Elusive Memories of Iola

Elusive Memories of Iola

This article was scraped from Rochester Subway. This is a blog about Rochester history and urbanism has not been published since 2017. The current owners are now publishing link spam which made me want to preserve this history.. The original article was published November 15, 2013 and can be found here.

Children (patients) on the roof of Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium (c.1939). [PHOTO COURTESY OF: Marilyn Casserino]

   A couple months ago we took a look     inside the Iola tuberculosis hospital    on Westfall Road. The buildings have since been demolished. But for Marilyn Casserino, 79, those photos triggered memories, and questions that will linger on...

The Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium. Now demolished. [PHOTO: Sarah Barnes]

   On July 24, Marilyn saw the photos posted     here    by Sarah Barnes and felt compelled to tell her story in the comments. She pleaded:    I have been searching for Iola information for many years... My mother died in Iola in 1940. At that time I was a patient there. I was about 5 or 6 yrs old. I have a photo of me with a few other kids on the roof of one of the buildings. I have a few very vague memories of being there. I will be 80 soon and would give anything to remember more, also to be able to see some records of my mother and me if at all possible...    We are packing to move out of state... No matter what state I'm living in I will always be searching for anything to do with Iola... Is there any way to view old records of Iola? I'm interested in finding out how long my stay as a patient was. No one in my family knew (they are all gone now).

I try to put myself in Marilyn's shoes, but I can't. Being a patient in a this hospital, away from home with all these strangers; and at just six years old having to deal with such a loss. Now, after a lifetime, all that's left are very faint memories of that place. The place she said goodbye to her mom.

This is heavy. I had to try to find some answers for Marilyn.

Children (patients) on the roof of Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium (c.1939). [PHOTO COURTESY OF: Marilyn Casserino]

   I contacted her and she sent me this photo of her with seven other children on the roof of Iola. She's the one in the center - in the dark dress. Marilyn says she would like to know how long she and her mom were at the hospital. And she also wishes she knew who the other children in the photo were.

So I called around to see if I could find old patient records from Iola. And I did... right where I might expect to find them, at Monroe Community Hospital's patient records office. The good people there dusted off several big old books of patient names from the mid 1930's to 1940's. Imagine my surprise when I cracked them open and found this...

Old Monroe Community Hospital records included patients of Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium. The records have never been digitized and are very difficult to search through. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]

   Each book contains 200 to 300 pages - probably 10,000 names. Not digitized. Not searchable on a computer. Not alphabetical. Not even typed. All handwritten and entered in the order the patients were admitted to the hospital.

But all I know are the names of the patients, Marilyn and Vivian Casserino... and the date Vivian died: January 19, 1940. That means I'd have to scan over thousands of handwritten names line by line, backwards in time from 1940. So I did.

Over the course of two afternoons I searched all the way back to October 1, 1937. I found a Carmello Casserino, a Joseph Casserino, and a Russell Casserino - Marilyn's grandfather and her two uncles, who at various times were admitted to Monroe Community Hospital. Unfortunately, I found no Marilyn and no Vivian.

I've come up empty. Now the question is, if Vivian died on January 19, 1940, and if she is in one of those books, how far back should I reasonably need to search?

Marilyn says she thinks she may have been there for as long as a year and a half. But was it typical for TB patients to be treated for a year? Two years? THREE years or more?

Children (patients) on the roof of Iola Tuberculosis Sanatorium (c.1939). [PHOTO COURTESY OF: Marilyn Casserino]

   It's difficult to look at the picture of this little girl and not feel connected. It's strange, I know. But I'm having a difficult time allowing myself to give up this search.

Read Part II of this story here...

Chris Gemignani

Chris Gemignani

Rochester, NY, USA