Interview with William Stanley, September 11, 2023

Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project

Interview Summary

William "Bill" Stanley served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1966 – 1968 in India working in agriculture. As a student at Carleton College in Minnesota, Bill decided to investigate a Peace Corps stint instead of attending graduate school after graduation. As an English major, he was thinking about becoming a high school English teacher. However, teaching openings were immediate, and he didn’t want to begin that soon, but a position in India in agricultural work was to begin a few months later, and he opted for that opportunity. He felt that India would be a fascinating place to work in, and he enrolled in that program. Bill’s father agreed with his decision, but his mother was apprehensive and was fearful of his going overseas. He and others of his group (about 30 volunteers) were sent to the University of California at Berkeley two months after his graduation, and they stayed in a fraternity house near the campus for initial training and agricultural awareness. Along with cultural indoctrination, he was also trained in the Punjabi language, a mixture of Hindi and Urdu. He sampled Indian cuisine such as curried vegetables and other spiced foods. After returning to his home in Southern California, Bill departed from Los Angeles for New York City where his group of about 25 at this time stayed in hotel rooms for three days in preparation and staging but not training. From there his group flew to Frankfurt, Germany, and stopped additionally in Athens (Greece), Beirut (Lebanon), and Tehran (Iran) before landing in New Delhi, India. Again, they stayed in a local hotel and underwent some training for a week. He knew that his work would be with using seeding techniques for grains indigenous to the area. Half of his group was to work in the health field as well as with farming procedures. He was first assigned to the town of Jaqroan where he lived in a “group house” with three or four other volunteers in an abandoned mosque. Bill had a kitchen, a kerosene stove, and a hand-pumped well, called a “tubwell.” There was no refrigeration, but eggs were plentiful, and he became a vegetarian. He coordinated his field work with the local Agricultural Block Development Office where he interacted with local farmers who were enjoyable to be with. Each day presented Bill with a different set of challenges as he worked with grain and feed distribution and fertilizer dispersal. Animals roamed freely in the area, and Bill learned how the villagers collected, stored, and used “cow patties” as their basic fertilizer. Bill’s co-workers were amused by his American ways, but a few of them wanted to improve their status in life and often asked him for advice. Bill also worked in the village of Jalandhar working with Mexican wheat and coordinated his efforts with UNICEF in distributing vegetable seed, although cauliflower was the most plentiful vegetable there. He stayed in a two-room house with electricity and occasional running water. He worked a six-day week but was able to have many religious holidays off. In his down time, Bill enjoyed reading many books from the Peace Corps-supplied footlocker, especially the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. There was another Peace Corps volunteer group nearby in Bihar State, and he socialized with them when he could. After his tour of duty, Bill left India via New Delhi after spending five to seven days in debriefing. He stopped in Germany on his way home intending to purchase a motor bike, and on it he toured through areas of Europe before shipping his bike and himself to New Jersey. He then rode his bike to southern California, and he and a friend stayed in hostels along the way as he used his friend’s hostel pass for lodgings. It took him a week to get home, and he began work as a social worker while obtaining a masters in social work degree. Bill then declared himself a conscientious objector for military draft purposes and was classified as 1-O. As a social worker, he assisted individuals in procuring food stamps while working in a counseling office in Washington State. Eventually, Bill became a supervisor for child protection services and moved to the East Coast to work and be closer to his family.

Interview Accession

2023oh0874_pcrv0879

Interviewee Name

William Stanley

Interviewer Name

Donald C. Yates

Interview Date

2023-09-11

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Stanley, William Interview by Donald C. Yates. 11 Sep. 2023. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Stanley, W. (2023, September 11). Interview by D. C. Yates. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Stanley, William, interview by Donald C. Yates. September 11, 2023, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





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