Remembering Austin’s Sunshine TB Camps from the 1930s

Well, Linda Hank Thompson beat me to it.

Yesterday, four of us visited Eva May Smith to talk about the time she attended the Austin Sunshine Camps in the 1930s.

Very poor growing up in this city, Smith had responded to a Statesman story about the Zilker Park camps that were meant to fight TB.

Expect my own report — with video — on this visit at some point, but Thompson, director of the camps, captured the kernel of the story.

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Eva May Smith and Linda Hank Thompson.

“Yesterday, I had the pleasure of accompanying Michael Barnes to the home of May Smith who was a camper at Austin Sunshine Camps in the mid-1930’s. She credits the camp for giving her the self esteem she needed as a young girl growing up in poverty in Austin. Her story of hiding behind the stairwell during lunch so the other kids wouldn’t see she only had a biscuit to eat (made with water because they had no milk) was a highlight for me in understanding how far she had to come. Back in those days, kids were selected for the camp by how much they weighed. The camp was designed to nourish and feed kids in poverty at risk for tuberculosis. A great testimony, of a great lady.”

Author: Michael Barnes

Michael Barnes writes about Austin's people, places, culture and history for the Austin American-Statesman and austin360.com.

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