(Mr. Felton, This is from my father's (Eugene Kuhn) history about
his experience at the San prior to his employment there. It reads in part: )
After arriving in Pitcairn, I was sick with high fever and barely conscious.
The next thing I know, I was down with a relapse of pneumonia...This was in January of 1924 and now Dr. Rugh advised me to
get out of the smoggy valley but first I should be examined by a lung specialist who directed that I be sent to Cresson as
T.B. was getting a start in my lungs.
...I hadn't the least idea where I was going. It
was in the mountains and the Sanatorium was a health resort. At the railroad station the Sanatorium bus met us at an
isolated building near the depot which was for the sole use of patients. Everything was stranded in the zero temperature of
that cold winter day. I looked about the room and heard racking coughs from patients who were a lot sicker than I. A
deep snow covered the ground and flakes were falling silently as we got into the bus and started up the mountain to the hospital
where the elevation is 2,583 feet. Everyone was silent-perhaps in deep thought and frightened at what the future may be for
us. At the Sanatorium a kindly aid met us and offered milk or hot coffee.
In the ward we were told to lay out all our clothes and
personal items. Any medicine, chewing or liquor was taken away and woe to anyone caught chewing gum which at that time could
be a germ-laden item which may get into the kitchen dishwashing machines.
An old man, a young fellow and I were sent out to a men's
camp because the beds in the hospital were filled and we looked stronger than the others who were being admitted. The thermometer
registered 10 degrees below. What a first night. The room I was assigned to had 2 beds but I was the only occupant.
Two large sliding door type windows were in the room and the windows were open. There was no heat in the room. In the
center entrance hallway stood a lone radiator to heat the only area where one could dress/undress. Snow covered the floor
in a corner of my room. When I asked where the lavatory was, the fellows pointed to a white enamel bucket in my room sitting
in the snow. There was a center bathhouse building in the camp area where one could get water to fill the pitcher
in his room or where he could bathe by shower or empty his bucket in the toilet bowls.
Getting into bed was like lying between 2 cakes of ice.
I shivered the whole night...I felt like an Eskimo w/o his furs in the zero cold of his igloo. That was the treatment in those
days--fresh air and rest. The winters were long and severe on these mountains and the summers short but pleasant. A whistle
blown at 8:30 pm from the power plant was the signal for every patient not already in bed to get undressed and be in bed by
9pm. Morning finally came and at 7am we went into the dining room for a hearty breakfast of stewed fruit, cereal, pancakes,
sausage, milk and coffee.
After breakfast I was sent to the main hospital building for
a thorough physical exam and x-ray. It seemed as if I responded immediately to the change of living and treatment...Something
was going on all the time...We had to tear our bed apart each morning for airing and inspection, sweep our rooms and mop with
disinfectant solution the floor of the entire hallway.
Patients in the camps who were on exercise assignment could
take a walk around the camp during the morning rest period before lunch. After lunch every patient had to be in bed from 12:45-2:15.
Then from 3-4pm another rest period followed by temperature readings before supper at 5. Another rest period followed until
7 and in bed by 9pm. This was the usual routine for the camp patient.
My resistance seemed to be good in spite of my illness. Homesickness
never really bothered me until one morning five months later after I was transferred back to a hospital ward. I heard
a little clock play a familiar tune in chimes and then I had a good cry. Why was I in the hospital ward? The camp
doctor said I was being too active a patient and wasn't gaining the weight I should. Therefore, I was restricted from
doing any more exercises or participating in the patient's social activities until advised by the physician in charge. of
After the doctor sent me back to camp again, I was put in the
teacher's training class for the school. Children at the sanatorium who were able to be up and around were sent to classes
from grades 1 to 8 under the supervision of registered graduate teachers with the exception of those who assisted as patient
trained teachers. I taught 2nd grade for two years and had a most delightful experience. We could take the pupils
into the woods nearby for nature studies or walks. I also taught musical appreciation for 15 minutes a day
in all the other grades.
A vacancy occurred in the post office and the medical director,
Dr. Thomas Stites, who became my good friend asked me to take charge.
When I received my discharge three and a half years after being
admitted, I returned home and tried to find a job. Finally I got a job a Kaufmann's Dept. store in Pittsburgh
for one month. At the end of the month I took the train to Cresson to visit and while there Dr. Stites asked me to come
back and work in the stores department. I was on staff now and was soon made storekeeper and purchasing agent.
I enrolled in the Columbia University Home Study courses and received certification in Business Administration and Sociology.
On July 3, 1935, I was dismissed without notice from my job at
the hospital. The political administration had changed in the fall of 1934, but because I was a former patient and was
considered along with others as a graduate, we gave little thought to being replaced by the politicians under Governor Earle.
Nevertheless they cleaned house thoroughly. Doctors, nurses, employees and former patients felt the axe of sudden dismissals.
It was said the State Dept. of Health Program of Rehabilitation was set back 10 years. This was quite a shock to me.
No other work was available in the community and at that time, when anyone with a record of having been a patient at the Cresson
Sanatorium went to find a job, he already had two strikes against him.
Then in May, 1939, the former Medical Director of the hospital wanted
me to come back with him as the Purchasing Agent. The political administration had changed the previous fall, and I
was interested. During the summer months of 1940 I attended a summer institute in hospital purchasing at John Hopkins University.
I wanted to better myself in my position and took every advantage I could to further my education. My ambition to improve
my knowledge of hospital work also led to a promotion as Business Manager.
On July 1, 1964, the State Hospital ceased to function as a hospital
for chest diseases under the Department of Health. The institution was transferred to the state Dept. of Welfare to
be a Hospital and School for the mentally retarded.
I retired October 31, 1965 and a wonderful farewell party was
held for me and Martha, my wife at the Summit Country Club in Cresson. Now for a real vacation!
(I hope this helps you
with your "San" page. I'm shivering just from typing this!!!! Sincerely, Alta S.