“History Matters” Workshop Oral-Visual Interviews with Gerald “Bummy” Burstein, Melvin “Mel” Carter, and Frank Turk Part 1
[Visual of Douglas Bahl signing.]
DB: Yeah! Isn’t this exciting? Thank you so much, Teika and Marian, for your comments. Wow, it’s been a lot of work for me and Cynthia and there will be more with the entering of the metadata, but we’re hoping by Christmas – crossing fingers – hoping by Christmas to be done.
It’s a great opportunity. Imagine going through five hundred pictures and documents from all the different organizations. It is so amazing to see the opportunity – to see the blow-ups from one little corner of the screen, to see faces in detail. You can get there in a click and zoom in. That is exciting to me. The first MAD conference – 1885 – we looked at that picture to find Olof Hanson. I was able to see James L. Smith in blow-up (enlargement). That is exciting stuff. Now, the History Matters theme centered on oral history – oral interviews. Hearing people conduct those oral interviews by taping them – tape recording – with us, we’re videotaping the interviews in this project. That’s a very exciting portion – getting the project going with the money applied for and received by MCDHH. We want to take advantage of this renaissance audience including the three folks – former Minnesotans – we’re going to bring out. Gerald Burstein – Bummy. Where are you? In back? Come on up and have a seat. Frank Turk – come on up. And finally, Mel Carter – please come up. While they’re here, I want you to have the opportunity to see and hear their perspectives on Minnesota’s history; their part in Minnesota history. This is being filmed so we’re taking great advantage of this opportunity.
[Interview time 44:00:27]
[Visual of Douglas Bahl, Frank Turk, Gerald “Bummy” Burstein, and Melvin “Mel” Carter.]
Frank, where do you want to be? This is Frank Turk. Graduate from the Faribault. Raised (here), left, came back – involved with YLC camp and lots of events with the school for the deaf.
Gerald Burstein – standing next to him – taught at Faribault. Also was involved with the Deaf community, Deaf organizations. We’re pleased to have him here.
Mel Carter – also a former Minnesotan who taught at Faribault at the school for the deaf and at St. Paul College. It was Mel who established and taught in the first interpreter training program.
We’re happy to have you here to share your experiences. Frank will begin.
[Interview time 45:32:18]
[Visual of Frank Turk signing.]
FT: The Minnesota School for the Deaf has always been, and always will be, my home. My home city. The fact is that all other residential schools for the Deaf in this country are my home as well. But this is where I came from. The responsibility is – it made me the way I am. There are three groups of people – first Minnesota the School for the Deaf (MSD) where I developed my basic and specific knowledge of what it is to (be in) the American Deaf community and how all of youth are entrusted to my care. My benefit must be their benefit – that’s my own opinion. I’m grateful for the Minnesota School for the Deaf – I will be forever grateful for what I am today. Second – Gallaudet University where they taught me the grace of not depending on parents, not depending on teachers – depending on the people who you’re with 24/7. Those are my peers. The most powerful influence on growth and development of a student is always the peer group. At Gallaudet, I was looking for a teacher to help me improve my language and I raised the subject in an article. We met monthly. We had “The Buff and the Blue” publication. It turned out to be the seniors and juniors and sophomores, that group of students, who did the research on their own – and the writing. At the Minnesota School for the Deaf, we also had the opportunity – I had the opportunity – to challenge myself to develop my writing skills. I depended on the teachers and other students and we did the same thing – we would gather with that teacher for support and that’s what helped us to really take off in flight. Depending on them, that’s where the idea came from for me – OK, if I’m going to develop myself to my fullest potential – socially, physically, intellectually, in communication – communicatively, emotionally – you’ve got to have peer help. Peer teaching peers, peers influencing peers, peers encouraging peers. And that’s really where the real learning is with peers learning from peers. The acronym – SPICE (stands for socially, physically, intellectually, communicatively, emotionally) – in my work with youth – teaching those young people how to overcome all – where are the possibilities? Again, those three groups including Gallaudet – and finally the third – the NAD – National Association of the Deaf. Once again, I involved myself with my peers – learning from my peers. What makes people the most successful leaders? You have the obligation to be wherever you are, and wherever you are today, that’s where you come from. They had a student court and they ran it by themselves, completely and independently ran the group. That was discipline and love. It was disciplined by the coach. It was their love of me and disciplined me because I love myself. I came to accept criticism. Leaders must be able to accept criticism – it’s critical to growth. Criticism is invited, not resisted. Accept it. It’s a compliment. This person is looking at you and don’t think about ever – you have to look up to people. Let them be jealous. This person has been jealous of me. Let him be jealous. How many of you know (Chester Dobson)? (He was a printing teacher.) There were so many experiences that I had at MSAD and at Gallaudet University and at NAD through my youth that were influential for me and that have shaped my life.
