Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
Email 5
Loretta Johnson Obusek 
 Janet Burgess     
   Will Burrow     
 Julia Eltringham      

Subject: TB experience from 1960

Hi Chuck,


Read your story when I was on my son's computer (as I am today) just about a week ago.  I typed in Cresson TB San again as I had done a few times before and this came up about your story!


I'm Loretta Johnson Obusek and I was in Cresson from the middle of May l960 until around the 7th of October of that year!


I only had a shadow on my lung and Dr. M. Hadley from the TB Clinic at McKeesport, PA. hospital sent me there to have medication and rest to cure!


Your story echoes mine and all the details I can remember.  I was 22 and also born in 1938 (January 3lst) and was into my 3rd job.  I was only 17 and l/2 when I graduated H.S. and worked at the Carnegie Library in McKeesport and then went on to Westinghouse Bettis Atomic Power after l and l/2 yrs. to make more money.  I was laid off from there after a year and 11 months when the job was finished for the reactor and I collected unemployment.  Then I got a job at the Penn State McKeesport Campus in the office.  I had to leave there after only about 8 months to go to Cresson.


Had an x-ray in 1959 from the mobile unit near our church and got a post card to see the family doctor and had to get another x-ray at the hospital.  From there I had to see Dr. Hadley.  I was still able to work from that winter until spring but the shadow wasn't getting better and he wanted me to stay home or go to the San.  Picked Cresson instead of Pittsburgh Leech Farm (I believe) because it was out of the city.


But my parents and sister came up EVERY SUNDAY and it was a 2 hr. drive.    Dad would take Mum and Doris to church and she would have a roast in the oven.    They would eat their dinner and then drive to see me in the afternoon; bringing me a beef sandwich!     


Oh, everything you wrote echoes what I went through that morning we drove to Cresson.  I sat between Dad and Mum and I don't think we said a word.  It was around the middle of May and there was snow on the ground up there!  They had to leave as soon as I unpacked my suitcase and saw where I would keep my belongings (in the little cubicle).  That night I cried when the lights were turned off at 9 p.m. and the girls and women said "The Lord's Prayer".........


The only other time was near the end of Sept. when they told me I would be going home; but then it was delayed a few weeks because I had to have another deeper x-ray.  My case had to go before the doctors again before I could leave.  That night the evening nurse helped me to be strong.   I needed aspirin for a headache and Dr. Anna Kreicbergs questioned that in the a.m. when she came on rounds!


But I persevered for the next few weeks and my aunt drove up with Mum to pick me up, for Dad was working.    


Going down the driveway to Rt. 22 there was a man walking with a suitcase.     Aunt Florence stopped the car and I asked where he was going.   He was going to try and get a bus on the main road to go home to Monongahela City, close to where we lived!   She said to get in and we stopped for lunch on the way home and knew where he could get a bus to Mon City!  He wanted us to let him off there as he truly appreciated the ride.   And I don't remember his name!


Well, I've rambled on enough.  I had no trouble with health but my case was minimal compared to yours.  I went on to marry Ed in 1963 and I had Karen in 1965 and Ken in 1969.


Thanks for all the memories.  


Sincerely, Loretta



Sent: May 18, 2010
Subject: Cresson
Hello Charles Felton,


My name is Janet Burgess and I live in California. My family from Ireland made their home in Williamsport, PA, then Pittsburgh, PA about 1895. My grandparents were married in Williamsport in 1913, then moved to Koppel, a small town near Ellwood City. My whole life I have always heard about the sister, Kate Carroll, of my grandmother. I remember as a child being told she had contracted TB and was in a sanitarium from about 1920-1930. She died in 1930, so she never left Cresson. One of my aunts remembers going to visit Aunt Kate when she was a child. I have many photographs of Kate, a beautiful Irish girl. Recently, the daughter of one of my cousins, who lives in Philadelphia, started doing our family tree. She is the one who told me Kate was at Cresson and she also told me about your website. Thank you for making your fabulous website and sharing this information.


