Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
Esther Mae Bishop Hanlon

The following story and photos were sent to me in December 2010 by Michael Rieg.  His email address is


Mr. Felton, I much enjoyed the article you wrote about sanatoriums, especially about the Cresson sanatorium, which you, of course, have very personal experience with. In fact, you might have been a patient there when my aunt, Esther Mae Bishop Hanlon, was a registered nurse at the Cresson "san".  She served there in the mid fifties.  I read your article in the Allentown, PA Morning Call newspaper. 


Esther Mae (known as "Boodie” or “Bish”) was the youngest of 11 children, 7 boys, 4 girls, born to Edward and Mae Bishop.  My mother, Irma Bishop ("Hon") Rieg, was the middle child of the 11.  They were all born in Cresson and raised in a house located at 228 Cathedral Avenue in Cresson. 


While working at the san as a nurse in the 1950’s Boodie met Lorraine Ott and they became lifetime friends.  Ott, as she was known, was a former TB san patient who stayed on and worked for many years as a telephone operator.  Our family heard some stories about the san and they mostly came from Ott.  I believe she was from Slippery Rock in Butler County. 


Both of them were very good athletes who played softball.  Bootie played well into her sixties.  She was probably the most competitive person I ever met.  She wanted to win and it didn’t matter who she was competing against, whether a grandchild or a fellow adult competitor.  She would do anything to win! 


Boodie died in 2001 and I believe Ott died around 2005.  I participate in the Pa Hero Walk and I proudly wear Bish’s pin which says in gold script “Bish”. 


My brother Frank ("Ticker") and I were born in Uniontown, Fayette County. Ticker and I went to an orphanage called Girard College in Philadelphia (actually the country's oldest orphanage) for boys whose fathers had died.  Our dad died from mitral valve disease when Ticker was 5 and I was 1 1/2.  I bring up Girard College (which was actually an orphanage for grades 1-12, not a college as we know them) because your article relating about you being "a year in bed" reminded me of our experience at Girard.  There was a very old doctor on staff in the 1950s and if any boy was suspected of a heart murmur Doc Bauer would put those boys in our infirmary for one year.  We had boys who "disappeared" from our midst for a year and the reappeared, usually in the grade behind, because I do not think there was much tutoring of the boys while they spent their year in the infirmary.  Anyway, it kind of relates to your experience at the san, other than the big difference is that our boys were not actively sick and basically were confined to bed for a year.  That must have been very trying for kids under 12 years old. 


I would be interested in your blog and whatever writing you are doing and will do.  Did you notice that everybody in our family has nicknames!  God bless.


Michael Bishop "Bish" Rieg


Mike participates in the PA Hero Walk  which is a now two year event in which a group of people walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, 342 miles over 14 days to raise public awareness and money to aid our wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan thru the Wounded Warrior Project.  You can read about it at  


1.  Esther is on the far right in the front row in this photo taken September 1952 of the Nurse's Graduating Class at Cresson Pennsylvania State Sanatorium.  Esther is listed as an Instructor of Nursing.
2.  Esther in full uniform with a smile guaranteed to brighten up any patient's day.


3.  Lorraine Ott at work answering the phone.


4.  Mike Rieg strolls from his back porch at his home in Lansdale, Pa.