Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
Helen Novak
From: Helen Novak    HBUBBA2631@AOL.COM,    
To: Chuck Felton 
Subject: Re: cresson survivor
Date: Jul 15, 2012

Hi Chuck,

What a wonderful thing you did with your website about Cresson.  When I heard about it I was so thrilled and excited my heart was palpitating!

I would love any kind of contact from any Cresson alums about anything.  I am 96 years old and living in Boca Raton, Florida and may be the oldest living former patient of Cresson.

Here's my story:  I was born in my home at 537 8th Street Ambridge, Pennsylvania on April 16, 1916.  Ambridge was a “steel town” about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh.  I had 4 brothers and 1 sister all of whom have passed on a long time ago.  I was the youngest.  My Mother died at the age of 34.  My Father remarried and my Step-Mother had 5 daughters of her own.  Our house was not really made for that number of inhabitants.  The “Brady Bunch” we weren't!

When I was about 15 years old I became very sick with a high temperature.  A local doctors thought I might have TB and said I had to be isolated.  A sanatorium in Monaca was at that time for more advanced cases of TB so I was put on the waiting list for Cresson.  I spent the next 9 months in relative isolation in a furnished room in the attic.  My sister Sally took care of me and would bring me my meals.  I was finally admitted to Cresson on May 26, 1932.

My roommate was Linnea Nelson.  I remember a time we stayed up all night listening to a radio broadcast having to do with the Queen of England.  I remember 2 Polish patients who were brothers and framed butterflies.  I remember a Mrs. Johnson a wonderful kind lady who worked at Cresson who had an 32 year old impaired child who required her constant care and attention.  I remember another lady who had severe scoliosis of the spine.  I remember a lady who played the organ and how much we enjoyed singing along with her.

I remember George Wanchek a patient who was also from Ambridge.  I had a severe case of “puppy love” with him for a while.  I remember an Italian man, I can't remember his name, who drove myself and George Wanchek to Ambridge for a weekend.  We rode in a rumble seat!

After about 3 weeks and no finding of TB Cresson wanted to send me home but I cried and cried.  I wanted to stay!  Miss Bates, the Director of Nursing, plead my case to Dr. Cowan, the Head Director saying she would find some work for me and I was permitted to stay on!  It worked!  I was as happy as a lark!

I worked in the dining room operating the toaster and then buttering the toast.  I entered the nursing program.  I had my tonsils removed.

After 29 negative tuberculin skin tests my party had to come to a close.  I was maybe the only Cresson patient in history who did not want to leave!  But Dr. Stites felt very strongly that my continued exposure to the other patients might result in my being infected.  I had to go! On March 17, 1935  I did just that.

I went on to White Haven for 2 years, worked at a maternity hospital in Brooklyn, NY, finally got my diploma after 3 years at Richmond Medical College.  I met my husband while taking care of his aunt in the hospital, but that's another story.

I wish I remembered more and I hope that there is somebody from Cresson that might remember me!  I truly enjoy your Website and of corse “Cresson, Remembering Life at the San”.  Thank you for that!  Keep in touch.

Helen Novak


1.  Helen on her Nursing Graduation day.


2.  Helen on her Wedding Day.


3.  Helen and her husband.

4.  Helen's Discharge Letter signed by Dr. Stites.