The Mount Pleasant Jewish Home for Consumptives – a Personal Connection

Posted on March 28th, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

In 1907 Jacob Epstein gave $35,000 to the Federated Jewish Charities for a tuberculosis hospital and another $500 annually toward supporting the institution. Seventy-two acres were purchased off Westminster Pike, north of Reisterstown and the Jewish Home for Consumptives, also known as Mount Pleasant was opened in 1908.

I knew very little about Mount Pleasant prior to working here at the Museum, but what I did know was through my own family history. When WWII began my grandfather, who had recently married my grandmother, went to register for the Navy. At the physical it was discovered that he had tuberculosis, although he had no symptoms. My grandfather proceeded to spend the next year at Mount Pleasant. He always believed that he had contracted tuberculosis from living at a boarding house in Baltimore when he first arrived from New York, but would never know the true cause.

I was excited to find a large portion of the 1926-1932 Associated scrapbook dedicated to the history of Mount Pleasant.

Inside the scrapbook was an incredible amount of information on the sanitorium, not just the invitations to events – which I always love to see (especially the menus),

but also copies of the forms for admission including a clothing list and directions. 

One of the most interesting finds was a small booklet titled, “Your Cure and your Sanatorium” from 1931. JMM 2017.68.3.38

It begins with, “By coming to the Sanatorium, you have taken an important step towards recovery. Everything about this sanatorium has been planned for the sole purpose of helping you win your battle. Rest, good food and fresh air are the three most essential elements of treatment. Occasionally, medicines for the control of certain symtoms and special forms of treatment may be prescribed. Cheerfulness and determination to get well, you must supply. This will not be difficult in the company of others who are striving, like yourself, to regain health. Courage is contagious.” The booklet goes on to explain what tuberculosis is, why rest is the most imprtant step in healing, and the times of day that patients must rest, eat, and recieve treatments, a daily schedule for patients, as well as the critera for being declared well enough to return home.

Its easy to understand the ideas behind the sanitorium, hoping to create a place where people could heal and regain their strength, allowing them to return to normal life. But was the sanitorium successful?

The 1917 annual report included not only statistics for the Home, but a Superintendent’s Report as well.

In it, the superintendent, Jacob Cohen, M.D, wrote “ we aim to do more than teach the patient how to take care of himself. As has been said in former reports, it is the settled purpose of the Medical Board not to discharge patients who may be a menance to the community, but to keep them indefinitely if thought desirable, and forever if necessary. You probably know that most of our patients have either moderate or far advanced lesions; very few of our admissions are incipient cases. The cause of this is probably two-fold, occasional failures on the physcian’s part to recoginize the disease in its incipiency, but much more so, I think, the unwillingness of the average Jewish workingman to admit that he needs medical attention until the disease has made extensive inroads.” The statistics show that a majority of the people in the hospital that year where tailors or housewives and when looking at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum records many children where placed in the orphanage because one parent had either died or was being treated for tuberculosis.

Happily, my grandfather was cured, though he never spoke of his time there. But because of Mount Pleasant, he was able to come home and become a father and the most wonderful grandfather anyone could ask for.

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Words and Music

Posted on September 21st, 2015 by

In a recent phone conversation, my sister, the Sahmnambulist, was telling me about the road trip her family took from their home in Indiana through the Midwest.

“When we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” she started to say,

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” I interrupted, “Did you see the Paul Simon exhibit?”

“Oh my god, yes! I can’t believe I didn’t tell you about it before! It was amazing!”

“Em, that exhibit is coming to MY MUSEUM!” I exclaimed, because naturally, five months of employment here makes the Jewish Museum of Maryland, my museum.

We went on to talk about Paul Simon, “The Boxer” and Graceland which, inevitably, led to talk about our dad.

Tracie and Dad

Tracie and Dad

In 1986 when Graceland was released, Emily and I were seven and 10 respectively. That year and the several years following, that album was on permanent repeat whenever we were with our dad. I remember conversations with our grandmother about how diamonds on the soles of your shoes would surely scratch the floor (“Mom, it’s just a metaphor,” dad would say). There were very serious conversations between we two sisters, trying to understand the implications of some of the lyrics, (“but why would Betty call him Al? Is that his name or isn’t it?”). The music video with Chevy Chase was both hysterical and confusing (wasn’t Paul Simon the singer? Why was Chevy Chase doing all of the singing?). And there was nothing better than the three of us belting out the lyrics in the car (back then, kids still got to sit in the front seat. I always got shotgun (thanks, Em!)).

