Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Search Begins

The following was on the back of one of the onionskin carbons and is included as a glimpse into context – what was going on in their lives at the time. Remember his son had just been horribly sick for months and was only now starting to get better (see Medical History).  -JB
August 14th 1919
Collector of Internal Revenue
Aberdeen, S.D.
            Kindly advise me what tax is due from me under the Harrison law as a physician.
            After being discharged from the Army last Dec I sent in to you [sic] Postoffice money order for the balance of 1918 to June 1919.  I also enclosed in this money order 10 cents extra for order blanks but have never heard a thing from you.
            Kindly send me these blanks.  My reg. No is 489.
Yours very truly
[Dr. Winthrop Severance Chapman]
I have not found the earliest letters reporting the illness to Tad's Grandmother or searching for help, so evidently he did not immediately begin keeping carbons of his letters.  I suspect that my great-grandmother Lila Chapman [nee Clark] of St. James, MN was the person who suggested that a record be kept. She was the wife of a newspaperman, Augustus Chapman, and after his death received nationwide notice for running his newspaper for months by herself until she was able to find a buyer for it. This was unheard-of at the time and it was considered amazing that she could do it. Obviously, she was a capable woman. I wish I had the scrapbook we found after my grandfather's death that was full of clippings regarding this period of her life. My cousins Thomas and James Chapman received that since they carried the Chapman name.  At this time these are the earliest letters I have found. As much as I can, I am putting the letters in chronological order, but if I later find a letter out of order that is noteworthy I will include it.  I believe the following letter was from someone who had become blind (and deaf to some extent?) whose name had been given to my grandfather as a possible source of information regarding education of someone who is deaf and blind.  -JB
On the letterhead of Lindsay G. Lucas, 2412 Bloomington Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota
September 1, 1919
Dear Mr. Chapman,
You will pardon the delay, I hope, as we have been visiting out of town, and your letter was received but a few hours since. I am a trifle "rusty" in the use of the machine, I fear, but will attempt a letter, and will ask you, to overlook all errors.
I am very sorry to learn that there is no improvement in your son's condition, but am glad to see you are taking such a cheerful and philosophic view of the matter. I am sure he cannot but get along nicely, in view of your determination to do all that can be done for him.  I do not mean to place myself in the light of seeking sympathy, but I think he has a far better future before him than I, as he will retain his natural ambition.  He has hardly tasted of life, yet, one might say, and will scarcely realize what he is missing.
As to the matter of his education, you are doubtless aware that upon reaching the proper age, he should be entitled to grade and high-school education at the State Institution.  Under a Minnesota law, the State furnishes a private instructor in cases of the double affliction.  I thought seriously of attending the School of Faribault, myself, but am ineligible, due to the fact that I am over twenty-one.  I have intended to take a special course of study, and tho I should be allowed to attend the school, the y could not be expected to furnish a private teacher for one who is not strictly eligible.
Sorry to say I am not familiar with either of the addresses you desire.  I think Miss Keller lives in Boston.  But perhaps she has no permanent address, as I understand she does a great deal of travelling. [Helen Keller gave many demonstrations and speeches and was promoting a film about her life (not the Miracle Worker.-JB)]  I do know, however, that her education was begun at the Perkins Institute, of Boston, and a letter to them might bring some helpful information.  If I can obtain these addresses in any way, I shall be glad to write and give them to you.
I am sorry I was [un]able to see you, the day you were in town.  I had planned upon your visit, but upon endeavoring to learn what time to expect you, I was given the false impression that you had postponed the trip, altogether.  We had been shopping all morning, and as I felt rather tired, I thought it best to take a brief nap.  I was just beginning to feel good and drowsy, when you arrived, and tho I should have been willing to get up, I knew I could not make a very edifying spectacle, and did not want you to carry away a discouraging opinion.
Hoping this letter may prove of some slight aid, and assuring you of my eagerness to be of whatever small service possible, I remain,
                                                Yours very surely,
                                                            Lindsay Lucas
P.S. I think it would be as well to see that your little boy gets all the exercise possible, and to look first after his general health well.  Being a physician, you no doubt know what is best for him on that score.
[Transcription of preceding letter. – JB]
September 3rd 1919
Mrs. Macey,
Care of Helen Keller, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Mass.
Dear Mrs. Macey,
I have a little boy a little over four years of age [Tad's birthday is April 4, 1915] who is just recovering from a long siege of Spinal Meningitis and who is left both blind and deaf.
