Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
Newspaper 53

 The following article, written by Kathy Mellott, was published in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat on March 28, 2014.  Click the following link to go to the newspaper website:  



 March 28, 2014

San documentary interviews available on YouTube

CRESSON — The story of the Cresson Tuberculosis Sanitorium, known as the San, is being made available on the Internet site YouTube by a Pittsburgh public television station.

WQED has made available all or most of 10 interviews it conducted in 2011 with former patients and employees of the facility in Cresson Township.

The interviews were conducted by David Solomon, executive producer with WQED Multimedia, during a reunion of those associated with the sanitorium to mark the 100th anniversary of the facility.

“David and his tech people at WQED have been gracious and performed a valuable service by preserving these videos,” said Chuck Felton.

Felton, now in his mid-70s, was a Pennsylvania resident who contracted TB while a senior in high school. He spent 16 months at the sanitorium, and four years ago started a website to involve others who were patients or worked at the facility.

The San was one of three TB hospitals started by what is now the Pennsylvania Department of Health. It opened its doors in 1912 and closed in the mid- 1960s.

The massive array of buildings on 500 acres of land overlooking Cresson Borough was then used for mentally and physically disabled and later turned into State Correctional Institution-Cresson, which closed June 30.

Solomon was captivated by the San story and spent time in Cambria County visiting a small area of the state property, then taped more than 20 hours of interviews with 20 people impacted by the facility.

The interviews were edited to a 30- minute program titled “Cresson, Remembering Life at the San,” a project that in 2012 won Solomon and the station an Emmy award.

“The people who shared their stories had so much to say,” Solomon told The Tribune-Democrat on Friday.

“After the edit, I saved the raw tapes.”

The YouTube offering shares the full stories of 10 of those interviewed, including people like Felton, now of Texas, and Pete Stolarski of the Mainline, who spent a year at the San after he was discharged from the Navy.

Audrey Sweeney, a child patient, recalls trying to run away three times, and Loretto Johnson Obusek, a patient in 1960, recalls her family’s Sunday visits.

They always came with a roast beef sandwich left from their lunch because the evening meal of water soup and some kind of bologna was pretty bad, she said.

The patients came from around the state, but the nurses and other employees were local, and some of them are included in the YouTube offering.

“I knew that many of these warm, poignant, factual, even funny memories could not be included in a 30-minute documentary,” Solomon said.

Felton urged Solomon not to let the full stories die on the cutting-room floor.

“A lot of those interviews are very interesting,” Felton said from his Texas home.

While it took many months, Solomon said he heeded Felton’s urging and was slowly able to reconstruct many of the raw interviews and make them available online.

Cresson residents and retired registered nurse Etta Albright said the YouTube interviews are a great way to remind people of the tragedy of tuberculosis, which still is taking lives in other parts of the world.

“The ugly truth about the pain and agony many afflicted with multidrug-resistant TB are experiencing cannot be left out of our effort to memorialize the history of the Cresson San,” she said.

Kathy Mellott is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at

How to watch

To view the interviews: