Memories of River Crest Preventorium
River Crest Preventorium was an offshoot of the Kensington Dispensary for the treatment of tuberculosis located in Mont Clare, Upper Providence. The Kensington Dispensary was founded by St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Germantown to treat the high rate of tuberculosis in Kensington's immigrant community. The Mont Clare location was meant to provide a country retreat for children who had been exposed to tuberculosis, but did not have an active form of the disease. The following story is a synopsis of Loretta Garber Bondi's time at River Crest.
When Loretta was a child, her mother took her to get an x-ray of her lungs. Loretta was just 36 pounds and had recently recovered from measles, chickenpox, and pneumonia. She was quarantined for thirty days in a darkened room to recover from the illneses. The x-ray revealed a shadow on her left lung.
With Loretta's lungs weak from the three illnesses, her mother sought help from various doctors and health agencies. Doctors said Loretta was so undernourished that if she ever caught turberculosis or a second round of pneumonia, she would be unlikely to survive more than six months.
Loretta's mother sent her to River Crest to recover. The treatment for Loretta was "fresh air, good food, and rest." It cost her family one dollar a day to treat Loretta. Since she was so weak when she first arrived, Loretta went to the kitchen every afternoon to receive an extra egg and cream drink. She ultimately spent two years at River Crest, celebrating her 7th and 8th birthdays at the facility.
Loretta saw boys and girls from babies to age 16 at River Crest. Few of them had the extensive stay she did and most came during the summer months as part of a summer camp. The only friend Loretta recalls from her time at River Crest was Adele Brown. The two girls got along well and Loretta remarked, "Maybe she felt as lost on arrival as I did."
With animals and vegetable gardens, River Crest was largely self-sufficient. Every day was a routine, with bells ringing to signal different parts of the day's schedule. The children did not own anything, and Loretta remembers standing in line each morning to receive her dress for the day. Toys, such as doll houses, were also provided by River Crest.
There was a playground with swings, a tire, and a large pavilion to take shelter from rain and heat. Children were even encouraged to plant their own garden during the summer. Loretta recalls not having a green thumb and her garden did not survive.
The children also attended a one room school while staying at River Crest. There was one teacher and each grade sat at a different table. The teacher would go from table to table assigning different projects, mostly math and reading related.