In 1950, the Goldsboro Jaycees produced a survey of the housing in town and it was abominable to put it bluntly. The first public housing project, Lincoln Homes, was being built and the Jaycees hoped to spur the community to build even more affordable housing.
Members surveyed 199 homes in several different neighborhoods. 119 houses (57.5%) had no indoor toilet, 26 homes had no electricity, and 184 (89%) had no bathtub.
If that weren’t bad enough, the survey found that in 24 cases, four or five individuals slept in one bed. Dozens of others were sleeping on cots and couches in hallways and other common areas.
Poverty is still a problem in this country but there is no question that it has improved significantly over the past 75 years.
John Burt Exum, Jr was born in Fremont, NC in northern Wayne County on December 7, 1889. In May of 1918, at the age of 28, he was inducted into the US Army in Goldsboro, NC.
Exum was sent to Camp Jackson, SC (now Fort Jackson) and assigned to the 156th Depot Brigade for training.
After training, he was transferred to Company D of the 306th Ammunition Train, 81st Division and sent to the frontlines in August 1918. An ammunition train is not an actual train but the military term for units assigned to move artillery and small arms ammunition from the ammunition depot to the frontline. It was a particularly dangerous job because it was a key target for enemy fire- no ammo, no battle.
John served in France for over ten months in Europe, returning to his home in Wayne County in June of 1919. He married May Rose and together they raised three children- Anne, John Burt III, & Charles Royall (a veteran of the US Navy in World War II).
He died on March 29, 1957 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Fremont.
The following is a letter John wrote to his mother in 1918 from Camp Jackson.
17th Co., 156 Depot Br. Camp Jackson Columbia, S.C.
Dear Mother: I received your second letter today. You ought to know that I received your first letter. If I hadn’t I would not have known where to write to you at. You said to day that you would not go home untill Tuesday so I am guessing that you will get this at La Grange before you go. Then I can write you again when you get home. I believe you had rather get short letters from me real often than for me to wait untill I get time to write a nice long letter. I am writing this in a hurry. A man in the army has to do everything in a hurry or he will find that everybody else is ahead of him. I got another shot in the shoulder today with the typhoid antitoxine and I can hardly raise my left arm. This was my second and I have one more to go. Other than this I am getting along fine. We have lots of fruits and vegitables and not much meat to eat. When we get meat it is usually beefe.
Future veterans of WWI and beyond: Edgar Bain, Zeno Hollowell, Kenneth Royall
This photograph was taken in 1905 and shows the local “Boys Battalion”, a mix of the Boy Scouts and Junior ROTC. The quality is not great; it is a low quality scan and the whereabouts of the original are unknown (as far as I know).
Seated in the center is their leader, Edgar Bain, who at the time would have been about 21 years old. He would later go on to serve in the 30th Division in WWI and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions on October 9, 1918.
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Edgar Bain, Captain, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Busigny, France, October 9, 1918. Advancing under heavy fire with orders to pass through the front line company, Captain Bain found the troops he was to relieve 1,000 yards from their position, falling back. Rallying them, he personally led the troops in advance, under terrific fire, assaulting and capturing the assigned objective.
Bain also served in World War II, attaining the rank of Colonel. He died in 1956 and is buried in Willow Dale Cemetery in Goldsboro, NC.
In the bottom left is Zeno Hollowell, who would later serve as Captain of Company K, 119th Infantry, 30th Division in the Great War. After the war he was mayor of Goldsboro and later the longtime city manager.
Seated at the far right is Kenneth Claiborne Royall, born in 1894. Royall graduated from the University of NC-Chapel Hill and Harvard Law School before the war and then served as an officer in the 317th Field Artillery, 81st Division.
Royall attained the rank of general during World War II and famously served as a defense lawyer for several German-American men caught in a botched attempt to sabotage US infrastructure.
After the war he served as the last Secretary of War and later the first Secretary of the Army in the Truman administration. He died in 1971 and is buried in Willow Dale Cemetery in his hometown of Goldsboro, NC.