After taking a hiatus from the narrative of blind and deaf Samuel W. Bean of Alameda, California, to celebrate everything from this blog’s anniversary to everyone’s Mother’s Day, let’s return, for a few more days, to close out Sam’s story.
While Sam hadn’t enjoyed as much media attention in his family-man phase of life as he had in his earlier student years, apparently the Oakland Tribune had a few more good words to put in on his behalf, once the war was over.
We’ve already read the November 1, 1947, announcement of the new edition of his poetry book. This was followed, only eight months later, by a feature article in the Tribune. Under a two-part headline stating what had by now become the traditional portrayal of the man—“Alamedan Prospers, Plays Despite Blindness, Deafness”—reporter Elinor Hayes (or a nameless editor) added a poetic touch: “Black and Silent World Conquered By Samuel W. Bean.”
The story beneath this predictable pronouncement seemed to take up the old breathless affect. The reporter rehearsed all the usual introductory remarks: that Sam was both blind and deaf, that he hadn’t been able to see or hear anything since the age of thirteen—yet despite that, he had managed to hold to a cheerful, can-do attitude.
Still at the same address after all these years—1807 Santa Clara Avenue—the fifty-two year old man was again billed as a salesman and poet. There were a few additions, though. For this sketch, Sam’s reputation was expanded to include the labels “chess champion” and “philosopher.”
Of the “philosophy” angle, Sam’s interviewer explained,
He gets along with a philosophy and joy that would do credit to the most fortunate man in the world.The reporter observed,
His world is completely black and silent, or so it would seem. In it he has made himself a bright, prosperous citizen. His hand, and this is characteristic of his whole attitude toward life, is his only contact with life and is held out as gaily as that of a candidate.Considering that “not a sound or sight but memory has entered his life since he was thirteen” and that he hadn’t “heard a word in thirty nine years,” it may be no surprise that the Tribune article, once again, took on that aura of amazement. Here was another reporter, taking on the assignment of interviewing the same man we’ve had the opportunity to know and observe through nearly a full lifetime. Perhaps that was awe-inspiring for a first-time encounter.
After all, as the reporter observed,
He never saw his wife or two sons. All their smiles, affection, problems and normal family expressions could only be brought to him through their fingers tapping words out into his hand.A new theme seemed to emerge with this story—though perhaps we could sense this message coming through in earlier articles. The reporter explained, “He regards himself as ‘master of my fate’” which Sam demonstrated “by the fact that he goes out alone whenever he wants to play at the Chess Club…or anywhere else.”
Chess, of course, had become the new love in Sam’s life, ever since he had lost his wife so many years ago. This July 5, 1948, Oakland Tribune story, itself, ran fifteen years almost to the day after Maud Woodworth Bean’s passing. With the same level of energy he and Maud had once poured into touring to promote his writing, Sam was now consistently focusing on the world of chess tournaments.