Part 2: Stony Wold Sanatorium

Carl Jacobs, who died last year, left an eight-page document recalling his young life at Stony Wold in the hamlet of Lake Kushaqua. He had written on the top of the first page, “I was born there on Sept. 18, 1933 at Hillside 2 on the North side of town.” He had never shown this story to anyone; his family found it in his papers after his death. It’s edited for space here.

“Rest hour was from 1 to 3 p.m. for the patients and no noise was to be made during those hours – even motor boats on the lake were forbidden. In the summer I would get working papers and get a job at the San, as we called it. My boss was usually my father Pearly Jacobs but I worked with various full-time people.”

Learning to paint quietly

“One of my first jobs was under the tutelage of Charlie Dukette who was in charge of all painting. He taught me how to mix paint and then I got to go out and put up a 40 ft. ladder to paint the main building along with two other men who were on 35 foot ladders. It was during rest hour and I leaned over to paint a spot I had missed when the ladder begin to slide. I grabbed the ledge I just painted to stop my decent and gradually pulled myself and the ladder to an upright position. Then and only then did I say anything and as I started to swear Charlie said, ‘SH, SH, SH, it’s rest hour. Bill Wilson was on my left and he gave a big grin and put his finger to his lips. I was covered with paint but I didn’t wake any patients or I would have been fired.”

How to wind a clock

“Another job that had to done monthly was to wind the big clock on the churches. This usually required two men for a couple of hours and was no easy task. The clock ran by weights that had to be wound up by use of a hand crank and they were very heavy. Then the chimes were wound the same way with a different set of weights and an additional crank. One man would crank until he had to stop and then the second man did the same until the weights were up to the top and they would last for thirty days. The clock had Westminster chimes but was shut off at night and during rest hour so as not to disturb the patients.

“There were two churches in the building, one Catholic and one Protestant plus a movie theater where we had first run movies every Wednesday night. People would come from around town and also from Onchiota to see the free movies.” (There was a room in the main building where Jewish patients worshiped.)

Mom was a teacher

“My mother was a school teacher who taught eight grades in a one room school that was one mile south of the San. We walked that distance morning and night, kept the snow shoveled around the school and kept the furnace going. The teacher was required to teach eight grades, fix a noon meal, do the census and keep control of up to twenty students. During World War II she kept track of the food rationing stamps and also showed us how to make afghans for the troops.

“Lake Kushaqua was almost self-sustaining except that we had to import coal for the big furnaces and the cottages. The furnaces produced steam for heat and at one time produced electricity for everyone’s use. They had a farm with all the vegetables they needed and had cows, chickens, pigs and horses. We had our own water system from Mountain Pond piped throughout the community as well as a central sewage system which is still there.”

Many trains a day

“There were twelve to fourteen trains a day that either passed through or stopped to deliver freight and passengers. The patients, many from New York City, came by train and went home by train one way or the other. Many died of TB because at that time there was no cure other than the fresh air, good food and rest. Later, during WWII, we had a lot of Norwegian sailors that were also curing. They were young and were not used to lying around and had some novel ways to pass the time.

“The trains brought coal and anything else that was needed to run the San and also anything that might have been ordered by the local people or the patients. The tracks went from Lake Clear to Malone where they were switched to other tracks to go to Utica one way or to Montreal the other way.

“Around 1940 the railroad decided to use our part of the line to test new Diesel Locomotives that were to be used in the Rocky Mountains. They brought in two engines with one hundred freight cars to pull and started daily runs. The men in the old steam engines didn’t think too much of the shiny new engines.

“One day with temperatures below zero they were coming up a grade near Owls head when the fuel froze and the train came to a standstill blocking traffic both ways. They sent two steam engines to the rescue and they had to back them down the tracks. I was in the Kushaqua station when they went by at a tremendous rate of speed.

“Later in the day we heard a whistle and they rounded the bend pulling the diesel engines and one hundred freight cars. It was a wonder they could move at all because they were blowing the whistles so much to let everyone know that the old steamers were still the kings of the railroad.

“Much later I found out that when the steamers hooked onto the diesels the steam that was used for brakes and heat warmed up the new engines and even before they started towing the train, both engines had started and were good to go. They signaled the steamers to disconnect but for some reason the engineers in the steamers couldn’t hear or see there signals all the way back to Lake Clear.”