[Interview time 52:53:28]
[Visual of Douglas Bahl signing.]
DB: Next, we have Gerald Burstein here with us. Many of you know him as Bummy. You may either stand in your place or come forward. Either one.
[Visual of Gerald “Bummy” Burstein signing.]
GB: Good morning. I have to let you know I’m on California time. I’m still making the adjustment here. I arrived last night so – I was told by our own Doug Bahl to give some factual information, but not to preach at the group. So, I gave that some thought. I started mixing my stories – I’m in the habit, I have to say, of mixing stories from the Minnesota Academy of the Deaf, what the new word is – I’m not quite sure – but with the MAD – MSAD – the old-fashioned – the Minnesota School for the Deaf versus the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf – I get those mixed up sometimes. You may notice today that I do have a woman voicing for me. I often have a woman’s voice. Not always, but often. There is a reason for that. I grew up – I was born deaf – and grew up oral. All of my speech teachers were women so that is the reason that I now have to have female interpreters be my voice. So, many people in Minnesota – (I) learned (the sign for “people” in Minnesota) if you just saw what I was signing – the letter P (signs the word “people” instead of the letter “P”) – a way to form the letter P (signs the word “people” instead of the letter “P”) – when I was growing up – that is what I learned. When I went to Gallaudet, having grown up in Brooklyn, it was foreign to me to see how Minnesota people formed the letter P. But at Gallaudet I could spot them right away. (I grew up in Brooklyn, U.S.A., then I went to Gallaudet University, then to Minnesota. People asked me, “How come Minnesota? How did you pick Minnesota of all places?)
It was when I was a senior at Gallaudet, all of my friends who were seniors had sent letters of application asking for teaching jobs primarily. I sent a letter off and got a letter back from Minnesota in February. This was in February of 1950. I thought, “February’s pretty early.” It seemed to me that I would have expected a letter in the spring. There were other schools that replied, but I decided, “Well, don’t I go and do my teaching practice there and talk to the principal at Kendall School (I decided, “Well, why don’t I go talk to the principal at Kendall School where I was doing my teaching practice and ask him what he thought?”) – do some teaching practice there and check out the Minnesota School for the Deaf.” What they (he) told me was that the Minnesota School for the Deaf was a fabulous place – a wonderful place. They said that I would use the Wings system – the Wings symbol system (for written language comprehension) – that would be helpful – that was the system they used at Minnesota. But I wasn’t quite satisfied with that answer so I went to see President (Leonard M.) Elstad and he was the former superintendent of the Minnesota school. He had become the Gallaudet president. So I asked him – I said, “Tell me a little about the school for the Deaf in Minnesota.” He said, “Yes, it is a good school,” and told me much more about it. So after hearing that from him, I was (not yet) satisfied. I’d gotten lots of positive feedback. I thought, “There has to be something negative. There has to be something bad about Minnesota.” So I went to see Chet Dobson, who was a printer. He had worked in the publishing area at the Minnesota School for the Deaf and had been a professor (teacher) at Gallaudet in printing. I asked him to be totally honest with me. He said, “Well, Minnesota people are pretty cold.” I thought, “That makes sense. There’s a lot of snow up there in Minnesota. The people would naturally be cold.” It just made sense to me. He said, “It’s a tight group there. It’s a very tight community.” I thought, “Well, that certainly is true too.” After giving that more thought, I thought, “I like a challenge.” I sent back my letter to Superintendent (Howard M.) Quigley and accepted. This was in February, mind you. This was in February, sent back. He replied by telegram and said, ”Congratulations.” There’s a telegram in my office, in my house somewhere, but I can’t find it – but I think they’re offering you $295 a month plus room and board. The room and board, of course, was on campus. It was a – I thought it was a really good deal. This was at $30 a month for room and board costs.
