These stories were originally published in 1997 for a book that the OSSB Alumni Association did on the History of the Ohio State School for the Blind and it's 100 yrs. Of existence and these two stories were included in a section of "anecdotes and stories" about people's experiences at the Ohio State School for the Blind. Ironically, there were very few people who had submitted any stories about their time at the school and I was one of the few who stories were chosen.
When I started Ohio State School for the Blind in the mid 1970's, one of the ways that I had found out to feeling accepted and become popular at OSSB was to try to find a niche that made you feel truly accepted and that you were part of the student body. I learned from OSSB that it doesn't hurt to have some kind of sense of humor. In 1975, 1 was the lone geeky nerd student, who always got picked on, but I quickly learned that one of the ways that a new student could fit in was to win the rest of the student crowd was with laughter!
For my first couple of years at the school for the blind, I had entered the annual talent show, and I never thought anything about it at first. Luckily, I developed a talent for doing impersonations of popular celebrities of that era like ex-Presidents Nixon and Carter, Arnold Horshack (T.V.'s Welcome Back Kotter), comedian Flip Wilson's Geraldine, and the Rev. Billy Graham. In 1977, my best friend, Ed Schwilk and I did a Man on The Street routine, where Ed was being the reporter with the questions, and I being the budding comedian was doing my funny impressions, getting the laughs, and towards the end of this shtick, I turned into King Kong, and I chased Ed off the stage! We placed second that year behind a girl, who I'm not sure of her name, but she sang a song by Olivia Newton John. But we left the student audience rolling in the aisles.
But the pinnacle of my stint as OSSB's stand-up comedian came in 1979, when one of the popular TV. shows from that decade was Mork & Mindy. This TV show had become one of the top TV. shows of that year along with Happy Days, and Laverne & Shirley. It was a TV. sitcom about an alien named Mork, from Ork who came to Earth, and moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he lived with this earth girl named Mindy, and he learned all there was to know about Earth Life. The sit-com starred a then-budding comedian Robin Williams, who along with other Big 70's trends I had become a huge fan of along with the movie Star Wars, and the Rock group, Foreigner, which I had become somewhat obsessed with, thanks to my best friend and straight man, Ed Schwilk.
Anyway, to make a boring, long story short, it was time for the annual OSSB talent show, and risking humiliation I had entered the talent show doing my best impersonation of the great Robin Williams' Mork, from Ork routine. Along with Mork, to keep it fresh, I did my best impersonations of the BeeGee's song Staying Alive, at that time I had just started puberity and my vocal range was rather high and the theme to the Sci-Fi movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind; and I even threw in Mr. Fred "Welcome To The Neighborhood" Rodgers! Ahh...the 1970's, a pure hotbed of cultural pop junk to make fun at!!
I ended my five minute mostly Orkan stunt literally sitting on my head... If you are familiar with the T.V. show, my favorite alien/ comedian Mork (a.k.a. Robin Williams) had a more unique way of sitting on his face than most normal earth people! Well, much to my astonishment I took first place at the talent show. However, I kinda felt bad because I thought of the other students who worked so hard on their original musical compositions or students who had practiced so hard singing the latest Olivia Newton John or Barry Manilow tune and here I was trying to be a stand-up comedian who won for just saying... "Nanoo-nanoo! ... Ar! Ar! humor!", who just sat on his face had won. But, after I got my small cash award, and instant recognition and popularity as OSSB's lone stand-up comedian/cool student ... I quickly got over it!
But, as they say fame is fleeting and fans can soon become fickle! My senior year at OSSB, I wanted to experiment, be different and original so with the help of Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me' playing from a boom box, I tried Lip Syncing as a new comedic stunt! Unfortunately, the judges at the tryouts didn't buy my act!! PLUS, lip Syncing at a school for the blind? "What was I thinking?" So I failed to even enter the school talent show in my last year at OSSB, 1981. BUT, the irony of it though, lip syncing itself would soon catch on thanks to such cool 80's groups like Milli Vanilli!!
In conclusion, looking back I will always be thankful for being part of that special group of students and faculty who had accepted me for who I was ... myself. Even if it meant that I had to literally win the entire school over with laughter and sitting on my face!! So for that reason I am greatful! So hopefully until next time on another space and time... this has been me, the once stand-up comedian from Ohio State School for the Blind ... signing off ... Nanoo-Nanoo!!
