Imagine entering your teen years, a fun-loving young person full of life and great expectations. Imagine that promise being transformed—nearly overnight—into a scenario that can, at best, only barely assure you of an independent existence and the liberty to make what you can of it.
That was Samuel W. Bean’s story from the point at age thirteen when a freak accident took away not only his eyesight but also his hearing.
Perhaps because Sam’s family wanted the best for him, his mother, Ella, moved her three children from their former home in Palo Alto to a new location across the Bay, in Alameda, California. There, the family—minus, by this time, Sam’s father Leon—was close enough for Sam to access the services of what was then known as the Berkeley School for the Deaf.
During Sam’s tenure at the school, multiple reports of his progress were sprinkled throughout several issues of local newspapers. I often wonder if Sam was as much the poster boy for the Berkeley School as seems apparent—or if Ella was adept at serving as the quintessential stage mom. Somebody served as vocal advocate for Sam during his school years—and even beyond that time.
Perhaps in hopes that an American public, already sensitized to the particular difficulties of the deafblind thanks to the saga of Helen Keller, would be sympathetic to a similar cause much closer to home, the local newspapers near Sam’s hometown—particularly the Oakland Tribune—often picked up stories about Sam’s progress through his school years.
Even after the completion of his course of studies—that queasy point of trepidation in every new graduate’s transformation from learner to earner—Sam somehow had parts of his story echoed in newspaper reports.
In what appears to be a regular feature of the Oakland Tribune, the “Blue Bird Bureau” served to encourage local citizens to make business choices coupled with philanthropic impact. The Sunday morning edition on August 12, 1917, chose to provide young graduate Sam and his new business a boost:
Samuel W. Bean is now 21. Eight years ago he was a jolly school boy when he was struck in the eye by a rock thrown by a playmate. The accident deprived him of both sight and hearing.At first the lad was cast into the depth of despair by his misfortune. His father taught him to handle tools, and he became proficient in making furniture, several pieces of which he sold. His life, since the first recovery from the wretchedness, which was the aftermath of blindness and loss of hearing, has been a struggle to overcome his handicaps. He mastered the manual alphabet, and can now communicate by speech, his voice and accent being good, despite his deafness.With a courage that has surmounted obstacle after obstacle, he is now working to make himself independent by soliciting subscriptions for magazines. His home is at 1807 Santa Clara avenue, Alameda, and his telephone number, Alameda 2583. It will be helping a man who is making heroic efforts to help himself to ask him to act as agent in renewing or commencing any magazine subscription.