So, I went to Faribault. I was (stuck) there for fifteen years. I have to say that those were my best years – the time I spent in Faribault – because you are all absolutely wonderful. I see some students here – some of my former students. You were fabulous students. You were great. The students here taught me so much about farm-related things that I had never heard of before. After learning about farming, about corn, the sign for corn (signs the letter “I” on the index finger of the other hand), how you grow corn – it was fascinating. Then – you know what happened? I now know the difference between cows and horses. [Laughter.] I finally know the difference between them thanks to the students I had here in Minnesota at Faribault. Growing up in New York, we didn’t have any cows around.
OK, while I was in Faribault for those fifteen years – it is a small town, I must say – I got to know so many people in town. What I learned from Faribault itself and from the school – I learned to play golf because the Deaf school was the first to have a golf program available for the students. I can remember (playing after work almost every day,) Saturdays all day long, Sundays, walking to Shattuck School and playing golf. I remember their having basketball. I became an (official basketball) referee and was the referee at the School for the Deaf for basketball. Had that badge on my shoulder and the striped shirt and everything (from the Minnesota Association of Referees) and was the referee. It was a city league. We preferred playing against other smaller hearing high schools. There was a Bible college, as I recall, that we also played against. Every Saturday in Faribault at four o’clock sharp, we would play a game with our superintendent (signs letter “Q” on cheek for “Quigley”). This was at four o’clock and we were – we played squash. I swear, every week (for 15 years), I was beaten. I maybe won once. Mel (Carter just) asked (me) if he (Quigley) let you (me) win the last one. Let me see, was that the last game I ever played? I don’t know. My point is, I owe a lot to my students, to my friends from Faribault, Minnesota. There are so many things that bring back memories. I could go on and on and list more. After school we often would have some quiet time. We did some flying (I learned to fly) and I finally was able to take a solo flight, I recall. I had gotten a student license and was ready. Of course, I had to do more study and had to fly more to log more hours in order to get my license to become a pilot. Unfortunately, they have never called me to become a pilot. California called me to leave the state so I was never able to become a pilot. That’s another memory I have. Oh, and I remember, too, that I bought my first car. Does anyone remember the name of the car that I had? It was a – hang on – my first car was a Studebaker. It was a two-door, it was green. That car, I would (use to) bring (cheerleaders) to every football game, every basketball game, I carted students around all the time. That was a good car. It allowed us to go wherever we needed to go.
[Interview time 01:03:57:11]
If I can maybe shift to MAD. There was a convention held (for MAD’s conventions), I attended all of the conventions for fifteen years straight. You know how I had said earlier that Minnesota was such a tight community. Well, people at that time, did not necessarily – weren’t that receptive to outsiders coming in. NAD also back then was talking about the various states becoming affiliated with the national organization – the National Association of the Deaf. I really don’t know much – didn’t know much about NAD at that time. But we established a committee. There were three of us. It was me, Gordon Allen – you’ll recall Gordon (signs “G” on forehead for “Gordon”) Allen from this community – he had been a leader for many, many years in Minnesota. The third person was a teacher in Faribault – Herbert Sellner. It was the three of us – Herbert advocated for us to become an affiliated chapter with NAD. (I was neutral.) Gordon was the one who was a littler reluctant about joining NAD because Minnesota had been such a tight community. So we weren’t sure – I mean, we talked about this for hours on end. It seemed like days and days. I thought it seemed like a pretty good idea (but I was pretty neutral). Herbert was in favor of it. Gordon was a little reluctant. Finally, we came to an agreement to support the affiliation with the national organization – NAD. So they came to the MAD conference and there was (not) lots of hot discussion about that once we brought that idea to them (because they listened to Gordon). I remember Gordon being at the forefront of that discussion. Finally, the Minnesota association voted to accept the affiliation and the rest is history. Gordon and I had been great friends. I’m trying to think of what other states joined. There was someone named Ted Griffing (signs letter “G” down face for “Griffing”). The last name was – another well-known person. This was someone from Oklahoma who also was supporting the affiliation with NAD. It was Gordon’s good friend who helped support his idea (and they were racing to see who was first to join). So it turned out Minnesota was the first state to affiliate with NAD (by a few hours) and Oklahoma was the second state. So we were first.
