[NFBC-Info] interesting history

nancy Lynn seabreeze.stl at gmail.com
Mon Nov 11 14:46:21 UTC 2019

I got this from another list and thought you'd like to see it.
Peggy Chong
Black Friday and the blind

Are you going shopping on Thanksgiving this year before the turkey
settles in your tummy? Do you remember when nothing was open on
Thanksgiving Day? This time of year, we hear from many corners, the
new traditions for what has become known as “Black Friday” and

It seems to me that businesses want us in their stores for their Black
Friday specials before the dishes are done on Thanksgiving Day. Some
hearty shoppers now get in line, outside a store on Wednesday before
the turkey, camp out to be the first one through the doors for that
special door-buster.

Some say, “let the turkey have his day”. Some stay home till early
Friday morning. While others of us stay in our jammies and shop on
line three days before Thanksgiving. There are many who leave the
table, the turkey carcass and the dishes to sit in the overstuffed
recliner telling us they are watching the game, with their eyes shut
much of the time. Yet we all know not to change the channel.

So, what has this got to do with The Blind History Lady you ask? In
our history, some blind organizations had their Thanksgiving
traditions on behalf of the blind. Many of them occurring on
Thanksgiving Day. No, not shopping or a “Tag Day”. Public events
ranged from holiday events sponsored by society women to craft and
Christmas sales by blind crafters. Schools for the blind performed
Thanksgiving Day concerts to launch the holiday season.

One hundred years ago, Thanksgiving was a time of giving to the blind
across the country. In 1908, the Nashville Globe reported on a free
Thanksgiving dinner held for orphans and the blind at the Railroad
Protective Association. The meal was donated and served by volunteers
of Nashville.

In Seattle Washington, a clothing merchant, Paul Singerman and his two
sons began hosting Thanksgiving dinners for the blind at the Germania
Café about 1903. They carried on this tradition for more than ten
years. At this dinner, the Singerman family performed for the blind by
playing piano and singing. Usually, the blind play for the sighted.

In 1910, the Sunshine home for Blind Babies began its holiday
fundraising on October 31. The home solicited public and private
schools who took the Sunshine home on as a project through the school
children. Children and schools competed to raise money for the blind
babies. That year they raised more than $3,000.00 by Thanksgiving.

The Sunshine homes convinced families to turn over custody of their
blind children to the homes as many of its staff and volunteers
claimed it was so stressful on a family to raise a blind child

In the District of Columbia, in 1933, members of the American Legion
spent November giving to the blind by shellacking hundreds of pages of
braille for the blind of Washington D. C. This was done to many of the
library books to protect the pages and lengthen the life of the book
from being read by fingers. Just in case you think that the shelacking
had to be done by the sighted, not true. In California in the early
1900’s many organizations that brailled books had blind proof-readers
that also shellacked the books.

The National Library Service, NLS, was not fully funded by federal
dollars until 1932. In the District of Columbia’s early years of
library service for the blind, from about 1898 till 1931, most of the
funds came from gifts and donations. Yet the fundraising continued to
pay for projects not covered by government funding.

In 1935, the Friends of the National Library Service for the Blind,
made up of leading society women sponsored plays that opened at
midnight on Thanksgiving Day.

This was an ongoing fundraiser for many years. Two very active young
women, Peggy Townsend and Eleanor Meems, Debutants of the 1938 season
though just 18, sold tickets for weeks in advance of the midnight
performances. The young women approached the socialite families,
urging them to purchase bunches of tickets. Many of the socialites
gave the tickets to friends, domestic help or their employees. For
Eleanor and Peggy, this was just one more charity and chance to get
their names in the newspapers. Eleanor’s aunt Gertrude was most active
as a volunteer with NLS almost until her death in 1951. Gertrude often
encouraged the young people to get involved in Library events and
fundraisers to help the blind.

Blind patrons of the Opera could attend performances with crippled
soldiers at many of the New York City Opera Houses for free during the
holiday season of 1933.

An article from a New Orleans newspaper tells of one generous
Thanksgiving that caught the blind off-guard. The words chosen by the
newspaper reflects the impression that much of the community held
towards the blind.

“Thanksgiving Santa Claus visited the Lighthouse for the Blind
yesterday and left rejoicing in his wake. That there was "something in
the air" became evident about 10 a. m., when the students in the
institution were Invited to step into the board room. There Miss Sadie
Jacobs handed each married couple a fourteen- pound turkey and each
single person a two-pound box of candy. She acted for the donor, Harry
Offner, who stood smiling in the background of the picture, enjoying
it all as much as he did the picnic, he gave the
blind last summer.

Another pleasant event of the day was the dinner, at which members of
St. Beatrice Circle, St. Margaret's Daughters, were their hostesses.
The circle, of which Mrs. Finlay D. Ross Is president, gives several
events annually for the blind, their special charges. Music by the
blind musicians and dancing contributed to the success of the

John Bischoff, a famous blind organist always played for Thanksgiving
services at the First Congregational Church in Washington D. C. at the
corner of 10th Ave. and G. Street. He was employed there from
1894-1909 as director of music. Even before his employment at the
church, many non-members packed the church on Thanksgiving and other
holidays just to hear him play. Members of the church thought of him
as their famous organist, not a blind organist.

Now, a story to warm the hearts of any cynic. In New York City on
Thanksgiving Day of 1910, Miss Beryl H. Clarke, age 35, a blind
librarian in charge of the Department for the Blind of the Pacific
Branch of the Brooklyn Circulating Library and William M. Gooshaw, a
blind chair caner ten years her junior were married. The couple met
almost five years before, just after the accident that blinded
William. She agreed to teach him how to read again with books through
her library. A friendship grew and soon a marriage that lasted almost
20 years until his death. They purchased a large home where they
rented our rooms. Beryl remarried but passed away in 1944.

Although today we may scoff at some of the Thanksgiving traditions of
free meals for the blind, we also should remember the times they lived
in. For some of the blind men and women coming to these free meals, it
was their first time. 

More information about the NFBC-Info mailing list