Excerpted from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, January 13, 1967
Madeline Smith is Ninety Today!
By JIM LOEB
Like lighting a candle in a dark room!" That was Madeline Smith's description of her doctor – Dr. J. Woods Price – who cared for her when she came to Saranac Lake 60 years ago. […]
Born in Auburndale, Massachusetts, just 18 miles from Boston, Madeline Smith grew up in Woodstock, with three older brothers. It was a Boston doctor who thought she had tuberculosis and sent her to Saranac Lake but she was never bed-ridden and she recalls that the doctor later said that she probably never had tuberculosis at all.
As a young girl she had gone to the University of Chicago for year and then graduated as a registered nurse from Chicago's St. Luke's Hospital in 1905. She had an aunt in Chicago who was the wife of Theodore Thomas, the world famous conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and perhaps that's why she always loved music.
After coming to Saranac Lake Miss Smith worked for a year at Trudeau in charge of the Childs Infirmary whose recent destruction she naturally regrets because of its many memories ("A great many movies went on there" was her way of describing some of the goings on.)
For a while she kept house with her mother in Saranac Lake and served, on a very part-time basis, as the school nurse. At this point in our conversation, Linda Champagne arrived with […] a book of handwritten notes which Mrs. Evelyn Outcalt of the Enterprise staff had found in the basement of her house on Kiwassa Road.
Miss Smith turned over the pages. "Well, I declare," she said, "I'm afraid it IS my writing " And there were her notes on the children in the Saranac Lake schools from around 1912. It was in 1914 or thereabouts that Madeline Smith went to work at what was called the Reception Hospital and later became Prescott House, first as assistant nurse for 12 years and then as chief nurse for 11 more, 23 years in all.
Reception Hospital, she reminded us, was for very sick patients who were cared for there before being sent to the Trudeau Sanatorium. She recalls Virginia LeMore and Tony Anderson as among its patients.
At one time, in the 1920s, Miss Smith remembers that as many as 1,200 new TB patients came to Saranac Lake in one year. But the Reception Hospital began to have fewer patients, nurses were harder to get and Miss Mary Prescott, its philanthropic sponsor gave it to the Study and Craft Guild, now the Rehabilitation Guild.
In 1937, having reached the advanced age of 60, Madeline Smith retired... with her many memories and with innumerable activities to keep her busy— the Episcopal Church, the Village Improvement Society, the Graduate Nurses Association, and her many friends.
Rosa Ponselle, the great dramatic soprano of the Met, singing the Star Spangled Banner before a large crowd at the railroad station, standing on a pile of trunks, a performance arranged by Miss Ponselle's doctor, Dr. Edgar Mayer.
Her regret that she didn't lend her piano to Bela Bartok, and he got one elsewhere, and the concert Mrs. Bartok gave of his music... but Miss Smith didn't much like the music.
Mostly the hard but satisfying work at the Reception Hospital where two day nurses and one night nurse cared for 20 very sick patients. You can work or play, but you can't do both."
Madeline Smith still looks ahead with optimism. She promised us she would suffer another interview ten years from now when her centenary approaches.