In 1950 was when I arrived in Minnesota. That was the last year for the military uniforms at the school. I did see some drills with military uniforms but that did not continue. They also had a women’s drum corps – was anybody here in the audience in the women’s drum corps? Yes, there is somebody back here who was. Right. Do you remember there was a drum corps? It was all women. They would come to the basketball games, go to basketball (state) tournaments. They would travel with the team because of the significance of drumming, of course. There would be people we would see who actually would be in tears – they would be inspired by the drumming. Do you remember that, Frank? You do, don’t you? Yeah.
I learned a lot, not only from the students, but from the Deaf leaders in Minnesota. If I can just name a few. Of course, Gordon Allen who I’ve already mentioned. Another is Leo Latz and his son happens to be here sitting in the front row as one of the team of interpreters. Rubin is here with us today. Good to see you again, Rubin. Certainly there are many, many other people I could name if we had time.
I always enjoy coming back to Minnesota. I have been back a few times. In 1989, I came back for the MADC (fingerspells “MAD”) conference and the event at Thompson Hall. I was back again in 1991 as a speaker at MADC’s 75th anniversary. I am hoping to come back soon to give a parliamentary procedure workshop but unfortunately I was not invited. I was disappointed about that. I learned about parliamentary procedure from people here in Minnesota – from my experience here. I became a certified professional parliamentarian – the only deaf certified parliamentarian in Minnesota – in the United States – but it was Minnesota that gave me that start, that impetus.
The sad part – when I was in the leadership training program in California, I got my master’s degree there. It was in 1965. In 1965, I heard that the school for the Deaf in Faribault was establishing a dean of students. They had a separate dean of boys and a dean of girls during my time. If I can remember now, the dean of girls was B.J. Lee (Orlee). Was that right? They called her B.J., I think. And the dean of men was Staska, if I remember right. They, then, reported directly to the superintendent. The superintendent in 1965 thought that perhaps it would be better, rather than having two separate deans, to just have one dean that reported to the superintendent. So I recall, at that time, sending off a letter. I was hoping that someone (I) would find that letter from wherever it is in their (my) home and bring it (here). In that letter, I asked the superintendent about the dean position. I said, “If you are indeed establishing a single position, I would be interested in applying.” I got a letter in return. It was an interesting letter. What the response was, “This will not happen today.” The letter said, “We will not be able to choose you for the position of dean because you must – that person – must be able to talk on the telephone.” In the (second part of the) letter, he said – of course, that would not happen today – “What we are looking for is somebody who has the ability to talk on the telephone so they can communicate with parents of the students. (You must be able to communicate with the parents of the students.)” That was in 1965.
The leadership training program, I recall, is where I had been gaining my training. From there, I was invited to teach in California. That was in ’65. So then, in ’66, is when I started teaching in California. I had hoped to come back to Minnesota but that just did not work out. What I had learned was, the Faribault town itself, established – I have written down what it was called – it was called the Faribault Vocational-Technical School and the person who ran that school – some of you will remember this name – the last name was Freund. You may remember his wife was from (taught at) the Faribault school (in the E-something, maybe elementary, department. I knew them both.) What I found is that they hadn’t established that school (but they were planning to) when I was looking for work – and the timing was just off (when they set it up they would let me know). (To this day) I have not heard back from them. I sent them a letter indicating an interest and I never, ever heard back from them. But isn’t that right, Mel, that they established that school right next to the School for the Deaf. I sent off a letter of interest but never heard back. Is he still alive? Someone in the audience said that he is still alive. What about his wife? Oh, his wife has passed away. He is still alive. I’ll be darned.
