Fortuitous photographic find brings back memories
As anniversary of hearing center nears, employee spots 1960s photo of herself as a student
The photo took Betsy Bachtel back years.
To say how many years, she initially protested, would be to reveal her age, but the Clintonville resident finally conceded the picture was taken in the early 1960s. It shows young Betsy in a preschool class in the Indianola Avenue headquarters of what was then the Columbus League for the Hard of Hearing.
Today, it is the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center on East North Broadway.
And today, Bachtel is an employment specialist with the nonprofit organization that will celebrate the 90th anniversary of its founding Aug. 15.
It was part of the preparations for that anniversary celebration that led to Bachtel spying the old photo of herself, of a beloved teacher, of her brother and other hard-of-hearing children she now sees as adults in the neighborhood.
Jennifer Z. Wood, communications coordinator for the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center, said she was looking through old boxes of photographs when Bachtel, a former vocational rehabilitation counselor for the state who has been in her new job just a month, asked what she was doing.
"She tells me that she used to come here as a child in the old building, in the preschool program, which we still have, still going strong," Wood wrote in an email. "On a whim, I pull out the box labeled '1960s' and asked her, because she's a brand-new employee and hasn't been assigned a case load yet, if she wanted to take a few minutes a look at the photos just for fun. The first photo she pulls out ... she says 'That's me.' Then she says for the next one, 'That's my brother.' "
"She brought out a box and a pair of gloves," Bachtel said, responding to a question translated into American Sign Language by interpreter Ann Walence. "I saw a lot of my friends and my brother. It brought back a lot of memories.
"I see these people in the community. We talk about the old days when we worked so hard to enunciate."
Communicating through ASL was not an option back then, Bachtel recalled. Children who were hard of hearing had to learn to read lips and, in spite of not being able to hear their own voices, to speak as clearly as possible.
Bachtel recalled the teacher in the photograph of the preschool class, Beverly Briggs, with special fondness.
Briggs and her husband were close friends with Bachtel's mother and father, and the four frequently got together to play bridge.
"She was very patient," Bachtel said. "She was always smiling."
Briggs also took the time to instruct the parents of her students how to continue the pronunciation lessons at home, the employment specialist remembered.
Bachtel's brother, Tom, and sister, Susie, both of whom took training at the old Columbus League for the Hard of Hearing building, today are teachers at the Columbus School for the Deaf.
Wood said she will post the old photographs, one at a time, in the days leading up to the 90th anniversary event this summer. She hopes others will recognize themselves as children and let that serve as an invitation to attend.
"Anyone who recognizes themselves ... we would want them to come celebrate with us," Wood said.
"That would be great," Bachtel added.