Braille Monitor                                                                 February 1985

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Pastries Replace Politics for Ramona Walhof

by Kitty Fleischman

(Note: The following article appeared in the October 29, 1984, issue of the Idaho Business Review.)

Last winter Ramona Walhof found herself sandwiched in a controversy between the state Commission for the Blind and Gov. John Evans.

The former director of the commission is now more likely to find herself up to her elbows in dough than taking part in any yeasty discussion about governmental issues.

Walhof, whose proponents countered her firing by occupying the commission's buildings for several days last winter until being ordered to leave by the state police, opened a new bakery and deli in Boise last week.

The White Cane Bakery is located on the corner of Capitol Boulevard and University Drive in a log building with a totem pole on the outside and the rich aroma of freshly-baked bread, rolls, brownies and cookies on the inside. Early in the week, as the countdown toward opening day dwindled into the wee numbers, Walhof was still working with her crew to get the recipes perfected. Sourdough breads and pastries are the specialty of the house, with whole wheat flour ground on the premises to assure freshness and quality. And the recipes are their own.

The accent, she said, is on wholesome, natural foods, carefully baked. One batch of raisin bread she rejected was turned down because she didn't feel it had enough raisins.

After all, she explained, "when people buy raisin bread, that is what they want in it."

The bakery is Walhof's first venture into the "civilian" business world, but she feels confidence in the preparation her governmental administrative position gave her. And the Commission for the Blind does operate concession stands in state buildings, she added, which she oversaw.

With a son and a daughter to support, Walhof said, she had to find a business which she knew. And while there were other offers of work within days of being fired from the commission, she chose to remain in Idaho with the people she has served.

It is Walhof's feisty attitude toward the matter of blindness which brought her into conflict with the governor, and it is those same views which have helped her to pull together her new business. The blind receive a great deal of sympathy, Walhof said, and are generally treated with particular consideration. Often, she said, it is enough to smother a person's initiative.

She herself went to a school for the blind as a youngster, she said. There she was protected from failure--as well as success.

Many jobs are open to the blind, she said, if they want to be independent and are unafraid of giving up the security they have in blindness.

Many blind people can't adapt to a normal life, she said, because they have been smothered, and never permitted to take their lumps like everyone else. It is a belief on which she refuses to compromise. It is also the belief which led to her dismissal from the commission. And from there it led to the idea of the bakery. She bought the building, she said, because she was dissatisfied with what was available to rent that she could afford.

The interior of the building, long vacant, was cleaned, remodeled and painted. Crisp white curtains with red gingham trim accent the windows, and matching aprons for the bakery workers have been ordered.

While the original intention was just to sell baked goods, when she saw how much room there was in the building, she decided to add the deli and serve sandwiches, soups and salad.

The crew for opening the business is four besides Walhof. And, she is not one to discriminate in employment--half of her crew is sighted, while two of the workers are blind.