LightHouse Staff1 Commenton Oral History: Gil Johnson reflects on eight decades of blindness training, advocacy and community
A distinguished longtime board member and pioneer of rehabilitation services at the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, there are few denizens of our community more respected and knowledgeable than Gil Johnson. Growing up as a confident, free-thinking young blind man and coming to the LightHouse during a pivotal moment for blindness in the late seventies, Johnson changed the course of our training services and defined the future of the then somewhat fractured LightHouse organization.
In honor of Johnson’s 80th birthday, LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin set out to record an oral history: to capture the nuances of Johnson’s early life, career, and ongoing journey after LightHouse. The result is nearly six hours of humorous, thoughtful reflections on the past, present and future of what it means to be or become blind.
The podcast series was recorded on three separate days and is broken into seven total parts below. Mp3s are available for download or to stream directly.
Part 1 (recorded November 2017, 2 segments): Gil talks about his childhood, development as a young blind man and the early career moves that brought him to the blindness field.
Part 2 (recorded December 2017, 3 segments): Gil discusses the state of LightHouse when he arrived in the late 70s, and goes in depth into the challenges and opportunities as he took on the task of innovating in rehabilitative training through the 1980s.
Part 3 (recorded August 2018): Gil discusses his transition away from LightHouse, taking on services for the blind in Illinois and the new era for the LightHouse and its community as the 1990s approached.
Few people alive today have lived through more Bay Area blindness history than Elmer Chapson. On October 8, 2015 Chapson was interviewed by LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin in a wide-ranging oral history unusual in its breadth and content.
Chapson spent ten years from 1935 to 1945 at the storied California School for the Blind in Berkeley and recounts a bit about Newell Perry and many of the other leaders in the early California blindness movement. He also sheds light on the little-know Berkeley-based Boy Scout Troop #7, which was composed of blind boys, perhaps the first such troop in the nation. The troop, it turns out, spent summers in a rural Napa boy’s camp which 13 years later would be bought by Rose Resnick and later christened Enchanted Hills.
In October, 2010 Lighthouse CEO Bryan Bashin and Jernigan Institute Librarian Ed Mormon conducted a 180-minute interview with Bill Gerrey, a longtime participant and observer of the blind movement in northern California. Gerrey and his father are both blind, and his recollections stretch back to the fun and aspiration and the old California School for the Blind in Berkeley and his own development as a blind engineer and inventor. A remarkable story is Gerrey’s description of how he was moved at the 1956 San Francisco convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
On June 24, 2014 Lighthouse CEO Bryan Bashin conducted a 40 minute interview with Jim Kracht. Mr. Kracht, now a prominent tax attorney in Florida, was an intrepid young 7-year-old in 1957 when he spent the first of seven summers at Enchanted Hills in Napa. In this thoughtful interview, Mr. Kracht tells what it was like to experience cabin inspections, wholesome recreation and his first taste of physical independence. Nearly 60 years later he is as passionate as ever about the importance of the Enchanted Hills camp for the blind. Mr. Kracht is now conducting active research into the early years of our property and is learning more about its complex and fascinating history.
This extended conversation originally recorded on April 24, 2014 covers calendaring systems, contacts, and tactics for staying competitive by using high and low-tech tools and techniques. Each technique will help a blind executive with finding and using information quickly.
Presented by Bryan Bashin, CEO of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Jessie Lorenz, Executive Director of San Francisco’s Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC).
Following is a list of Jessie’s most frequently used apps:
In July 2013 Lighthouse CEO Bryan Bashin conducted a wide-ranging interview with Bill Barker, a person with six decades of relationship with our organization. Bill passed on Saturday May 3, 2014 and this record may be the best modern recognition of his life and sensibility.
On Feburary 9th, local author Cecilia Elkington Setty met with a gathering of Enchanted Hills Camp neighbors to speak about the fascinating history of Mt. Veeder and the original Mt. Veeder Resort which is now home to Enchanted Hills.
Grape grower Cecelia Elkington Setty has published two books on Napa’s history. “The Mount Veeder Resort, A History of Napa County Settlers” is about our very own mountain and “Atlas Peak” is about her family’s’ 90 year old ranch. Cecelia was born in Salinas, California and is a descendant of early pioneer families that settled in Napa in 1863-1866.
A program featuring contemporary stories behind the front pages, some thought provoking articles and occasional poems, plays or short stories. This particular program is called Personal Favorites. If you’ve been listening over the years then you probably know what they are and may enjoy hearing them again.