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Anyone ever hear about Blind Mechanics ? it seems the Perkins school for the Blind was teaching quite a few of them


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I learned the other day when a Canadian Reo Member mentioned a Blind Mechanic owned a 1922 Reo Touring car.

 

I understand the Perkins School for the Blind was teaching Automotive skills to blind people in Watertown, Massachusetts founded in 1829

 

 
 
Eric Davidson was a beautiful, fair-haired toddler when the Halifax Explosion struck, killing almost 2,000 people and seriously injuring thousands of others. Eric lost both eyes--a tragedy that his mother never fully recovered from. Eric, however, was positive and energetic. He also developed a fascination with cars and how they worked, and he later decided, against all likelihood, to become a mechanic. Assisted by his brothers who read to him from manuals, he worked hard, passed examinations, and carved out a decades-long career. Once the subject of a National Film Board documentary.
 
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Auto-Mechanics, Red Cross Institute for the Blind | Descript… | Flickr
 
 
 
 
The Working World | Perkins School for the Blind
 
 
 
 
Motor Model T Mechanics, Perkins Institution for the Blind ...
 
 
 
 
 
Perkins School for the Blind Bound Clippings: World War Blind ...
 
 
 
 
Edited by Mark Gregory (see edit history)
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I do some upholstery work, mostly on early cars. I tell anyone who asks that my totally blind Grandmother taught me to sew and it's the truth. She had an old foot treadle powered Singer and sewed her own dresses and other things. Grandma lived with us and as a tyke one of my chores was to lay our all her material with the right side up.  She would take it from there.  Amazingly she could thread the needles herself.  At age 65 she decided the old Singer was too slow and she bought a new electric.  I never thought of her as handicapped and actually her partial deafness was a bigger handicap than her blindness.  I treasure a quilt she made.

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One of my best friends in high school had been totally blind almost since birth. I learned a lot from him.

We used to ride bicycles all over town (usually avoiding high traffic areas for obvious safety reasons). I would pin a playing card to flap in the spokes of my rear wheel,  and he would follow me for miles! The fascinating part, was that when a car would approach, he would tun into the first driveway to wait on the sidewalk for the car to pass. then turn back into the street and follow me again. I would swing a wide circle to go back so he could catch up as he turned back into the street again. It was amazing to watch how deftly he would maneuver in and out of the driveways and around parked cars. He listened to the echos and knew where the curbs ended for the driveways, and could tell where cars were parked. He also used echolocation when walking. When taking a step, he would place his heel on the ground (concrete or asphalt worked better than dirt), for just a fraction of a second hold the front (ball) of his foot up, then slap it onto the ground. The slapping noise would bounce off objects, buildings, and even people, allowing him to walk down hallways and around people with ease. We both enjoyed overhearing other people asking each other "How does he do that?"

 

One of the reasons we became such good friends was that I always had a tendency to walk very fast. My usual pace is about twice what most people walk. He often commented that he was glad we got to meet, because everyone else he knew walked too slow.

Edited by wayne sheldon
Additional thought. (see edit history)
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Appreciate the great education on an amazing story. A real testimony to what people can accomplish in spite of adversity...and a great lesson for our time, when a lot of relatively fortunate people are complaining how difficult their lives are. I heard that until the first atom bomb was dropped on Japan, the Halifax explosion was the largest explosion ever created by man. A real tragedy.

 

Wayne said:

Quote

 

One of my best friends in high school had been totally blind almost since birth. I learned a lot from him.

We used to ride bicycles all over town (usually avoiding high traffic areas for obvious safety reasons). I would pin a playing card to flap in the spokes of my rear wheel,  and he would follow me for miles!

 

 

What a great idea! Also, thanks for finding the opportunity for friendship with a disabled person. My sister's been disabled all of her life, and the friends she made while she was young gave her joy and a sense of worth.

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I have a blind 2nd cousin who worked at the local Volvo dealership for many years doing repairs. He was quite good with his hands, but he couldn't gap a sparkplug.