[Interview time 01:14:20:11]
Just to summarize, I guess would like to say – there’s more and more that I could tell. But I just want to say, of all my accomplishments, and all of my achievements, and all of the awards that I may have gotten over time, I would have to say are because of my experience in Faribault. I remember in 1986 – is that right – I wonder if I need to back up here – OK, in 1986, I flew to France. It was for Laurent Clerc and the 250th (200th) birthday of Laurent Clerc. At that time, I was president of the Gallaudet University Alumni Association. I flew to France to honor and to present them with a plaque that would be displayed in Clerc’s hometown in France. It was wonderful there. It was wonderful to see them. They had a French national organization similar to our National Association of the Deaf. This was the national association in France. Once we had made the presentation, what I found is that French people wave their hands like this. They do not clap. They wave their hands like the Deaf community does. So I was there through the weekend and on Sunday, the preacher at the local church (the French people) had asked me if I would make a presentation. I picked up (some) French sign language (quickly). I was up on the stage and the topic was “The Equality of Deaf People and Hearing People.” So I picked up a little bit of French sign language – signs that some of you may recognize from France but I don’t know if many of you will. But anyway, when I was done with my presentation, people stood up and waved their hands. I was so impressed that these were not all deaf people, they knew that this is how you applaud for Deaf people.
(In 1988), I think right around the time of the Deaf President Now protest (at Gallaudet University) – (I was invited by Frank Turk to), I don’t know if you’ll remember this, (Frank), but I offered a parliamentary procedure workshop right around that time. (One night) I remember being around a campfire and four of us were asked to make a presentation and just to reminiscence and tell some stories. I think I was third or fourth in line. So the first person got done with their storytelling. And the campers clapped. They applauded for the second person. Then the second presenter was done and there was applause for that person. Then it was my turn and I thought, “Let’s see now. What shall I say?” I thought, “I’ll tell them the story about my experience in France.” So I talked about how waving the hands is a way to applaud. When I was done, instead of giving me a hand clapping for applause, it was the hand waving. (I thought that was the end of that, but I was wrong.)
The fall after that, I remember walking on the Gallaudet campus somewhere and some runners came by. I didn’t, of course, recognize who they were. The person said, “I was at the camp you were at last year. Do you remember me? (You did something.)” Of course, I didn’t (remember). I (was worried and) said, “What did I do? What is it that you remember?” He said, “Oh, no. It’s the whole thing that you taught us about waving hands as a way of applauding for Deaf people. I learned that from you. (It is spreading around.) I appreciate your invention.” I said, “(I want you to know) I didn’t invent that. I was telling the story that that is what I learned in France about the method of applause.”
[Applause and hands waving.]
Thank you very much.
Back to the honor that I received from Gallaudet – the honorary doctorate degree that I received. In the audience – of course, there were many people there – there was one person who approached me and it was, guess who, Quigley – who had been the former superintendent of the (Minnesota) School for the Deaf. He had retired and moved to the Washington, D.C. area to work for CEASD (Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf, Inc.) – a teaching association or group (for superintendents and administrators). He happened to be in the audience. I did not know that. But he approached me afterwards and congratulated me. Of all the successes – I told him, “Of all the successes I’ve had in my life, I attribute much of my success to my experience in Faribault.” So, in closing, let me say it is a pleasure to be here and I wish you all in Minnesota the best of luck.
[Interview time 01:19:32:06]
[Visual of Douglas Bahl signing.]
DB: Thank you, Bummy. Great inspiration to us. Can you stay put for a few minutes? We’ll have Mel.
[Visual of Melvin “Mel” Carter signing.]
