A road trip to Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.
Thursday, June 6. It rained during the entire eight-hour drive to Morgantown, West Virginia, where I stopped for the night at the history Hotel Morgan, refurbished by Clarion. I saw beautiful, often magnificent, mountain scenery through sheets of light or moderately heavy rain.
Lunch at Wytheville, Virginia at Judy’s Family Diner at the interstate. As I enter, I see on the marker board behind the cash register, “God bless all who enter here,” and “Everyday Forecast: God Reigns and His Son shines.” The glib theology continues on the menu: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good,” “We are the only Bible some people will read,” and the incomprehensible “Let’s turn America back to God.” The BLT and fries were not good, but they were at least sanctified. The waitress called me “Darlin” and the cashier called me “Bud.” I encountered more theology on the highway. About ninety minutes up the road a billboard with the reprehensible : “It’s Hell (pictures of flames) To Die without Jesus. Now you know.”
At the hotel in downtown Morgantown, there are original wooden doors and wall panels, original elevator call buttons next to the new ones, a small lobby reception area, a small adjoining bar with entrances from the hotel and street. The mezzanine houses a large breakfast room without a television and a chandeliered ballroom. The eighth floor, formerly the ballroom and penthouse, now boasts an up-scale gourmet restaurant. My bedroom, on the fourth floor, had all contemporary amenities, including a drive-in-movie-sized television, which I did not turn on. After dinner at a small restaurant across the street, I had a good, comfortable sleep in a many-pillowed bed.
I was surprised to find stationery, two sheets with accompanying blank white paper and plain envelopes. I took it to write friends from home.
I was not surprised to find a Bible placed by the Gideons (King James Version), and since I had never opened one, I decided to see the work of the Gideons. They have placed introductory pages consisting of five parts: (1) “Help in Time of Need.” (Relevant scriptures listed with page numbers. Topics such as “Comfort in Time of Loneliness,” “Relief in Time of Suffering,” “Courage in Time of Fear.”) (2) “Suggested Readings” (Four categories: “Historical Highlights,” “Spiritual Standards,” “Dynamic Doctrines,” “Practical Precepts.” Presentation of sub-categories with reference to text and page numbers.) (3) “What the Bible Says About” (Twelve topics. Relevant scriptures are quoted directly.) (4) John 3:16, translated into 27 languages. (5) A one-page essay, “Who Are the Gideons.”
The Gideons would not approve, but we could add other relevant topics: (1) To justify the subjugation of women, read _____. (2) To foster self-righteousness, read _____. (3) To realize a sulking, violent, wrathful, unworthy God, read _____. (4) To promulgate homophobia, read _____. (5) To turn America back to God and justify slavery, read _____. (6) To read what we consider silly dietary laws, although they are the Word of God we conveniently overlook, read _____. (7) To read disturbing dictates about divorce, which we also overlook, read _____.
June 7 and 8.
The first billboard I saw in Pennsylvania is to my liking. It’s a picture of Kermit the Frog, with “Eats flies. Dates a pig. Movie star. Live your dreams.”
At a cabin on Wolf Creek in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania:
At the fire pit in the early morning, the only sounds are the sputtering of burning logs, bird songs, and the rushing of the creek.
The outhouse is well-supplied with toilet paper. A kerosene lamp provides light at nighttime. A lighter lies beside it. There are two calendars with pictures, from 1999 and 2000. There is a small heater. There is a transistor radio. It’s a full-service outhouse.
An excellent dinner: lamb chops, potatoes, and squash cooked over open flame at the fire pit.
There was brilliant starlight. I slept in a dark room on a single bed in what might have been used as a sun porch.
June 9. Weston, West Virginia. Visiting Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, formerly Weston State Hospital.
Built in 1858, this beautiful building of hand-cut stone, 242,000 square feet, is now a historic site. There are four floors, divided into wards, a restored apartment for doctor and family, apartments for nurses, workers, and attendants. There are treatment rooms and seclusion rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, rooms of socialization, and a large area for religious services, movies, and athletic activities.
The asylum illustrates the philosophy of Dr. Thomas Kirkbridge, who believed that mental illness is best treated by patients’ living in a building with much light and air, spacious hallways, well-lighted bedrooms, and rooms for socialization and treatment.
Kirkbridge believed that the building should be located in a beautiful place, that patients eat fresh and healthful food, that they participate in appropriate physical labor or activity, that there be socialization with other patients, that the patients have therapeutic rest and appropriate medical treatment.
At one time the asylum was self-sufficient, with a working farm and dairy. Part of the building was a hospital for Civil War veterans.
Also on the grounds are other unused facilities: a sanitarium for treatment of tuberculosis patients, a hospital for the asylum, and a hospital for the criminally insane.
Greg, the guide, was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He explained the architecture and told the history of various philosophies of treatment of mental illness, all practiced there. I particularly enjoyed his stories about the boys of the town coming to play basketball against the residents and never winning. He said that there was much interaction with the community. They came to religious services and movies, for example.
There are several tour available in addition to the 90-minute historic and architecture tour I took: a farm and cemetery tour, ghost hunts, paranormal tours by night and day. Greg said that the haunted house staged in the sanitarium provides more funds than the combined proceeds of the other tours during the entire year.
I did not like the introductory film, from television’s Forgotten Planet, which emphasized ghosts and horror and gave an unfair explanation of the use of certain treatments, such as shock therapy, use of restraints, and lobotomies. Unfortunately such sensationalism sells tickets.
I arrived home to find daisies, yarrow, and the gardenia bush in bloom. Now it is back to regular routine rusticating here in my small town.
Thanks for reading. I hope you will have a good week.