I grew up with a dad in the Navy, WW2 and Korea. My dad then retired from the Navy and became a schoolteacher. I remember my father telling me he had tested positive for TB, but never had any symptoms. He lived to be 82 and passed away in 1999.


Thanks so much for creating your website. I didn't know until today the name of the sanitarium. It was apparently written on the back of a photograph of Kate Carroll. I'm glad you survived and thrived after your diagnosis. What a world of change in brought to you as a young man.


Thanks again for sharing,  

Janet Burgess


1.  Kate Carroll (in the back with the black and white striped hat) taking fresh air with other women patients.  It is obviously winter with snow on the ground and the women are bundled up against the cold.  The cold fresh air was thought to help cure TB.


2.  Kate on the right taking fresh air in the Cure Pavilion, one of the buildings near the Women's Cottages.  The front and sides of the pavilion were screened-in to let in plenty of cold air.


3.  This picture was cropped from one of the san postcards.  Is shows the Cure Pavilion on the left and the Women's Cottages on the right.  If you look closely at the Cure Pavilion you can see patients sitting inside in canvas sling back chairs just as Kate is doing in Photo 2.

Sent: Jul 18, 2010 

I came to Cresson in March of 1972 as the first "non-physician" Superintendent.  Some of my most vivid memories are of the staff who had been staff during TB days or had been "patient workers". Two stand out.
Miss Ott was the head telephone operator and told me many stories about the Sanatorium. She (and others) told me about the practice of forcing some patients to work for no pay. If they refused to work they were put to bed immediately with no visitors. As soon as they volunteered to work they were released from bed and had full access to various entertainments.
Miss McHail was the head nurse and transitioned the facility from TB to mental retardation. She was the defacto superintendent. I was young and inexperienced and she made sure I did not do anything stupid while learning the job. I owe her a great deal in terms of my future work experiences. While she was a strict administrator, she had an unusual capacity to respond to the needs of the residents of the facility whether they had TB or mental retardation. She initiated progressive treatment practices that were absent in most of the other mental
retardation centers.
As with TB, the use of institutional settings to help people with mental retardation (or developmental disabilities) is now a thing of the past in many states. We can do a better job in community settings. Cresson served the needs
of Pennsylvania's citizens very effectively throughout its years and did so in no small part because of the quality of its staff. I am very pleased that I had the opportunity to be part of that history.
Will H. Burrow, PhD
Gray, Maine


Sent: July 30, 2010
Subj: TB True Story: a response to Morning Call Newspaper Article


Dear Mr. Felton,


My name is Mrs. Julia A ( KREBS) Eltringham.  My mother, Rita Krebs  and  baby brother, Harvey Krebs, contracted TB.   At age 32 my mother was sent to Hamburg and at age 3 my brother Harvey was sent to Mont Alto with TB.


After 15 months my mother was sent home to die.  She died July 4, 1948 at age 32.  After two years, Harvey was sent home, not  cured, but in better condition than when he left.


Prior to my mother's death, she arranged with relatives, aunts, to care for the six of us.  My one aunt, Violet Krebs Gross and her husband adopted my infant brother Richard.  The remainder of us was co-raised by my Aunt Goldie Krebs and aunt Violet, mentioned above, jointly.  Aunt Goldie was not permitted by the then existing law to officially adopt Harvey, but she treated him as her son and called him “my son Harvey".


After my mother died the stigma of her death being caused by TB lingered in family, friends and neighbors for many years.  They also feared for their health and safety, shunning and not permitting play as it was before.  So, TB has had a dramatic effect on us.  This is a very abbreviated narrative of the family sorrow with the consequences of TB, physically, socially and emotionally.


My brothers are all living today.  Then there is the one girl, me, age 70, with three adult married children and seven healthy grandchildren.  Both my parents are deceased now, too.  Harvey Krebs is alive and well.  Father of two, one boy one girl, each an adult.  He recently retired from the US Postal Service.


I would like to have the location address of your web site so we can communicate further.  Thank you for sharing your story. I am so happy to learn that you are all well


Take Care 

Julia A. KREBS Eltringham