Now the question is his education and we have not the least idea as to what to do or where to begin, and I am writing you to get your advise [sic] on the matter.  We surely will appreciate a word of advise from you.
The little boy is not yet able to walk but will be soon.  He is getting acquainted with everything around.  He talks to us and to his pets a great deal.  We do what we can to teach him and have already gotten a few ideas to him.
He is already for his teaching, tho we are not financially able just now to go very far, but we want to find out what should be done and make our plans.
I enclose a picture of my two boys, it is the little one that is ruined. [Hardly politically correct, but it does show his point of view at the time.-JB]
Thanking  you very much and with very best wishes to Miss Keller, I am sincerely [Dr. W. S. Chapman]
September 6, 1919
Commanding Officer
U.S. Government School for the Blind, Baltimore
Dear Sir,
I have a little boy just past four years of age who is left both deaf and blind as a result of Spinal Meningitis.  He is not yet entirely recovered, he cannot walk yet but will be able to do so soon.  And for all his weakness he is so active that we have hard work keeping up with him.  Mental condition has not been hurt at all.
Now we not only want him educated so that we can communicate with him, and so that he can get all that is possible for him to get out of this life, but we want him educated so that he can do something to make a living and take his place in the world, no matter how small a place it is.  We hardly know where to begin.  While we were in Minneapolis we looked up the subject as much as possible [at the hospital or library?] but when anybody found that he was doubly afflicted they were as lost as we were.
Of course we have picked up a few ideas and are doing our best to get any idea that we can to him.  He is all ready for real teaching. He talks to us continually and I have taught him to place one hand on my throat and one on his own and we will make noises and he knows and enjoys doing so.  Have gotten him to repeat "Boo-o-o-o" after us.  Today at the table he asked for the skins to be left on his potatoes and I placed my cheek next to his and said "Alright".  He repeated the word outloud after me and waited for me to fix the potatoes and showing that he got the word.  One day, placing on of his hands on his own throat and one on mine he informed me that "Noises go right down there"  He is just as happy and contented as can be and plays hard all day long. 
I would greatly appreciate a word from you as to just what ought to be done with the little fellow in his education now and what can we train him for in the future.
Thanking you very much I am your truly, Dr. W. S. Chapman, formerly 1st Lt. M. C. [Medical Corp?]
September 8th, 1919
Dear Mother, [Lila Chapman]
Tad surely enjoys his Guinea pigs, calls it his Male Kitty, and yesterday morning we found 4 little brand new ones, and they were already so big that we let Tad have one to play with, my but he was tickled, today the biggest one is already half grown (24 hours old) I never saw anything grow so fast.  He has them either in his small suitcase or in his small tool chest.  They have been the best pals yet.  Yesterday while fixing Tad's potatoes he felt of them and immediately asked to have the skins on and I put my face next to his and said "Alright".  He thot [sic] a minute then repeated after me out loud "Alright" showing that he had understood what I said.  He waited patiently then for his potatoes and when ready started to eat them and when he found the skins on he informed us that the skins were on.  Every once in a while he seems to get a word but never before showed so plainly that he did.  He already knows directions about he house, hangs back when we start for the bedroom for his afternoon nap or at bedtime.  Can't stand alone yet and gets tired out with a 50 foot walk.
He always has a certain bunch of toys to get out of his pockets when he goes to bed and he puts them under his pillow, and if he should wake up in the middle of the night and ask for them, he never forgets a one.  Pocketbooks and jack-knife and tool box and kite string (and male kitty part of the time). He visits with us a great deal and tells us all about it, and pretends like children do.  He takes his pistol and says "I shoot you, hands up", then wants to feel to see whether your hands are up.  He stands up on his wobbly legs and shows us how American soldier salutes (quick and snappy) then how Dodo (German) soldier salutes (slow and lazy) and tells us which is which.  [Evidently there was a certain degree of propaganda during World War I about the enemy. – JB]
He has not forgotten a thing about the auto.  Likes to turn it off and get his feet on the clutch or brake and move the hand levers.  And of course he demands a ride most every day.  Along towards night he gets pretty tired and hard to take care of.
For more about John Macy and Anne Sullivan Macy see  Sadly, somewhere along the line I got rid of the book they sent. Perhaps it's out there somewhere in a used book store waiting to be discovered?  I do not remember if it had an inscription on the flyleaf, but it would have been an early edition, if not a first edition. - JB