Hurricane Doubts And Salvation Army Socks : Planet Money Two listeners offer their own accounts about the long-term effects of free: One saw first-hand how the Red Cross still struggles with its doughnut legacy. The other tells how free socks in a tight spot made a lasting impression.
NPR logo Hurricane Doubts And Salvation Army Socks

Hurricane Doubts And Salvation Army Socks

Friday's pieces on the Red Cross and the lasting harm it suffered after it briefly charged soldiers for doughnuts during World War II drew a big response. (A longer version made up the bulk of Friday's show, while a shorter version aired that afternoon on All Things Considered.)

Two of the emails we got stood out, one of them because it underscored the incredible staying power of the mistrust that grew out of the Red Cross's decision.

That point came from Eugenia Potter, who emailed from Portland, Ore., to tell of her own experience after Hurricane Katrina, when she considered donating to the Red Cross. And despite being far too young to remember the events of World War II,

"... several people suggested that I not do that, because 'they charged for all the things they gave out at disasters, even the coffee.' One person added that the Red Cross charges recipients for the blood that people have donated in blood drives!"

As we mentioned in the original pieces, the Red Cross no longer charges military personnel, and hasn't for decades. Its disaster services are also free. It does charge hospitals for donated blood, but explains on its Myths and Legends page that it does so to recover the expense of collecting and distributing the blood, including testing, storage and transportation costs.

Mary Humelsine, from Neptune, N.J., emailed with a different story, about her still-vigorous 93-year-old father, who to this day holds the Salvation Army in high regard — in his case, for the unexpected arrival of free socks and chocolate bars many years ago.

It goes back to his own experience in an engineering company during World War II, in August 1943, on New Georgia in the Solomon Islands.

His unit was trying to reach an airstrip used to refuel Japanese planes, and it reached a former plantation. Mary taped his recollections a few years ago, and sent us this excerpt:

"There was a hill there, and we were going around it, and a [bull]dozer just stuck his nose around the corner of the hill, when he started getting artillery fire. So we pulled back to get the cover of the hill. All of a sudden, this jeep drives up to us, and it's a Salvation Army guy. And, he's got socks and Nestle candy bars. That's the first socks we've had — any change of clothes we've had — in three weeks. (Laughs) The socks [we had been wearing] didn't have much foot in 'em. I've always given to the Salvation Army at Christmastime."