Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Character Café

Featuring Characters from Voices in the Sanitorium

Over a decade ago, I had a tea party with two of my best friends on the grounds of the former West Mountain Sanitarium located on the hillside above Scranton, Pennsylvania. Thus began my fascination with the history of tuberculosis and specifically the staff and patients who had once walked the hallways and pathways of the hospital and beautiful property.

Once a state of the art facility which brought lung specialists from all over the world who sought to model its practices, the West Mountain Sanitorium lay in ruins by the time we picnicked there. But there was something so peaceful about the place. I started imagining all the things I would do with the place — if I was a millionaire.

But alas, as a teacher married to a police officer, the next best thing was to write a novel about this treasure of urban decay — and include real characters whom I came to love and admire the more I investigated their lives.

Welcome to Character Café, beloved characters of Voices in the Sanitorium! Please introduce yourselves before we have an Irish tea.

Hiya, Amy! My name is Bridget. I owe you great thanks for bringing me to life on the pages of your novel. As a child, I could see the lights of the tuberculosis hospital on the mountain at night when the city was not very smoky and the trees were bare. I used to lay awake worried for the children who had consumption and could not be with their families. I never expected that one day I would be sent to stay there myself.

Hello. I’m Aislyn. You all know I would rather be back in Manhattan right now hanging with my friends. But finding the diary Bridget wrote in 1931 has reminded me not to be such a whiner. She let herself fall in love with the patients and the mountain itself rather than fixating on the fact that she could be dying. Besides, I can never say life near the ruins of the sanitarium is boring. All sorts of weird things have been happening ever since I bought Bridget’s diary at Ol’ Timey Trinkets.

Good evening, dear Amy and all of you fellow characters, readers, and writers. I am Richard B. Smith, but you can call me Dick Smith. Originally from the lovely town of Honesdale, PA, I was determined to become a famous playwright, composer, or movie producer, and I was on the fast track to achieving my dreams. I married the perfect helpmate, Jean, who was a big-city gal who spent much time in the theatre community, despite having trained to be a nurse. Just after our honeymoon, I fell prey to tuberculosis. How grateful I am to have found respite on West Mountain. And that Jean was able to become a nurse here in the hospital so that she can be with me. Dr. Wainright has even given me my own writing area looking over the city. I have already won some contests with my writing which is helping pay for my stay. Right now I am working on a poem that I have entitled “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” which was inspired by the sanitarium children playing in the snow below the schoolhouse.

The best of the evening to you, Miss Amy. My name is Bart Gilroy. I am blessed to live on the grounds of the tuberculosis hospital as the director of maintenance. I was nearly right off the ship from Ireland and enjoying a hike over Bald Mountain when a position here fell right into my lap. As I was crossing the potato field above the hospital, a crotchety worker was injured, nothing serious at all. And he quit right on the spot. His loss, my gain. The patients have become my family and I have my eye on a bonny girl, the cook’s assistant. As soon as I have saved up enough to buy a small house, I plan to court her.

And here are many more characters from 1931 that are here to celebrate life on West Mountain. Many of whom were children of Irish immigrants.

Tonight we will share some Twinings Irish Breakfast tea. https://twiningsusa.com/products/irish-breakfast-1

We will even brew it the Irish way: https://www.31daily.com/how-to-brew-irish-breakfast-tea/

And we will have some of Aislyn’s Mam’s Irish-American scones: https://casualfoodist.com/apple-scones-with-maple-cinnamon-glaze/

To find out more about these characters, check out Voices in the Sanitorium on Amazon. It is free for Kindle Select members. https://www.amazon.com/Voices-Sanitorium-Amy-Lynn-Walsh-ebook/dp/B09KNXXPB1/

20 responses to “Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at Character Café”

  1. Those scones look delicious! Question for Bridget, how old were you when you had to go stay at the hospital?

    1. Seventeen. It was very hard on my family because my father died in the mine, so my mother was trying to support us by working as a housekeeper for Mrs. Sturgis. So I was in charge of watching my little sister Cadie most of the time. I was hoping to have a beau, get married and have a home of my own. Having tuberculosis seemed to put an end to my happy dreams.

  2. Hello Aislyn! Can you tell me one of the weird things that has happened to you since buying Bridget’s diary? I am intrigued by this book!! 🍀

    1. Um. So many things happened. Weird things. But the time I was the most afraid was when I stayed in our house alone overnight. And I thought the doorbell ringing was because my new friends had snuck down the mountain and were doordashing me. But it wasn’t them. And the receiver for the doorbell wasn’t even plugged in.

  3. Hi Bart! What does the word crotchety mean to you? I’ve said that word before and been laughed at.thought I made up the word. This book sounds so interesting!! 🍀

    1. I am quite certain it is a real word. I’ve heard it said many a time. Easily annoyed and very grumpy, I’d define it as.

  4. Question for Bart: Did you ever marry your bonny girl?

    1. Yes! I was able to buy a farmhouse right across the street from the Sanitorium grounds. And after that I began my courtship. I am quite a few years older than my beloved, but that has been a well-kept secret. Shhh!

  5. Aislyn, does your Mam make a lot of maple items? My family makes maple syrup.

    1. She does. Often when Daedeo was still alive, they would drive from Brooklyn to a village in Connecticut where there was a Maple Syrup farm to stay at a bed and breakfast. Mam always came back with a supply of maple syrup-derived items.
      That is so neat that you make maple syrup. There is a maple syrup festival going on in the author’s hometown this weekend. Her father is making pancakes at a church brunch as part of the celebration.

  6. Love the character introductions, and the plot of this book.

    1. Thank you so much! It was amazing how all of the research and characters came together. Sometimes it felt as though they were literally telling the story themselves the way their narration flowed.

  7. Richard, do you have a favourite composer?

    1. I have been fond of music of all types since I was a child. Both my sister and I were classically trained on the piano. But I must say, George Gershwin is a composer and lyricist whom I deeply admire. My dream has always been to be involved in a Hollywood musical. Before I fell ill, it looked like I just could make it big. But I haven’t given up hope.

  8. Hi Bridget, do you have siblings and if you do, which one do you miss the most and why?

    1. I have an older sister, Roisin, who is engaged to be married. To an Italian! My mother wouldn’t even allow him into our house when they first began their courtship. I also have a younger sister, Cadiz, who is the delight of my heart. It was my duty to watch her while Mother worked as a housekeeper for Mrs. Sturgis. I try not to think of Cadie too much because I get too weepy.

  9. Beverly Gordon Avatar
    Beverly Gordon

    Aislyn wouldn’t it be cool to redo part of the asylum for a place of your own to dig in to the strange things of the past

    1. I did make myself a secret hideout in an alcove of the hospital basement. You will have to read the book to find out more about it!

  10. Hi Amy! What are some things you like to do to pass the time at the hospital? And have you made any friends there?

    1. Since I was an ambulant patient, I agreed to help with the 25 school children who were patients. Dr. Wainwright also paid me out of his pocket to read to a patient my age who was in a bad way. I write in my diary, watched the sunrises and sunsets, and we were occasionally entertained by local musicians and drama groups at night.

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