Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
Newspaper 41
The following article was written by Wendy Post, Staff Writer, and published in the Towanda Daily Review on Friday, December 7, 2012. Click the following link to go to the newspaper website: ___________________________________________________________________ Towanda graduate's experience goes from outreach to EmmyBy Wendy Post

What began as a journey in 2009 to reunite patients of CressonTuberculosis (TB) Sanatorium and provide support for patients past,grew quickly into a reunion, a filming on PBS, and an eventual Emmy award that was received by the film's makers in September of thisyear. For former Cresson patient Chuck Felton, who graduated fromTowanda High School in 1955, the entire experience has been nothing short of amazing.

In a recent interview with Felton, he talked about the film, and highlighted the journey from emails to Emmy as being a unified effort between all those who had the courage to come forward and talk oftheir experiences during what he described as dark times. At the age of 17, a young Felton, who is the son of the late Philip and Esther Felton of Towanda, Pa., found himself in the back seat of their car for a long ride to the Sanatorium located 140 miles from Harrisburg between Johnstown and Altoona, that was once serving TB patients in the region. Felton had been diagnosed with TB, and his parents were given what he described as a poor prognosis. "When they took me to Cresson, they thought it was a one-way trip," Felton described during the interview.

Felton would be cared for at the facility for 16-months, and made a miraculous recovery from a disease that was described as ill-fated during those times. And most who did survive, he explained, never spoke about their experience.

"Everyone kept this in, like me," Felton added, "it took a lot of courage to let it out."

And Felton, 50 years later, and following a graduation from Penn State and an eventual career at Douglas Aircraft in California, was able to open up about his experiences in an effort that soon went viral.The 74-year old retired Aerospace Engineer who now resides in Texas,was able to breathe new life into the old Sanatorium when he developeda website,

It is from this website that stories arrived from various patients from all over that were affected by TB, and who received treatment at the Cresson facility.

With a growing number of former patients emerging with their experiences, a reunion was soon planned for August of 2011 at the former site of the Sanatorium, and according to Felton, 150 arrived.For Felton, he didn't recognize many at the reunion, but did run into one of the nurses who cared for him. "It was very nice to thank those who helped us, fifty years later," he said.

Also at the reunion was a filmmaker David Solomon and photojournalist Paul Ruggieri. The two arrived at the reunion to work on and produce afilm, Cresson: Remembering Life At The San, which was aired several times on PBS shortly after.

But it was in April of 2012, when the efforts started by a simple website would take another turn of events.

Filmmaker David Solomon sent Felton an email in April, announcing that he submitted the program for an Emmy Award. And soon, Felton learned,the program was one of five selected for nomination of this award. On Sept. 22, 2012, Felton was sitting at home with his wife Peggy,where they were talking about things. The phone rang, Feltondescribed, and when he answered it, it was Solomon."We have a winner," said Solomon from the other end of the telephone. Subsequently, on Sept. 23, 2012,Solomon received the Emmy Award by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Mid-Atlantic Chapter.The 30 minute documentary, produced by WQED Pittsburgh, was chosen in the category of Outstanding Historical/Cultural Program.

According to a post on Felton's website, the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Emmy Awards recognizes broadcast excellence in Pennsylvania, NewJersey, Delaware and parts of Ohio and West Virginia. Producer andwriter David Solomon accepted the award.

Felton's reaction to this news was one of disbelief, combined with a feeling of accomplishment. "The whole thing has been a really unusual experience from start to finish," said Felton. He added, "Within a matter of three years, this effort grew into an Emmy. " Felton continued to speak about the courage of those who participated in the film's making, and called it a vindication for all.

And although Felton's parents are no longer alive, he spoke of them briefly, and stated that if they were here, they would be amazed. "A bad experience turned into something positive," said Felton of the entire ordeal.

"When you look back and say, what the heck was this all about," Felton concluded as he pondered the entire process of designing the website, planning the reunion, the filmmaking of the experience, and its newly acclaimed title in the film industry.

And the film will be etched in the memories of all who participated in its making, and will also serve to educate and offer support to those affected by TB in the past, and in the future.

Felton talked of March 24, 2013 as being TB Day throughout the world. Felton has already been in contact with several organizations that are setting up programs in anticipation of the March 24 recognition, and plan on airing the film as part of their display.

And although the airing of the film has discontinued on public television, it is still accessible by visiting the WQED website at, and clicking on the link to view the video. That link is also available through the Felton's website.

As for Cresson Sanatorium, it was eventually converted into a state correctional institution under the Bureau of Corrections, as it remains today.