Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
Emails 2
Ethel (Brooks) Sandstrom
Alta (Kuhn) Martinelli
Barbara (Butala) Lloyd
Merrill Hammon    
Ellen Copper               
Esther (Palmer) Lenker
Dear Mr. Felton
After reading the article in Sunday's Tribune Democrat regarding the Cresson Sanitarium, I visited your webstie, and just wanted to tell you what a fabulous job you did with it!  The storeis are so interesting and the pictures just put everything together.  Though I've lived in Johnstown Pa all my life, I never knew everything that took place there until I read your website.
I'm an avid local history buff and genealogy researcher and have learned that my Great Uncle, Michael Paul Devorcik died at the San 7-1-1927.  I would love to find out anything I can about his life at the sanitarium because it is his daughter (now age 90), who has been my link to much of my family information that no one else knew.  She would be so thankful to hear of her "Daddy", as she refers to him sill.
Do you know of any way to get records of former patients (I think I read they were distroyed).  Please help me find his information.... as soon as possible!
Best Regards
Dear Charles,
My cousin who lives in Johnstown sent your site to me. I have spent the last +hour reading every word!! How many memories have surfaced from your words and photos.
My father, Joseph Brooks was diagnosed with TB in November of 1951. I was in my senior year in school, had all my plans made for college too, but my life changed in that moment in time. On January 3, 1952 he entered Cresson. It was a 5 hour trip for us... which we made EVERY week. We took him pajamas, slippers, robes, and his favorite (a fifth of whiskey). Probably shouldn't have, but he didn't have many luxuries, and I'm sure the nurses suspected 'our gift'. He was more of a guinea pig for treatment. So much of what you explained, I remember his having too. He had coughed up blood in the beginning, but I remember the sputum most of all.
I was a very shy girl, but my teacher made sure I was in the commencement program. I gave a talk on 'Unity' before the processional. Dr. Weest allowed my Dad to come home, but he had to go to the auditorium and then straight home, and return to Cresson the next day. How proud he was to sit in that audience and watch his little girl on stage. A group of friends and I started out later to celebrate, but returned home because he was there on limited time. We played the piano and sang and celebrated with him. A wonderful memory.
I went to work immediately after graduation, and gave every penny to my Mother to help with expenses. I never regretted not going to college, as my Dad was 'my Hero'... and I wanted to help out.
In 1955, I married and again wrote to Dr. Weest for permission for Dad to come home. He wouldn't allow that as Dad's condition was more serious by this time. So I scheduled my wedding for Friday evening, had a small reception at home, and left for Cresson with a car full of food for his ward buddies. (The only one I can remember was a man called 'Fatso'. Don't recall the real name. He and Dad were great friends.) But all the patients and nurses enjoyed our mini reception. We spent the whole day with them.
I was an only child, and my father was a true sportsman. He always wanted a son to share this with, but I was his princess... never held a gun..."S"  When my first son was born, he was thrilled. At two months old, I was able to take him to Cresson, and they fumigated a room where we sat for an hour so he could enjoy him. ONE HOUR!!! And he was NOT allowed to touch him!!! As I grew older, I truly knew the heartache and the joy in his heart that day. Two months later, he was gone. January 30, 1956 was a bitter cold, icy day. We had travelled to Cresson the day before and stayed through the night with him. He was in a private room, and I was with him at 5am through 10am. He smiled at me and told me he loved me. Unknown to me, the doctor had told my husband and mother to take me home. (there had been complications after my son's birth and I went into a coma for 3 days). They felt the shock of watching my father die would affect me medically. This wasn't explained to me for sometime. Also, they were told that when the TB patient dies, the germs go into the air and it was dangerous for me to be there. By the time we got home, the message was already there to call the hospital. I never forgave myself for letting him leave without my being there.
I write poetry and have written and published a book, 'Angels Touch" One of my poems won 1st place in a world wide group... "My Heart Belongs to Daddy".
I have had many stories and poems published, and won many awards along the way. My main website is:   a tribute to my beloved 16 yr old granddaughter who lost her battle with asthma.
Thank you again for sharing your experiences at Cresson.... and for taking the time to publish your story. It brought many memories to the surface for me. BTW, I live in North Central Pennsylvania
Ethel (Brooks) Sandstrom
Dear Mr.Felton, I have enjoyed reviewing your most interesting web site re: the "San".  It has brought back many memories for me from a different point of view.  My father, Eugene Kuhn, (referred to by one of your articles who gave out the candy), was a patient at the San starting in 1924. He then went on to become the business manager of the hospital in 1939 until his retirement October 31, 1965.  My mother , Martha Jane Carlisle, had also been a patient and they met, fell in love, then married in 1941.  I remember the several trips to the hospital  where my sister and I were regularly x-rayed by Joseph Hajdu, the x-ray technician, and tested for the tubercullan "germ".   Attached is a photo of the medical & administrative staff of 1939.   In a following e-mail I will send what my father wrote in his history  about his  "stint" as a patient.      Sincerely, Alta 



I found your site very interesting and inspiring. It brought back many, many memories of going there.   I remember as a small girl (back in the late 50's, early 60's) going to the Sanitorium with my parents to visit my grandmother.  I don't recall how long my grandmother was a patient there.


My older sister, my older brother and I would sit on a bench located I believe where the cottages were...far from the entrance into the facility.    We would sit there for hours while my parents would visit my dad's mother (Nellie Butala) who was a patient at the TB Center.  I remember eating candy on the park bench and watching what I believe now to be patients from the sanitorium.  I don't recall if we went to a small store to purchase the candy or if my parents had brought it along to keep us entertained.