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My Grandma,  totally blind, liked to sit in her room and read her Braille Bible.  Now she had no perception of light at all,  even if a flashlight was shined into her eyes.  Contrary to what many folks think the totally blind do not see black like when you close your eyes.  Interestingly she did not like to sit in her room after dark without a light on.  She could feel the heat from the light bulb.  Some years ago I had a blind business partner. I dreaded when he came to the shop.  He would go over whatever car we were finishing with his fingers and invariably find a paint flaw we had not seen.  Any Grandkids or girl friends who came into the house would have to be "seen" by Grandma.  She would carefully feel their arms and faces and form a mental image of how they looked and later give us her opinion.  Never under estimate the blind.

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My second cousin, Howard O'Brien, great uncle Denny's son, was blind and won a national essay writing competition. His first prize was a brand new 1936 Chevy coach delivered through Bauch Chevrolet, our village dealer.

I have the newspaper clippings around here with the family stuff.

 

I bought a 1993 Buick Park avenue Ultra from a blind man. It had about 20,000 miles on it. He ran and auto parts on the other side of the city and always asked people to take him for a ride in it because it was so smooth. That's the car my wife took my daughter and her High School friend to a college open house with. The girls sat in the back seat giggling as they watched the timid librarian Mom's speedometer bouncing around 95 MPH on the New York State Thruway.

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One of the professional Monster Truck Teams, The Mountaineer, had a blind mechanic.  Very analytical guy, had a way of getting straight to the problem, he earned everybody's respect.

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No reason a blind person couldn’t be a good mechanic. He could probably hear an engine problem better than a sighted person. I just hope he wouldn’t take it for a test drive after fixing it. 
 

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Fascinating thread, I can see how a lot of disabled war veterans would be able to do this.  
 

I so want to comment that I’ve seen upholstery jobs that look like they were done by a blind man, but I won’t....

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36 minutes ago, trimacar said:

I so want to comment that I’ve seen upholstery jobs that look like they were done by a blind man, but I won’t....

 

Thank you for not commenting.  Nice of you, David.

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59 minutes ago, Peter J.Heizmann said:

 

Thank you for not commenting.  Nice of you, David.

Thank you for noticing that I didn’t do what I could have because I’d already done what I did...

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Perhaps another parallel to this topic, I recall reading an article in a magazine (perhaps Hemmings Classic Car?) about Ralph Teetor, who was part of Perfect Circle:

 

https://www.automotivehalloffame.org/honoree/ralph-r-teetor/

 

I recall that his skill at engineering stemmed from the ability to use his other senses such as touch to find flaws in castings.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Rusty Berg

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Off subject maybe but was humorous at the time.

I leased a building to a guy that was selling horse trailers.

The city made us revamp a few things to get the place up to the disabilities requirements.

The tenant commented to the city that he didn't have any wheelchair cowboy customers but we would outfit ramps and the restroom anyway.

Then they require a placard that designates a restroom and it has to be in brail.

OK I bought the placard.

Tennant says. " I don't have any blind wheelchair cowboy customers either".

Guy from the city says "but you have to be prepared in case you do get one".

Makes sense I guess.

(somehow this seemed funnier when the conversation was happening).

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The bank we deal with has an ATM machine with braille instructions. Grandma had the entire Bible in Braille.  The books took up an entire 8 foot shelf.

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9 hours ago, Restorer32 said:

The bank we deal with has an ATM machine with braille instructions. Grandma had the entire Bible in Braille.  The books took up an entire 8 foot shelf.

 

A bit of related drift here. A few years back there was a movie called "The Book of Eli", starring Denzel Washington. (Trying to keep this short.) However, although the acting was excellent, an effort to hide the crucial detail that the character was blind fell very short for me (and I would assume many others that had dealt closely with blind friends, I knew in the first five minutes if I recall correctly). The HUGE flaw in the movie was that this "blind" man in a post-apocalyptic America was making his way across the continent to save religion carrying the last surviving copy of the Bible. Many references were made attempting to make the viewer believe he had the entire Bible in his possession. I, too, have seen the Bible in Braille, and very well knew that was not possible. It would take up most of the entire back seat of an automobile! Not carried in a backpack. I tried to tell myself that his pursuers did not know it was Braille, although they really didn't play it that way. (I won't spoil the ending, although I also figured that out in the first half hour of the movie!)

