Frequency of veneral disease in a working community during the Great Depression
Lupton talks about the frequency of venereal disease among his patients in Burlington, North Carolina during the years of the Great Depression. According to Lupton, venereal disease was not uncommon and he treated many people, especially young people, for it. In this excerpt, he specifically focuses on cases of syphilis and gonorrhea, emphasizing diagnosis and treatment.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Carroll Lupton, April 2, 1980. Interview H-0028. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
- MARY MURPHY:
What about syphilis? Was that widespread?
- CARROLL LUPTON:
Well, it was- Being a family doctor-
- CARROLL LUPTON:
-where they got treatment, and diagnosis, for their venereal
infections. Being a relatively young one-and the more sexually
active or promiscuous people were the younger people-they'd
come to me rather than going some of the older folks, because they just
felt more comfortable. I always tried to make everybody feel like they
was most important person that we had, and, when they came in, help them
to relax. I never fussed at them because they had a venereal disease,
because the good Lord, I guess He put those urges in us. And, after all,
it was not my position to lecture them on those things.
From talking with the people today, and reading the statistics, I believe
we have just about as much venereal infections now as we did then. The
only difference is, now we have a drug to treat them. When I first
started, we had the arsenical injection, and it took an injection of
that, or bismuth of mercury, every week for eighteen months, for
syphilis. And it was something that was long drawn out. Lot of the
doctors, the older ones, would give them about a month's treatment, and
their signs and symptoms would go away, but the infectious part in their
body did not go away. They could still transmit the disease, and it
would show up on them later in life in the advanced stages. And syphilis
used to be a great killer. But today, with penicillin and some of the
antibiotics we have, syphilis -most of the time-can
be controlled really easily.
The gonorrhea infections that we had, we had no specific drug whatever.
We treat local treatment, to relieve the symptoms. And, if we were
lucky, we could get the symptoms cleared up in about six or eight weeks.
And he or she was infectious all that time. And sometimes, you would try
to get them to come back over regular intervals,
over a period of a year or so, just for a check-up, to be sure that it
was gone. Now, of course, they come in, and if they've got syphilis, you
give them one great big massive dose of penicillin. One time, and
usually that's all the treatment they have to have for it. If you get it
Most of the doctors didn't have facility for early diagnosis, and they'd
have to send a blood test, and send it down to Raleigh, wait to get it
back, and all that stuff. I fortunately trained in the Marine Hospital,
back where we treated a lot of merchant marine sailors from all over the
world, and we learned to use the microscope, and tell them in five
minutes whether it was or not. 'Course, we'd always confirm it with a
blood test; we'd have to send to Raleigh.