I spent many summer days on that bench.  It's so ironic that I must have to tell you my story.


In 1975, I took the Civil Service Test and gained employment as a Clerk Stenographer II in the Purchasing Department at Cresson State School and Hospital. 


It was so beautiful there.  I remembered some of the grounds, but never had been "inside".  It had changed from time I was a small child sitting on that park bench.  The bench was long gone, but I still thought the grounds were absolutely breathtaking.  The grounds were so well kept and I so enjoyed summer days on break sitting on the picnic tables. The smells in that wooded, secluded area brought back memories of those summer days sitting on that bench.  I loved listening to the birds and truly felt I was blessed to have such a wonderful place to work each day.  The Administration Building was just gorgeous.  We still had the old switchboard sitting inside a glass cube to the right.  And the woodwork.  Polished and well-kept.  My office was to the right down the hall.  The Director's Office was on the other side of the building to the left when you came in.  The open stairway in the main entrance......was there two of them on each side of the foyer?  I don't recall.


There was talk when I worked there that the center was closing so I transferred to Ebensburg Center.  I worked there a few years and transferred to YDC Waynesburg, a facility for juvenile offenders located south of Pittsburgh.  YDC Waynesburg then became SCI Waynesburg, a facility for female offenders.  I wanted desperately to come back to the area and put in for a transfer to SCI Cresson when I heard the Corrections was going to open a male correctional institution there.


Needless to say, I did transfer to SCI Cresson and it was ironic that I started my employment there in 1975 and ended it there, as I retired from SCI Cresson in 2006.   I came full circle during my working career.


Your photographs brought back the memories I once had of a beautiful, picture perfect institution.   It's great that you have kept my memories alive.  Thank you for such a wonderful site.  I truly loved it.

Barbara A. (Butala) Lloyd



Sent: Sep 23, 2009    Mr. Felton,
Our mother, Helen Hammon, was a patient at the San in the 1943-45 era. We do not know much more than that. She died of breast cancer in 1988 taking her memories and accounts of her stay with her. There are 4 of us children and sadly none of us ever were told about her stay. Our father has also passed on so we have no way of answering many of the questions we have.
The only thing we have are 3 photos from that time and they are attached. In the standing group photo mother is on the right. In the seated photo she has glasses, seated on the left.The third photo is, we believe, the Cresson Diner(?) where mother worked and met our father, that would have been before her stay at the San, maybe early 40's.
We wanted to share these with you and if anybody who sees these photos remember Helen Hammon we would certainly like to hear from them.
Thank you for taking your time to document the San and provide us with information we did not have before.      Dick, Rosemary,David and Merrill
Click on the following link to read Helen's story and see her photos: 


Hello Chuck,

I read with great interest your piece about the Cresson Sanitarium in the State College Centre Daily Times. My grandparents resided in Cresson from about 1940 until their deaths. Backing up, I'm a bit younger than you are, being about 8 years of age in 1955 when you entered the sanitarium.

My grandmother, Alice Vaile, worked as a gray lady at the 'San' in the 1950s. I'm not sure of the exact dates, but I do recall her walking to the San from her home at 409 Keystone Ave in Cresson -- about 1 1/2 miles or so. Grandfather died in 1961, and I don't recall that she worked there after that, as her own health deteriorated after losing him. She died in 1966.

Are there records that might verify her volunteer work there as well as the years she worked?

I was unable to get into your site about the San using the URL in the CDT article:
Then I went to the Felton Design site and used the link, which appears the same except for the slash at the end.

Anyway, I would enjoy learning more about your project. I live in State College, PA, and we travel through Cresson and past the San site several times a year!

Ellen Copper


Left:  Alice Vaile, ca 1940           Right:  Martin & Alice Vaile, ca 1956
Martin, Ellen & Alice Vaile 1961

   Hi Charles,


   Today, I read your story in the Harrisburg Patriot Newpaper.  It brought back a flood of memories for me.  In 1963 my husband and I were pastoring a church in Michigan, when a medical check-up revealed that my 31 year old husband,  Ralph Palmer, had TB.  The state of Michigan notified us that we had three days to either make arrangements to get back to our home state of Pa. and Ralph be hospitalized, or he  would be sent to a 'san' in the state we were in.  After much prayer and investigation we learned that Cresson would be willing to admit Ralph.  We quickly loaded our three small children in our car and drove over night to Cresson.  We arrived at the at the hospital on a snowy morning in March. Our 3 children and I had already been tested by the state of Michigan and found to be free of TB.  Forunately Cresson was only 20 mile from my family home and the children and I were able to live with my parents for the 9 months Ralph was being treated.  Our Michigan congregation was met by the Mich. Health Department on the first Sunday after our departure and everyone was skin tested for tuberculosis.


 The care was excellent. Ralph had a privite room, and I was able to visit him on a daly basis.  Our children did not see their dad for 6 months after his admission.  After six months of treatment with medication, Ralph had surgery to remove a cavity from the upper right lobe of his lung.  After three months of recovery he was discharged.  After a time of recovery at home, we returned to a pastoral position in Ohio.


  In 1974 Ralph died with a heart attack and complications from diabetes.  


   When the Cresson facility transitioned to a mental health facility, my uncle spent several years as a patient.  My family has many memories, some good and some sad, of the Cresson facility.  I have always been fascinated with the beauty of the location and thankful that my family lived close enough to be able to visit our loved ones who spent time at the facility.


  Thanks for your story and giving many of us an opportunity to share our story.      


     Esther (Palmer) Lenker