Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
Are you a Cresson TB survivor or a relative of someone who was in the san? Please get in touch!
Send me your stories or comments and photos and I will add them to this site. Contact me as follows:
Snail Mail: 825 Lake Park Drive Lakehills, TX 78063
Phone: (830) 751-2312
Below are email contacts for people who have contributed to this website.
(I received the following email from Mary Wolfe)
My father Thomas Shelnick was born in Scranton
Pa, traveled to Blawnox, where he met my mother. They had four children, the last one born in 1943. They were divorced
in 1947. I believe he entered the san sometime in 1949 or 1950 when he had a lung removed and stayed for further
treatment. He was released and returned to Blawnox to live. He returned to the sanatorium July 18, 1955,
died October 3, 1955. The medical director that signed his death certificate was Harry W. Weest. My father was 45 years old
when he died.
Photos of Tom Shelnick. The one on the left was taken in 1950,
the first time he was at the sanatorium. The lady in the picture with Tom is his step-sister, Catherine Chapelak.
(I received the following email from JoAnn Eck)
I am also a survivor of Cresson TB Hospital. I was a seven year old from
and took the long, scary road to Cresson in 1944. My father was in the Navy fighting in the South Pacific and I lived
with my mother and brother. I don’t have any pictures all I can remember is being very scared. I was there
six months or so but I have some memory of all the tests, medicine, and being in isolation when I first arrived. I also
remember, I wet the bed the first night and had on red pajamas so you can imagine the mess. Welcome to Cresson!
JoAnn Mihailov Eck Sugar Land, Tx.
(To contact Tony, email Chuck Felton and I will forward.)
Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know
I enjoyed your web page. As you probably are aware, in 1964, service for mental retardation was initiated and it became Cresson
State School and hospital which later in the 70's was changed to Cresson Center. I worked there from 1971 until 1981 when
they announced its closing. It was eventually closed, I believe, in 1983.
I have looked with interest at the post cards and
pictures. The names of buildings remained essentially the same when I was there. The surgical unit was just called the hospital
unit and no surgery was done there. The nurse's residence was made into a women's dormitory and named O'Halloran Hall. East/West
wings kept those designations and the units keep their numerals. In the early 70's, the numbers were dropped in an effort
to diminish the institutional image. Names like Spruce Manor (Unit 2) and Oak Manor (Unit 3) etc. were chosen. We always laughed
and wondered which one would eventually become "Pansy Manor"! With the exception of O'Halloran Hall, all outside units became
male living areas. East/West wings remained with the male and female situations as under TB. Those generally had the very
young and/or highly physically involved. The superintendents home was closed at the time I arrived. The physician's homes
were eventually set up as small living arrangements with those living there going out to daily work situations.
I worked in a training program which
was located in the school between the two dormitories which was located off grounds. The state took possession of those buildings
owned by the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. One was for male and the other female. In 12/12/1960, 100 individuals were transported
from Selinsgrove State School and Hospital, Selinsgrove, Pa, to Cresson. In 1968, men in the dormitory started a mattress
fire and the dorm burnt to the ground leaving only one left which became the male unit and females were moved to the main
complex on grounds. Amazingly enough, I eventually transferred to Selinsgrove Center! Truly a strange turn of events.
Our boss had a interesting method of doing job
interviews. He made sure that each person interviewed took a tour of the tunnels. He always said that was sure to scare them
off, and if not, those would be the ones to hire. While there, a remnant of employees from the TB era were still
there. We heard a lot of amazing and humorous stories especially regarding efforts by patients to do some drinking and having
secret meetings for physical pleasures. Our program was somewhat isolated being as it was off grounds so my contact with those
"old timers" was limited. There were a few that I can remember: Ruth Glass, RN, her husband Al Glass, LPN Gail Seabolt
and her husband Jack,and some others I can not remember.
I had an uncle who had TB. He resided in Detroit,
Michigan. He was involved in hospital therapy for about two years. He did not have the beautiful setting of the country. He
told us the hospital was about six stories. The admitting unit was at the top! Once decided the level of TB involvement, the
person was placed on the floor dealing with that level of care. As the health situation improved, the patients were moved
down the floors until the first was reached and release arrived. Did they use a system like that at Cresson by moving
through the units?
There are in some of the post cards areas with
which I am not familiar and were not there when I arrived. I believe they were gone for several years as there was no evidence
of them. #21 the women's camp, I never knew of it. #18 School and
Athletic Field, the green building, the largest of the two in the pictures was gone. It looks as if it was close to the surgical
unit? The building to the right of the green structure was still there and used as a training facility. Thanks
for the views.
Hi, My name
is Helen Liebal & my sister,Mary Liebal was a patient at the sanatorium from 1947-1952? I am not certain of
the date that she left.
She was only 13years old & was just starting Altoona Catholic
Highschool at the time. She spent all of her highschool years there. When she was cured she worked there as a telephone operator
for about a year. One of her friends there was named Dorothy Keyes & she left around the same time as Mary. Mary's
age was a problem for the hospital ...too old for the children's ward & too young for the women's ward. She always said
she got a good education there. She was eventually put in the women's section even though she was so young. Mary passed away
this past July & we were reminiscing with her right before she died about the San & I always kidded her & said
that she should try to get a reunion together. She would really enjoy talking with you all about her experiences there. I
have a few pictures with some people she was friendly with at the hospital but not a lot of names on them.
Mary did have her lung collapsed also & had a lot of back problems because
of the surgery. She talked about Drs Oleary & Weest quite a bit.
