Telephone Pioneers at 100 


It was just before Christmas in 1968 when a Telephone Pioneer delivered a record player to my parents' home in Jacksonville, Florida. The Veterans Administration had, only days before, sent me home to recover from my wounds before they could begin a rehabilitation program with me.

The Telephone Pioneer who saw me that day could not have confronted a more pitiful person than I was at that time. Nor was there anyone more in need of something to divert his or her attention away from problems than was I.

There weren't many audio resources available at that time. What was available, however, was most welcome. Most of them came from The Talking Books Library in Atlanta. The books were recorded on hard disk and were large and heavy. I was put on a list to receive Newsweek. The magazine came on a single long disk that played at eight and a third revolutions per minute and played for two and a half hours on each side.

I listened to what was sent to me although the subjects discussed, the language employed, and the reading for reading's sake all required me to adjust my way of life and thinking. There were articles in Newsweek that held little interest for me. At that time, the late 1960s, I could not imagine that anyone else could be interested in what I was reading.

Having few other options for passing my time in meaningful pursuit, I persevered with listening to things that were over my head. There was nothing else to do and no better way to pass my time. I therefore found myself listening to books from beginning to end, and to Newsweek cover to cover, week after week.

I don't think it will ever be possible to look back on that time with humor. Nevertheless, listening to my Talking Books doubtless saved what little sanity I had left. I am grateful for that first Telephone Pioneer that brought me my first player. I am grateful to all of the Telephone Pioneers who have repaired and replaced machines for me over these many years, and for the hundreds upon thousands of volunteer hours they have provided to the blind in order to make a difference in our lives.

Telephone Pioneers is celebrating its centennial throughout 2012, having been founded as Telephone Pioneers of America in November of 1911. It is the largest industry-related volunteer organization in the world.

Telephone Pioneers consists of a dedicated, diverse network of current and retired telecommunications employees across the U.S. and Canada. It purports to spread its mission of service country to country, city to city, and neighbor to neighbor, just as it did for me in 1968.

Since its founding, Telephone Pioneers has engaged in hundreds of projects ranging from helping the disabled to fostering literacy. It supplies health kits in the event of a natural disaster. To me, it was a godsend. I hope that some acknowledgment of the difference this organization has made in the lives of blinded veterans will appear in the form of a resolution at our upcoming convention.

Michael Taylor, a Vietnam veteran, is a member of the Florida Regional Group.