Part 3: Life at Stony Wold

The story being told here is by the late Carl Jacobs who grew up in Lake Kushaqua where the huge Stony Wold Tuberculosis Sanatorium was located. It was founded in 1901 and closed in 1955. Carl was born there in 1933 and worked at the San for many years starting from the time he got his working papers; which we all applied for and received when we reached age 14. After his death his family found he had written a story about those years.

“Al Oliver was the station agent at Lake Kushaqua and kept traffic moving. He sold tickets and handled freight along with running the telegraph and keeping the big pot-bellied stove running in the winter time. The stove was half way between the waiting room and his office with a fence separating the two. It was quite large and many times I have seen it so hot that it was cherry red.”

Man caught on fire

“Mr. Oliver lived close to the railroad station in a small house with his wife Pearl. He had a car he kept in his garage and it had a leak in the gas tank. He had a pan under the car to catch the gas which he would then put back in the tank. One night he was pouring the gas with a railroad lantern for light when the gas exploded and he was on fire yelling for help. The night watchman, Norm, was across the road and saw what happened. He grabbed a hose attached to a fire hydrant and started to put water on Al and his wife Pearl ran out to help. Then Norm started putting water on the garage which was attached to the house. By this time everyone around was coming to help thanks to the party [telephone] line that was in the village. Al was taken to the hospital with severe burns and with a long recovery was left with awful scars on his legs and hands he had a great nurse attending to his needs because his wife was a Registered Nurse.”

The powerhouse

“The powerhouse was fired with two kinds of coal. Blackjack was used in the old furnaces and stoker coal was used in the new furnace. The old furnaces were fired by hand and the type of coal in them burned very hot and dirty and also caused large clinkers that had to be broken up and piled outside. Later they would be loaded on a dump wagon that was drawn by a team of horses, Bill and Bess, and take to one of the roads in town. They would be dumped and spread by hand to make a hard surface.”

The coal cars

“The coal was delivered by train in coal cars that were put on the siding next to the main line. The coal had to be shoveled off into a dump truck and someone came up with the idea to dig a tunnel under the siding and make a large hole so that two men could shovel the coal down to the vehicle. We would get as many as fours cars at a time. One car would be spotted at the coal chute by the train crew but when it was empty we had to move it back by hand and then move a full car into place.

“We had long poles with a lever on the bottom that we pushed under the wheels of the coal car and in this manner we could inch the car ahead to put it in place. We had about three days to unload the cars and if they weren’t unloaded they would charge us what was called demurrage or something like that. [Demurrage is the delaying of a freight car by the freighter’s failure to unload.]

“In the winter time the coal would freeze and we would hit the side of the car repeatedly with a sledge hammer to loosen the coal. This helped a little but someone would always have to get inside the car with a pick axe and loosen the coal so it would run down to the pocket. Sometimes it would all let go at once and nearly bury the man inside the car but usually only up to the waist.”

A runaway freight train

“Around 1954 there was a train wreck not far from the railroad station. The cars came off the track and darn near ran over Ernie Jones, manager of Stony Wold, a retiree from the New York Telephone Company. He was on a road that paralleled the tracks and he happened to look in his mirror and saw railroad cars coming at him from the rear. He stepped on the gas and managed to stay ahead of them until he was clear of the scene. At the time I was stationed in Germany so I missed all the excitement but my younger sister, Pat, kept me informed of goings on at home.”

I wish was there was more space because Carl also tells about making maple syrup, the blacksmith shop, the telephone system and snowplowing; “After some of the heavier snow falls it was two or three days before the plows would get to Lake Kushaqua but we just kept shoveling until they got there”

Thanks to Carl’s brother, Tom, for giving me this story.