Fast forward these thirty years, and Emily and I are both parents ourselves (my daughter is 3, her sons are 5 and 2), and our dad is no longer with us. It’s bittersweet having the ephemera of this album—the soundtrack to my childhood relationship with my dad—coming to my workplace. Dad’s been gone nearly two and a half years now, yet I find myself regularly thinking, “wow, gotta tell Dad about this!” If he were still living, he’d be getting a copy of the exhibit catalogue for Christmukkah this year. (I may buy myself a copy in his honor.)

Tracie and her sister Emily, outside in the snow.

Tracie and Emily

When Marvin told me about the show (plans were already in the works for hosting this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit when I started at the Museum back in April, 2015), I quickly started to realize just how much of my life is backed by the sound of Paul Simon’s music.

In addition to the Graceland connection with my dad, Mom used to sing me “Feeling Groovy” as a lullaby. As a result, I, too, sing “Feeling Groovy” to my little one (I change the final stanza so that instead of singing “Life, I love you, All is groovy” I sing “Ruth, I love you.” It blew her mind when the song came on the radio and it didn’t have her name in it.)

Like so many other teenagers, I felt angsty recognition in “I am a Rock” and “The only living boy in New York” (even though I was a girl in Baltimore). And I held a grudge for years against the college friend who scratched my “Rhythm of the Saints” CD.

The subtitle of the Paul Simon exhibit is “Words and Music,” two things I deeply love. I love words when they’re used to express and build feelings, to express and build art. I also love music (though I’m not a musician). It’s no wonder, then, that Paul Simon—the master wordsmith and master musician—holds such a special place in my heart.

Graceland album cover

Graceland

I’m realizing that he has a similar place in the hearts of a huge portion of Americans. I’m surprised and delighted by the attention that this exhibit is garnering my museum. Whenever I mention that the exhibit is coming, people’s eyes light up—and that reaction seems to independent of race, religion, even age.

And so, as the activity increases and Joanna works with our partners to unpack, arrange, and install the exhibit, I find myself excited and grateful: Excited to see the exhibit and visit with my dad, if only in my own head; grateful to the JMM for bringing me Paul Simon (and by extension my late father) and grateful to Paul Simon for giving more people from all over the region a good reason to come and see what a great resource is here, in my museum.

Tracie Guy-DeckerA blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

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The Vote of 1952

Posted on October 5th, 2012 by

A blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert.

I grew up with a family club like the one portrayed in the movie Avalon….with one important difference:  the Pinkert Family Club was made up exclusively of my grandparents, their children and the spouses of their children.  My dad had 10 brothers and sisters who survived to adulthood and this proved to be more than enough to create a stable club with a President, Treasurer and Secretary.

From the end of World War II until the late1960s, they met about once a month to settle matters of important family business (like allocating gifts, planning parties and holiday events) and to tease each other.  The eldest brother, Uncle Joe, held the permanent post of President and for most of these years my mom (an in-law!) was the sarcastic Secretary.  This is how I came to inherit the minutes of the meetings, my most prized archival possession.

While my parents’ generation was not nearly as prodigious as my grandparents, the family expanded rapidly.  I have 56 first cousins, counting spouses.  The growth of the family was a frequent topic of the club’s meetings as seen in these minutes from April, 1952 – a meeting which began with an electoral contest about who in the room might be pregnant:

Meeting April 24th 1952         Gertrude and Aaron’s Home

Meeting was called to find out who was the proud stockholder of the latest dividends.  A vote was taken and Florence barely made it by three votes.  Her husband Al may be on the sorta quiet side and “ztu di ztoris” a TV addict – but he does get things done (in due time)

Meeting started at 9:35

Secretary read minutes.

Treas. Report – Approx. $77 –

Old business was the discussion of the last Seder at Rodfei Zedek.  Everyone thought it was nice – especially for the children – but next year we would like to have a more private one. 

New business was Marshall Patinkin’s Bar Mitzvah gift… a portable radio was decided upon and Irv was appointed to purchase it and have it sent to him.  Mother’s Day Gift – Mae, Lottie and Naoma were appointed as committee to take care of same.

Flash – our President – brother Joe – was accepted into the Quadrangle Club.  Mae announced donation given to ORT in honor of Shirley Lennon’s farewell party.

Charles told joke.

Meeting ended with snack by host and hostess.

Respectfully Submitted,

Florence

Attached to the minutes is the actual vote tally.  As “Mother” (my grandmother) was well past sixty at the time, I think we can conclude that those votes weren’t serious.

I chalk this up as my first electoral victory.  I am living proof that the right candidate was selected.  Next Tuesday I will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the successful outcome.

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