Katharine Strelsky cured at Trudeau Sanatorium during the 1920s and wrote several nostalgic and charming pieces about that time for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, according to a book review by Evelyn Outcalt in the Enterprise on February 11, 1982. The book, Out of the Past by Alexandra Tolstoy (NY: Columbia University Press, 1981), was edited by Mrs. Strelsky and Catherine Wolkonsky. Nadia Slack, a patient herself and later medical librarian at the General Hospital of Saranac Lake for 35 years, was a friend of Mrs. Strelsky and was an acquaintance of Alexandra Tolstoy.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, January 14, 1980

Reminiscences of 1929 sleigh ride


The year was 1929. The snow lay deep on the valleys, on Baker, Marcy, Whiteface, and the other mountains. The crisp air was invigorating, zero or below. The doctors came to their offices in their Stanley Steamers. The patients huddled in all their wraps in their cure chairs. One's footsteps squeaked on the way to Main Street. An exhilarating time, a time to celebrate. It was Christmas.

The staff of the old Saranac Laboratory on Church Street resolved on a party. We organized a sleigh ride.

Why had we never thought of it before? None of us could remember such an event, though we were indeed in the country of winter sleigh rides.

We hired a pung. Are there still any pungs in the Adirondacks? A pung is a cart on runners instead of wheels. There is thick straw on the floor, and hot bricks wrapped in burlap keep your feet warm. A full load calls for four horses, or even six. Our destination was Paul Smiths.

We met at the laboratory directly after dinner. Dr. Leroy U. Gardner and his family came, so did the Donald Cummings family (he was our chemist), Jerry Dowd, our bacteriologist, Roy and Ethel Dayton, and a dozen others, some 20 in all. The harness bells jingled as we left the village. Almost at once we had acquired an enthusiastic auxiliary crew of barking dogs, running behind us. The plows had been through the roads. Our lanterns shone on mysterious depths on either side and ahead. In the pung we chorused, song after song. The forest slid by as if on a film. It seemed no time before we reached Paul Smiths, where coffee or cocoa and doughnuts were already set out. Outside the steaming horses, blanketed, took-a well-earned rest. Perhaps even the dogs got a couple of bones. Joy reigned.

The journey homeward seemed to go by in a flash — as so often it does. We piled out, a bit stiff from the ride, and went to our respective homes, floating on an air cushion of remembered pleasure. None of us, I think, ever forgot that entirely simple but perfect evening. Perhaps none of us ever experienced quite the same thing again. The city has pleasures, but they are totally unrelated. They are involved with inventions, sophisticated devices, complicated systems like taxis, tickets, subways, television, and so on. Our fun, on the other hand, derived from nature and companionship in nature, and the fast vanishing collaboration of animals. That joy ought not to be lost, for it is restorative, life-enhancing, consoling.

The valleys and the mountains remain, as do the snows of winter, the running streams and the wild flowers of summer. The animals are fewer. Horses are hardly ever seen in the cities. Dogs are forbidden to run at will. Our drinking water is threatened, and so is the very air we breathe. Everywhere there are too many people.

On the other hand, some diseases are conquered or controlled. The cure chairs have, disappeared. If we can manage it in time, perhaps we shall learn how to renew our bond with nature, in its happiest forms.