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. 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.