by Sam Huhn
For many years now, the beginning of the month of August for me is a clear signal that the BVA national convention is upon us. This year is no exception! My thoughts are in motion regarding the preparations taking place and the personal reunions that lay in store for all of us who have the good fortune to attend.
My only regret is such a small percentage of our membership of approximately 11,500 is able to attend these magnificent events. Many of you in our regional groups that are unable to make it, for varied reasons, are among our most distinguished volunteers, advocates, and local leaders. We will miss you and hope that you can join us in the future.
Convention time is one of renewal for many of us. It is a time for us to share our successes as well as our frustrations with fellow blinded veterans who, in many cases, may face the same challenges we face. It is a time to look ahead with greater optimism. From a practical perspective, it is a time to learn which lifestyle changes or technological advances could make the quality of our lives a little better.
From what I've learned about BVA's history, our national conventions have always done for blinded veterans what they do for me. Our first convention, held September 20-22, 1946 at the then Hotel Lincoln in New York City, was not actually labeled a convention. It was called the First Annual Membership Meeting. The three days represented a Friday-Sunday spent together by the membership.
Through an account of that first meeting, written by then BVA Bulletin Editor-in-Chief Lloyd Greenwood in the October 1946 issue, we discover how little some things have really changed over a period of 67 years! Greenwood's chronological narrative of the meeting covers most of the major events. His second paragraph describing the Friday arrivals is no less than stunning:
"Outside in the crowded lobby of the hotel, a seeing-eye dog and his young master picked their way to the desk. The first annual meeting of the BVA was about to officially begin. At 10:00 a.m. the Blue Room was partially filled with a group of intent young men. They were meeting old friends. They were exchanging anecdotes with new acquaintances. The talk ran from blindness to baseball to politics and back again to blindness. They discussed blindness objectively, eager to understand it completely, to master it completely. There was no hint of tragedy in the atmosphere. Some of them were thinking, 'This is our own meeting; this is our own organization. We have gathered together to solve our problems ourselves. This is no elegant social affair conceived to make us forget our difficulties.'"
Greenwood goes on to relate that members of BVA found the demonstration of devices extremely enlightening. Dictaphones, Soundscribers, Audiographs, and Wire Recorders were examined with interest. In addition to these, he said, there was a wide assortment of helpful gadgets from the research laboratory of the American Foundation for the Blind, including safety knives, Braille rulers, and measuring tapes, interval timers, Braille micrometers and thermometers, chess sets, and other fascinating games.
Strange as it may seem, and despite the superficial changes that have come with technological progress and advances, I submit to you, our Bulletin audience and especially our BVA members, that our national conventions, at least in purpose, are much the same as they have always been.
I look forward to our meetings, our social events, and to the wonderful activities and silent auction planned this year by the BVA Auxiliary. I also look forward to recounting these events to those who cannot attend and to the recap of the events that will be published in our next issue.
Most of all, I look forward to doing exactly what the blinded veterans of 1946 did in New York—meeting old friends and exchanging anecdotes with new ones.