A Doctor's Service: The "1916 Sanitation Survey" of Lehighton was only the beginning

The Kuder and Langkamer names have vanished from Carbon's landscape. But their lives have made distinct impressions into the culture and service to this community and beyond.

It all began when the newly formed congregation of Lehighton's Trinity Lutheran Church sought to lure in a young minister from Laury's Station, the son of a weaver and cloth-dyer there. The Rev. Joseph Kuder was a supply pastor but was reluctant to take over fulltime duties until certain conditions were met: namely the congregation had to rid itself of its building debt. The debt was paid, and thus started a productive and compassionate forty-year tenure.

He met and married Rebecca (Fink) Kuder and they had two sons: Joseph Mathew born in 1891 and John Andrew born in 1894. Both men would serve their country in wartime: the younger during World War I and the older in the Second World War.

One age-mate of Joseph M. Kuder and fellow congregant of Trinity was Garrett Rabenold (my great uncle) who died of typhoid-fever at the age of fourteen. Rev. Kuder performed the graveside services. Many deaths could be attributed to infectious diseases such as typhoid, then a fact of life for the entire Kuder family, as the record is full of the many burials the reverend performed. Surely, this influenced the young Kuder's decision to enter the field of medicine.

In 1916, Joseph Kuder was near finished with his second degree from Harvard. As part of his medical studies, he returned to Lehighton to complete a "Sanitary Survey" of the town: to examine with a medical eye how to improve areas such as rubbish removal, the cleanliness of the town's bakeries (and one's proximity to a horse-stable), untreated sewage and so on. In the lengthy 200-page report, he even laid out specifications for the proper ventilation of privies and chicken coops.

The town of Lehighton had no water purification system nor was there a central sewage system. But according to Kuder, this was not necessary since our water was drawn from a reservoir four-miles distant, deeming it far enough away from contamination.

Furthermore, no town below Lehighton drew its water from the Lehigh except one thirty-miles downstream and in that case it "had an excellent slow sand filtering plant." Dust from the fifty-five miles of unpaved streets was also noted as a problem. Only one road was paved at that time, one mile of First Street.

Dr. Kuder made note of the waste water leaving the Obert Meat Packing Plant. Being one of the largest operations of its kind in the country, it drained its untreated blood-tinged water and raw sewage into an open culvert along the railroad tracks that then proceeded to a small stream that flowed into the Lehigh River.

These foul standing pools of water were noted in other areas of town as well. Not only were these known to harbor the germs that caused typhoid, but were also breeding grounds for malarial mosquitoes. The report was presented to the local board of health for consideration. The entire report is available today at the Lehighton Memorial Library.

Dr. Kuder went on to become a successful private practice surgeon in New Jersey. But he did not leave the Lehighton area without taking with him the "girl next door." Joseph Kuder married Laura Viola Langkamer in 1921. She and her family were congregants of his father's church and lived within one block of the Kuders. Her parents were G. Charles and Emma Langkamer. Her father was an immigrant from Germany who worked as a brakeman on the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

Laura was the oldest of eight children who lived to adulthood. Her oldest brother Arthur V. Langkamer dropped the later part of their name to become simply "Art Lang" and made his career as a radio gospel singer. In 1930 he was living in Los Angeles with his wife Jeanie Lang.

However to the public, Jeanie and Art performed together as brother and sister. According to Joe Kuder Jr., who still lives in his hometown of Marlton New Jersey, his Aunt Jeanie was known as a "Betty Boop" style of star in the few movies she appeared in the early 1930s.

Fame did not last long though, for a few short years later, due mainly to Art's ear troubles, he and his wife gave up Los Angeles to live in New York City. Art took on the job as choir director of the city's Calvary Baptist Church and Jeanie sang in his choir. Art later became a district manager of the Webster Cigar Co. After the war he and Jeanie retired to Florida. They did not have any children.

Both of the Rev. and Rebecca Kuder's children served during wartime, including their grandson Joseph Kuder Jr. Their second son, John Andrew Kuder, served as First Lieutenant at the Headquarters Company of the 58th Infantry Regiment in Europe.

It is well documented how the Influenza pandemic of the fall of 1918 helped to hasten that war's end. It gave the worrying families of our servicemen additional cause for worry.

It was another little known ailment of that time however that befell the young Kuder: "Sleepy Sickness," otherwise known as 'encephalitis lethargic.' Though he did return home safely and was able to marry a Lehigh Valley woman and work for Kodak in northern New Jersey, the long-term effects of the disease caused Parkinson-disease-like symptoms.

John Andrew Kuder died one month shy of his fortieth birthday. He and his wife Helen did not have any children. No other outbreak of this illness has ever struck again since.

Perhaps it was an unflinching sense of duty or to make amends for missing the First World War or even perhaps to make sense of his brother's untimely death, Dr. Joseph Kuder served as a thoracic surgeon with the 67th Evacuation Hospital all over the mainland of Europe, from Belgium to the beaches of France during World War II.

At the same time, the only child of Dr. Joseph and Laura Kuder was fighting in Northern Africa and in the Mediterranean theater of war. Joseph Kuder Jr. was wounded during the landing at Anzio Beach and was taken to the 95th Evacuation Hospital. The 95th was subsequently bombed by the Germans, killing twenty-eight and wounding sixty more. Joe Jr. survived this attack.

So while his father Joe Sr. was preparing to make the landing on Utah Beach eleven days after D-Day, Joe Jr. was homeward bound aboard a U.S. hospital ship. He recovered at Valley Forge Military Hospital for eight months and then served out his enlistment at Fort Dix New Jersey. His father made it home safely as well several months after VE Day signaled the end of the war in Europe.

A retired architect in his early nineties, Joseph M. Kuder Jr., is healthy and well. He and his wife Peggy still live in his home area of Marlton, New Jersey. They raised one son and two daughters.

Though the Kuder and Langkamer names have disappeared here, their record of service and care for our area and our country remain evident to this day. And among the Kuder progeny, a Joseph M. Kuder IV carries on from those Lehighton roots.

(The unabridged version of this story is available at CulturedCarbonCounty.blogspot.com.)