Magic in Palo Alto

by Millie Saks, U.S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (Ret)


I am writing a tiny segment of my impressions of the 11 weeks I spent as a visually impaired veteran at the Western Blind Rehabilitation Center.

My stay at the WBRC was wonderful! The most important thing about my stay was the instructional staff: teachers, nurses, and kitchen staff. They were loving and kind and, from top to bottom through and through, they were there to be helpful and always cheerful. It was a unique experience.

The students were from everywhere in the U.S. I made friends there that I will always treasure.

One morning, as I left my room to go to the dining room, in front of me in the corridor I saw a man I knew only as George, a man smaller than average in stature. He had been staying in our corridor for a short time. I had been introduced to him. He was totally blind and had been a truck driver. I couldn't tell his age but, when I saw him walking in the halls, I thought he was very old by his shuffling and the fact that he walked with his head down.

Just a few mornings later I was behind him again. This time I could sense that a miracle had happened! With his long cane and head held high, eyes forward, he looked like a young man. He had been at the WBRC only a short time but the place had already worked its magic with, of course, the expertise and work of Orientation and Mobility instructors. I left the Center very shortly after this incident but I knew that George was on his way. I knew he would continue to hold his head high.

I was gratified by the many events at the WBRC and the additional miracles I saw over and over. I hope that someday I can return and see all of the wonderful people again. I could literally go on forever about the time I spent in Palo Alto.

It wasn't all work and no play. There were plans made and carried out on the weekends. We piled into buses and went to fine restaurants. We also walked on the Golden Gate Bridge and visited the San Jose Science Museum. Lunch, if not at a restaurant, was in a box provided to us by the WBRC. All was at no cost to us.

A big band came once a month to provide music for dancing. It was accompanied by a spread of food, a punch bowl, and still another plate of small but assorted snacks. There was a wonderful feeling among us all that we were very special guests.

I hope I have given you an idea of what I experienced during my 11 weeks at the WBRC. I continue to feel the same joy as I communicate with my newly found friends who are now my email buddies!

Editor’s Note: Now 87 and legally blind due to Macular Degeneration, Millie Saks lived in Washington, DC, during the first two years of World War II. She worked for the Carrier Corporation as a secretary. Carrier at the time supplied air conditioners for submarines. The “bug to enlist” overcame Millie after her 21st birthday. She joined the U.S. Coast Guard Women’s Reserve and was first stationed in Palm Beach, Florida, followed by a transfer to the New York Personnel Office. Millie was discharged following marriage to an Airman stationed in Fresno, California, during her first leave of absence.