their rooms. With very inexpensive materials pictures were framed, which were not so artistic in all cases but a bit of color helped.”
Card 3: “On work project time the girls have been able to learn to make many other articles to furnish the home among which were mattresses and comforts. Each girl has made a least one mattress and they have had quite a bit of experience with comforts. The cotton is carded and the comforts are made on home-made frames. With very little material, the girls are able to make similar frames at home and utilize home grown cotton for both mattresses and comforts. The girls have also been taught to make tufting tables so that mattresses may be made at home. A number of girls have made both mattresses and during their two week period at home.”
Card 4: “Of course, during this building stage it was still very necessary to eat. The girls are not paid for any work that is done in the kitchen and may the pangs of hunger created the interest but the girls have been very interested in learning to cook. Their standards of cleanliness and orderliness were given attention by the supervisors first. I shall never forget the first breakfast that one of the girls planned—jello and salt mackrel. Now each girl planned meals for one day while on the project. There are 9 girls on each shift in the kitchen, one of which is the group captain for the day. The responsibility for the preparation, serving, reconditioning of the kitchen rests on her.”
Card 5: “This gives her very valuable experience managing time and assuming responsibility. They learn to serve correctly and several of the girls have gotten full time employment as waitresses. We have taught dining room etiquette through mock table serving, but the most profitable methods of teaching this has been by example and at meal time. We have had several situations arise which were conducive to the teaching of clothing. One night at fire drill it was definitely decided that pajamas were needed. Having a little surplus money in the cooperative fund the girls decided that it might well be spent for the purchase of materials for each girl a pair of pajamas.”
End of the cards