 

As for all the handicap access stuff? I am in favor of SOME of it. However a lot of it is just to make a lot of "holier than thou" political types feel superior to the rest of us slobs. The reality is, that there are a LOT of places in this world that many millions of people will never be able to go to, and things they will never be able to do. ABSOLUTELY, many "handicapped" people can go and do almost anything they want to. Sometimes with a little help. Often with just personal desire and determination. Every case, every place, and every person is different. There are a million things I cannot do, and places I cannot go, for a million reasons. Including a lot of things I used to do often. Because I worked so hard for so many years, my knees are shot. Since my heart attack a few years ago, I no longer have the stamina for a twenty mile hike at high elevations. Does that make me "handicapped"? Should every hiking trail in the country have to be modified so anybody with a scooter and an oxygen tank (I don't require or use either yet, and likely never will!). I wouldn't want those beautiful places ruined by such an infringement. EVERYONE needs to understand THEIR limitations, whether they are truly physical, or only in their head. With desire and determination, and maybe just a little help, almost anyone can go and do almost anything they want to. As long as they can afford the monetary costs.

A so-called handicapped person,whether blind, or wheelchair bound, can do almost anything they want to without the help of self-serving politicians. If they are determined. If they are not so determined? No politically motivated "access" is going to fix it for them.

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Grandma also had the entire Bible on LP records. Maybe 2 ft high stack of records. Imagine reading the entire Bible aloud so it could be recorded.  Must have taken years. I can usually tell if someone on TV or elsewhere is actually blind just from the tilt of their head. Blind people generally walk with their heads tilted ever so slightly upward because they focus  their ears on what is ahead rather than their eyes.  Local convenience store had to modify their coffee bar as well as the toilet paper holders in the bathrooms because they were about 6 inches too high according to ADA  regulations.

 

 

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I lost a few family members in the Halifax explosion. I can't recall if two or three. I have it all in the family records, this was more than 60 years before I was born. The very first ever NHL game was a charity event for the victims. 

 

As someone who's essentially pretty much blind, I think this is a pretty inspiring story. Even with my glasses I can't see road signs until right next to them. (Speed limit, direction, etc) Without my glasses I can see basic shapes and colors only, I can't see any details until it gets so close my nose is touching it. It has prevented me from driving, although I do have some hope that with better glasses I could. As long as I have my glasses I'm not prevented from it, I don't feel safe enough, so I don't. (That whole taking personal responsibility thing) But I'm digressing.

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Before retiring I worked at the Kennedy space center for a NASA contractor. Our vending machines and snack shops were run and serviced by a division of the blind services,people called them "blinkys" which is way not p.c.Anyway once on second shift our soda machine had just been filled and a guy I worked with got the wrong brand soda that he pushed the button for. He asked the guy servicing the machine"what are ya blind! ". Then he realized what he said. I still don't know how he knew what cans went where. 

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Actually, the raised number with the metallic green ink would allow them to differentiate between them. It would require some manual dexterity but it can be done. I think it may be brown ink on the new hundreds. I don't get to handle them often. Not that it would matter to someone going by feel.

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Eric Davidson, the subject of the original posting is legendary around here (Halifax Nova Scotia, Canada) among the old car guys. I've been told he was so familiar with the shapes of cars back in the 40's and 50's that he could walk up to any make and with a few feels with his hand could tell make and year. I was told by an older gent I know that he went to visit Eric at his house and Eric's wife said he was down in the basement assembling a Rolls Royce engine. When the guy walked down the steps he realized Eric was working in the pitch dark. Eric heard him on the steps and supposedly said, the switch is on your left, but don't move a thing, I know exactly where everything is on the floor! Abilities and Disabilities are sometimes hard to differentiate.

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