Perhaps the most emotional event that had ever happened to me during my six years at Ohio State School for the Blind was when I lost a dear friend from a swimming accident at OSSB's natatorium, and ever since that event has haunted me in the back of mind. But through knowing of Michelle Jason, I had learned what it meant to persevere and what it meant to be a true friend. My story begins in my junior year at Ohio State School for the Blind in 1979-1980 when I was first introduced to Michelle Jason, a sensitive, funny, friendly girl. She always loved to laugh plus she had a friendly smile for everyone, and she was very positive in not letting her disabilities stand in her way.
She was a visually impaired new student at 16 years old, and the only other disabilitie was that she had been conflicted with epilepsy, a disorder which affects the central nervous system which causes the person to experience convulsions or epileptic seizures. However, despite dealing with these drawbacks and taking special medications to control her seizures, Michelle Jason just wanted to lead a normal life like any normal 16 year old female student. Michelle was the type of friend who should be treated like any person with respect, understanding, and above all caring. The contributions a true friend should always be.
When I met Michelle Jason in my Junior year at Ohio State School for The Blind in 1979-80, 1 naturally fell head over heels for her, and we had a lot in common like we both shared a sense of humor, and we both liked to make each other laugh. The other thing that Michelle and I had in common was that we both loved to swim. From that first year we met, we always went swimming together on those days of recreational activities, and we both loved swimming SO MUCH we even joined the OSSB's swim team! But at first, like any typical boyfriend, I would be concerned of Michelle participating in something as competitive as the school's swim team because of her epilepsy. So naturally I started to worry, being overly protective thinking of what if she had a seizure? Would she even be allowed to participate with her medical condition? Nevertheless, Michelle would tell me not to worry and that she would do fine, and she believed in never giving up on something that she loved to do and that was swimming. In addition, when we both joined the OSSB team for the 1980 season we both rooted or supported each other during the regular swimming tournaments. In all honesty, I wasn't the greatest 500 yard freestyle swimmer in the world, but with Michelle's support and encouragement during my time in the school's swim team, I felt like one great champion with her on my side.
However, the following year it had become different for I lost confidence in myself to compete in the 1981 swim team. I thought as a senior there were more important issues at stake than being on a school's swim team. Issues like what the heck was I going to do after I graduated?? So around March of 1981 1 chose not to join OSSB's swim team. Instead, I joined the OSSB's Forensics team. Michelle continued todo the thing that she loved to do the best and that was swimming. She continued participating in the OSSB swim team of my senior year.
March 18, 1981, after school I was back in my dorm room practicing one of my speeches for an upcoming Forensic Tournament when from outside I heard the sounds of sirens coming up the main school driveway. Myself, the houseparent, and the rest of us guys in the dorm rushed outside to see an ambulance and a squad car drive around the long main school building towards the girls' dorms where the natatorium was located. Naturally, we were all wondering what was happening.
By this time, it was time to go up to the dining hall for dinner. Ignoring our houseparent's orders of "No running up the walk!", we flew up the main building while the sounds of sirens filled our heads. Once we got to the cafeteria we were met by the girls from the girls' dorms and they were even more in shock as we were, and some of the girls were even crying. Suddenly, white as a band of ghosts the swim team solemnly entered the cafeteria. Indeed, they were the first witnesses of a tragedy which had happened that afternoon in the natatorium.
For the first time in a long time I thought of Michelle, and about her battle with epilepsy. As things calmed down in the dining hall we learned that there was in fact an accident in the natatorium, and it involved Michelle Jason. She had a major epileptic seizure while swimming laps. From reports one the scene, one of the girls on the girls' team saw that she was struggling in the water and yelled for help. One of the male swimmers swam towards the bottom of the pool and dragged her out. After getting her outside of the water, the boys' swim coach desperately tried saving her life with CRP. He tried his best to revive, anything to get Michelle breathing again, but it became too late ... on that rainy March 18, 1981 we at Ohio State School for the Blind lost a special friend in Michelle Jason.
The following day there was a special memorial service in her honor, and later in the spring of 1981, an honorary athletic award was named after Michelle Jason. Also in that spring the school's play was Little Women and the play was dedicated to her. Forever, Michelle Jason's memory would live on at the School for the Blind. The one main thing I will always cherish and remember of Michelle Jason's life would have been her warm smile, her sense of understanding, caring, and her friendship. Also her determination to do the things that she loved to do and do them best like swimming. Despite her own disabilities, Michelle Jason had the true attributes of what it meant to have had a true friend from Ohio State School for the Blind.