MC: If you need to leave, we know you’re hungry. But it’s such a tough act to follow Bummy. I’m thrilled and inspired and always am by Minnesota. When I was a prep at Gallaudet, Jerry (signs the letter “Y” on elbow for “Jerry”) Carstens was my first pal – the bad boy of Minnesota. He was a good boy at Gallaudet. Have I got that mixed up? Backwards? Jerry told me wonderful things about Minnesota that were inspiring at that time, so when I moved later to Minnesota, I knew I was in the right place. I’ve got to really condense my comments here, but (I want to say that) MSAD is right – because MSAD is the school for the deaf and MAD together. They are in the same word – MSAD. Great! Arriving here in Minnesota, my first impressions were that people were always moving – always moving forward. They were active – active in the community, not just at the school for the Deaf, not just at the state level, but in the communities. (I met) those active people. Today, now, I recognize – and I had a tear in my eye this morning, seeing someone on stage who was a child when I was there – that is goosefleshing (raised goosebumps) for me. This forced my wife and I to leave the campus and meet the parents and get into an organization called the Minnesota Association of Parents (MAP). It was (is) shocking to me at the time (at this time that I still remember it). I remember, not that the numbers are different, it’s changed – the organization has changed now to MSDC or something – Minnesota Society for Deaf Children. But it is for parents – and because of that, we had to go into their homes. It wasn’t part of the School for the Deaf program but it was inspiring for us to have the opportunity to get into the community – to meet people. (I remember) getting out to Albert Lea to meet parents. And, again, here, I say Teika – your success and your story is wonderful. Your parents (saw deaf people, not just us, but Deaf Minnesota, and you all benefited from this). The level of activity is just amazing to me. Just active people. But many people said, “You first need to ask Gordon (Allen).” “Gordon? Ask Gordon?” “Yes, you have to ask Gordon first.” I asked my wife, and we were (excited about) going to go and look for Gordon and his wife, Myrtle. My gosh, what an awesome couple. Again, inspiration from Minnesota. Great, rich history and rich couplehood (a wonderful history of couplehood). Getting to Faribault, where I met the Potters – right there, they invited us to their home for dinner, Kathy and Jim. We just stayed and stayed. Wow! The Minnesota Association of the Deaf has couples! The Allens. The Moes – Lloyd and Kathy. Do you remember them? Francis Crowe and his wife. Rose Crowe, do you remember her? Oh, my gosh. Many, many couples. One in particular that you’d recognize is Jim Jones. Jim and Eldora Jones. And this year, you know what, they’re still married. In California, I couldn’t say the same thing about deaf couples there. The divorce rate, the divorce rate, the divorce rate, it just repeats itself. But really, couples are special. And people (they) always are working together. We talk about having our wives behind us. (My wife may be behind me, or I behind her, I don’t know.) You know, before or behind (I don’t know which is bigger, but) – we’re not ashamed of each other. We get on with it. D – dedication. Loyal to all. Everything about life, dedicated to life really. I remember four things tied together – equality – tied together equally – active (live) is the first. Love is the second. Play (is third) – and fourth, sleep well. I got that from Minnesota and I still love people and I still love to play and I still have to eat and I still rest because of Minnesota. Those were the lessons. You taught Deaf people the right way to live and the equal part maybe would bring that down here and turn it into a cross. Not crossed at the top but crossed in the middle so we are all equal. Minnesota has a great impact on Deaf people in the United States. Bright, active, artistic, involved, and the last thing I want to say to you today – I’m glad that I came back because of Doug Bahl. And Myrtle (signs letter “M” from chin to chest) and Gordon Allen. It’s like a reminder. I’m happy that (young) people are still coming back here. I think about you and Sharon and a reminder for Myrtle and Doug Bahl said, “Please come.” It came from Myrtle. Yes, we need young people. We need you young people. Young people make the difference for your future. And young people will become older, like me.
And now I wish you and your history, and all the historians here, historians in the making, it’s great (always wonderful) to see you again. And for each of you, I know you have your own stories to tell and those are powerful stories. And again, I’m inspired by Bummy’s and Frank’s and Doug’s. If we look around the room, there are more – many more inspiring stories. We have to make those known. Thank you for your time. Thank you for coming. And I thank you especially for inviting me to come back and share. I wish I could share more but later, we’ll sit down and talk more. We’ll have those conversations – OK?
[Applause and hands waving.]
[Interview time 01:26:51:00]
[Visual of Douglas Bahl signing.]
DB: Thank you all. History Matters! And I know you’ve got stories too, like Mel just said. We’re starting this here and I’m sorry we’re a little behind schedule. But again, I want to invite any of you who are interested – feel free to join us. Join the MADC history committee. See me or see Cynthia Weitzel. Again, thank you.
[Visual of Teika Pakalns signing.]
TP: Thank you very much. Wow, I feel inspired. Do you feel inspired, too? I see many of you saying “yes.” Wonderful. Hands waving!