Upon leaving the hospital Mary attended the Altoona School of Commerce &
after graduating worked several jobs. She was manager of Layfferty Trucking & worked in the A&P office
for a short while. When she retired she took a part time job at ABCD Corp. in Altoona & always said she should have started
there...she really enjoyed her last job.
Thank you for such a great
web site on the Cresson San. My aunt Lillian Berish worked there for 27 years. She in fact worked there until it closed and then was transferred to Holidaysburg
Vet's Hospital. I heard many stories about it and she often talked about the
many young people who were being treated there. She had many photos and talked
about being snowed in there when the snow was so deep that she had to take the train home to Patton. Aunt Lil passed away in 2000 after a 6 year battle of breast cancer.
She would of loved to have seen you site. May God Bless and thanks for
the trip down memory lane.
|Helen Noon (in white hat) at the Cresson Sanitorium
Hi Mr Felton! The articles in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat have very special interest for my sister
and I because in the process of researching our Irish ancestors we found that we had some ancestors who spent some time at
the facility. The first person, whose name was Helen Burke Noon,wife fo George Noon,actually died from her T.B. at the facility.
The newspaper article says that she passed away in Sept.1919 after having spent 13 monthe there. Seems as though she
could have been among the first to be admitted there. She was not buried in the Union Cemetery but was brought to Johnstown
and buried in Grandview Cemetery. Then my great grandfather Richard Thomas Burke , who came to America from County Mayo
, Ireland in 1875, also spent some time at the Sanatorium and he passed away in 1920. He was buried in St. John's Cemetery
in Richland.This cemetery being predominantly an Irish/Italian cemetery. While he was in the Sanatorium, his children lived
with foster families. Helen, mentioned above, was his daughter who died at the age of 25. My mother was only 2 years
old at the time of her death.
I also believe that there
were also a few more of Richard,s children who also spent some time there at one point because some of their obituaries
have their cause of death listed as lung troubles/consumption. They may have been among those "Children of the Sun"who
were patients there..I know that one other of Richard's daughters whose name was Regina was found dead in a hammock on the
porch age of 14 years, Cause of death was listed as pulmonary trouble so I'm to believe that the T.B. sort of ran rampant
through the family. He also had a daughter named Nora who also died at a vary young age and probably also had lung problems. Seems
as though the T.B. affected more of his female children for some reason. Richard only had 14 children, two were named
Nora, and quite a few of them lived to be a ripe old age!! Richard's wife, whose name was Anna Kinney Burke, also died
from pulmonary trouble but passed away in June of 1910 so I don't believe she spent any time at the Sanitorium. I just thought
that you might find this little bit of historical informatioin of some interest since you yourself spent some time there and
this is also some earlier history close to when the Sanitorium first opened its doors. I doubt that there are any records
from way back then but I sure would be interested in them if available.Thanks for listening and good luck with your endeavor.
Richard Thomas Burke Family 1905-06 Approx.
The father Richard was in Cresson san and died in 1920.
The mother Anna Kinney Burke died in 1910. Also had TB.
Helen Burke Noon is standing beside her mother (white bow in
hair). Spent 13 months in the sanatorium and died there in 1919 at the age of 25.
Regina is the child whom they found dead in a hammock at the
age of 14. Pulminary tuberculosis trouble listed as cause of death.
The front page of our local newspaper (Tribune Democrat) had "San" man story. It brought so many memories back
of my Dad, Samuel John Sherman. I was only a small girl at the time, about 4 or 5. That was too young
to remember all the details. Dad was there in 1953 - 55. It was such a hush, hush disease and not really every
discussed after his return home.
I remember the day he started coughing blood. We were on a vacation to visit family in Ohio. I was so scared.
Dad was wisked away to a hospital and I was taken back to Johnstown by my grandmother. My mother stayed with my father.
When I returned home my sister and I were not allowed out of the house. No one but the doctor came and went. When
my mother returned from Ohio my Dad was not with her. He was already in Cresson. I remember crying a lot.
I wanted my Daddy. Without him there was no income so my mother had to find a job. My sister, mom, and I were
subjected to weekly TB tests and Xrays. There were no jobs in Johnstown so an Uncle in Columbus Ohio found Mom a job.
We stayed with family there while she worked in a grocery store. We drove every weekend to Cresson. I was not
allowed inside the compound so my Uncle Buddy would hide me under blankets in the back seat. Dad would come out on the
fire escape and wave. I wanted to hug him so badly and cried all the way home. He called me Pigeon. He even
made me a leather wallet with that on, which I still have. That's a craft he learned at Cresson and became a life hobby.
Upon his return home it was like it never happened. Just remember being told to be quiet because he had to rest.
He did keep in touch with a guy by the name of Mike from Titusville PA. We went to visit once, but his family didn't
want my dad inside their house. Afraid of catching the disease. I also remember Dad getting his weekly "gas" treatments.
He would have to take a day off from the steel mill and came home with a big belly. After reading your web site I now
know what it was.
Dad passed away in 68 due to a botched surgery from stomach ulcers. I always wondered if the damaged lungs had
anything to do it. My mother fell and broke hip and some other bones about 2 years ago. She was placed in a nursing
home and they did through physical exam. They discoved that she too must have had TB because of the scars on her lungs.
Probably caught it from Dad.
I do have some pics. I'll dig them out and send. I was hoping to see him in some of the pics on your site.
Thanks for remembering all the people who were treated at Cresson. Thanks for making me remember and retell the
story to my grandchildren so it isn't ever forgotten.
Linda (Sherman) Ondriezek