20th Century Fox as a Leper Colony



I live in Chiang Mai, Thailand, about four miles north of McKean Rehabilitation Center, a former leper colony established about 1910 when the King of Lamphun gave large parcel of land to the Church of Christ to operate as a leper colony. There still are a few lepers in residence, but mostly it’s an assisted-living facility, a hospital, a hospice, and emergency housing for poor refugees from Burma. The trees are enormous there because it’s never been logged.


I amuse myself by riding around on my motor cycle and taking pictures of tropical vegetation. That’s how I entertain myself when I’m not writing or practicing the piano. And in doing so, I found a back entrance to McKean that felt like one of those dreams where you find that a familiar place, say your family home, has a secret doorway that leads to places you’ve never before seen.


Today this happened. I was following the river road, turned off on a small lane, came across an abandoned gate and guard shack, and entered McKean from a side I’d never before seen. The style of the buildings is 1910 Tropical Colonial. The  trees are enormous.


It so happens that in 1986, I made frequent trips to the 20th Century Fox Lot in Los Angeles. I was developing a children’s TV show based on Dr. Science, a character I co-created with Merle Kessler of Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater, a comedy troupe we founded in our last year of graduate school at the University of Iowa.  So I got to know the Fox lot quite well, those 1920’s Spanish style buildings set on lush lawns beneath large trees. Just like the McKean Center here in Thailand. Strange how things come around. Here I am on the other side of the world thirty-two years later.



4 thoughts on “20th Century Fox as a Leper Colony

  1. 50 years ago, I was a young American soldier stationed in Udorn, Thailand. I had an opportunity for a 3-day pass to Chiang Mai and quickly took it, flying with 3 other soldiers in a C-47. At Chiang Mail, we were taken around by some missionaries there. Among the surrounding villages we saw was included the leper colony. That was my intro to leprosy and lepers. I was very impressed with the upbeat attitude of the lepers and the amount of love I saw in the colony. I remember a number of details from my encounters there. They stayed with me all my life.

    1. i still go to that leper colony weekly. it’s run by scottish christians. it’s near my house. i take pictures of the big trees, for the place has never been logged
      it’s now called “McKean Rehabilitation Center”

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