Patients Spend Cold Winters at San

Puposky has cold winters, and in the early years of the San, no one knew that better than the patients. At that time, the theory was that cold, fresh air helped with breathing. Therefore, it was thought that Northern Minnesota was a good place for patients who had tuberculosis,  which mainly affects the lungs.

The Sanatorium was built to allow air to flow clear through the place, from front to back and side to to side. At first, there was not even glass in the windows, just a canvas shade to pull down. As you will read in Open Window, patients woke to snow and ice on their thick covering of blankets, frozen water in their glasses, and frozen urine in their pots.

Nurses like Teresa Lomen, my aunt’s sister, carried heavy stoneware vessels called pigs (see photo in Open Window) that were filled with hot water to warm the patients. She spoke of how heavy those trays of “pigs” were.

Later, when 17-year-old patient Art Holmstrom was at the San, windows that closed had been added. Before that, many patients, even though they had not recovered, left the San before spending another bitterly cold winter there.

Photo is of Art Holmstrom. Interviews with Art provided an inside look at being a patient at the San. Read about it in Open Window.


Art Holmstrom had a hard time doing nothing. He liked to stay busy, but he was told he needed to rest and that he could not write so many letters.

While he was a patient at the San, he learned to crochet, and he entered his handwork in fairs. He collected stamps when mail arrived for him, and other patients saved their stamps for him.

Art almost had to pay taxes one year because he had earned so much from the contests he entered.

He taught his Hispanic friend and roommate to write in English, and he tried his hand at cutting hair. His camera came in handy when he was well enough to walk around the grounds or down the road to neighboring farms. He earned a little money selling his photos.

Eriga Hallisch was a patient at the San in 1925 when she was 15. At that time, Dr. Laney was in charge. Years later, Eriga lived in an apartment in International Falls, MN, where she met Art Holmstrom, who had been a patient in the 1940s and 1950s. Eriga lived a long life, passing just 11 days before her 99th birthday.

Teresa (Tres) Lomen became a patient at the San May 6, 1928, at age 18. She was no stranger to tuberculosis. Sister Clara had been admitted in 1925, and she died at the San in the fall of 1927. Sister Inga (the author’s aunt) was admitted March 4, 1927, six months before Clara died.  Inga recovered and trained to become a nurse, then encouraged Teresa to do the same. Teresa wanted to work in a hospital, but because she had had TB, she could only work in a tuberculosis sanatorium.