In the past week I have found such joy in the personal calls and emails shared with so many of you. Thank you for staying in touch. I hope this letter finds you all safe and well.
As a member of our email list, you understand that by paying attention to the lives of those who came before us, we enrich our own experience of the present. I am finding this particularly true right now. I would like to share with you a weekly letter to help us connect with our history and with each other. As a shout-out to our fresh air history, I’m going to call these “letters from the porch.”
I’ve been thinking about ways that TB patients combatted loneliness. Spending much of their time alone, often far from family and friends, radio served as a source of entertainment and a lifeline to community. In 1927, a time when there were fewer than 100 radio stations in the United States, Saranac Lake founded its own local radio station, WNBZ. The people at WNBZ produced locally grown radio shows tailored to keep TB patients busy, like courses in literature and history and one called, “Let’s Learn Spanish.”
Ham radio allowed for two-way communication and built lasting friendships. While a patient at the Trudeau Sanatorium in the 1930s, Ed Worthington made his own amateur receiving set at a cost of $25. When not busy talking with "hams" all over the country, he developed a brisk trade repairing other patients' radios. He went on to teach Radio Theory and Code at the Study and Craft Guild. Thanks to Ed’s daughter Jan Dudones, we have Ed’s beautiful ham radio in our collection, along with his scrapbook of call signs from other hams around the world with whom he made radio contact.
I hope that as you go forward this week, you will think of Ed and his radio, and all the patients who reached out from their bedsides across the airwaves. Our human desire to connect with each other is a beautiful thing, and it will pull us through this situation we face today.
I find myself thinking a lot about you, the people who I think of as my Historic Saranac Lake family. I have spent the last 12 years working with you to nurture this little museum. Over that time, I have made so many friends. From George in Florida, to Judy in Virginia, to Tony in California, to Anne and Natalie just down the street, and so many friends in between. We are far-flung, but we are joined by an appreciation for the Saranac Lakers who came before us. Their stories can ground us now and show us ways to get through these times together.
To keep in touch, I will be sending you this weekly letter, and I hope you will write me back to share a story or just to say hello. My wonderful colleagues here at HSL are working overtime to develop creative ways to reach out online. We will be posting video tours, seeking your input on creating virtual and at-home exhibits, recording oral histories, and more.
To mark the days, I have been making a daily visit to Mount Baker, just down from my house here in the village. Each day I am posting a photo here. I hope you will join me in watching for signs of spring.
Historic Saranac Lake
As the world confronts the challenge of coronavirus, many of you have kindly asked how you can help Historic Saranac Lake. Thank you for thinking of us with your membership or donation today. Your generosity will sustain us through this difficult period and prepare us for the bright day when we can open our doors to the public once again.
Letters from the Porch Archive:
Lessons in Resilience