Cresson TB Sanatorium Remembered
The following writeup and photos were submitted by Alta S. (Kuhn) Martinelli, daughter of Mr. Eugene Kuhn and Martha Carlisle Kuhn.  
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".  

(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 my ward. 

   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. (Kuhn) Martinelli) 

1.  Medical and Administrative Staff 1939
3.  Employees
5.  Women's Camp Group
7.  Wilbur Best & friends.
9.  Martha Carlisle (Kuhn), Sally Michaels/McMichaels, Mary Ryland
11.  Patient Friends, Dr. Wesner, Medical Director (top row with arrow).
13.  Cottage III
15.  Dr. Rosenbloom
17.  Ida Viegle
19   Mary Mino & Sara/Sally Helsel
21.  Ernest Shoner
23.  Unknown
25.  Mr. Eugene Kuhn retirement Party photo in the Cresson Mainliner Newspaper, October 1965.
2.  The East Wing at Night in Winter.
4.  Dietary Department Employees
6.  Men's Camp Group
8.  Eunette Callan, Martha Carlisle (Kuhn), Emma Prosba
10.  Sally Michaels/McMichaels, Emma Prosba.  Grace Chapel bell tower in background.
12.  Paul Staude, Wilbur Best, Charles Dick
14.  Mabel Home
16.  Mary Petro
18.  Sally Helsel, Unknown
20.  Sally Michaels/McMichaels
22.  Dr. Rothemel
24.  Wilma Yanssens & Charles Dick