The Remarkable Charlie Crane

Posted by Daniel on Jul 13, 2009 - 1 comment

Vancouver historian Chuck Davis writes:

I’ve long considered Charlie Crane one of the most remarkable persons in Vancouver history. Charlie (pictured at left as a boy with his teacher Miss Conrod) was both blind and deaf. He couldn’t see you, he couldn’t hear you. Yet he attended UBC for two years, worked as a reporter for the Ubyssey, wrote for the Province, became a star varsity wrestler and worked as a “translator” for blind students, converting books into Braille. He read thousands of books in Braille, and left 6,000 of them to the university in 1965, the year he died.
Today the Crane Resource Centre and Library is the principal resource for UBC students and other people who are blind, visually impaired or print-handicapped. There’s an eight-studio book recording and duplicating facility there, computers that convert print to synthesized speech, computer work stations with voice synthesis and image-enlarging, a computerized Braille transcription facility, a talking on-line public catalogue, closed circuit TV magnifiers, and more. And it all started with Charlie Crane.
He was born in Toronto in 1906. At the age of nine months he was hit by an attack of spinal meningitis. His mother was told he would likely die, but she nursed him night and day and pulled him through. But the meningitis had destroyed the baby’s sight and hearing.
The boy developed another skill that people who knew him spoke of with awe. S.G. Lawrence, principal of the School for the Blind in Vancouver, in 1926 told an interviewer a story about his star pupil. "Charlie’s sense of touch is nothing short of marvellous," Lawrence said. "Not one of our pupils has even approached him in this respect. I will give you an example. Some years ago Dr. Carmichael preached in Vancouver. Charlie’s father and I took Charlie along. After the sermon Dr. Carmichael shook hands with Charlie. Charlie put his hand on the doctor’s head and shoulder for a moment. The doctor talked to him on his fingers.
“Five years passed by and, unknown to Charlie, who had not met him in the interval, Dr. Carmichael again visited Vancouver. He called at the school, and seeing Charlie walked over and shook hands. Charlie held the doctor’s hand gripped in his own for fully a minute and then exclaimed, ‘Why, it’s Dr. Carmichael’.”
Read more about this astonishing fellow at

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