In mid-November of 1940 the Pennsylvania Federation of the Blind held its fifth annual convention in Wilkes-Barre. Gale Burlingame, president of the organization, invited representatives of other organizations of the blind to attend that meeting, which was to be held at the Reddington Hotel. We all know that in the late afternoon of Saturday, November 16, the National Federation of the Blind came into being with Jacobus tenBroek as its first president. Gus Genetti, son of the original owner, explained that the room where that historic meeting took place at the Reddington Hotel was damaged by fire, but the Genetti Hotel, which was expanded and occupies the same property, has continued to serve the community.
It was at the Genetti that the NFB of Pennsylvania conducted its 2015 convention November 13 to 15. NFB President Mark Riccobono was the national representative, and a number of other state presidents were also present: Pam Allen of Louisiana, Carl Jacobsen of New York, Eric Duffy of Ohio, and Jennifer Dunnam of Minnesota. Other notables included Marion Gwizdala, president of NAGDU; Barbara Pierce, longtime president in Ohio and former editor of the Braille Monitor; and Julie Deden, director of the Colorado Center for the Blind. Dutch tenBroek, the tenBroeks’ eldest son, and his wife Kathy were also in attendance throughout the weekend.
Friday was filled with parent and legislative seminars and an exhibit room. The students met that evening. One of the highlights of the day was a fundraiser for the Keystone Chapter, a game of Jeopardy featuring NFB trivia questions with Carl Jacobsen, Julie Deden, and Barbara Pierce as the contestants. Carl wiped up the floor with the two women. An auction that evening raised a good deal of money for the affiliate.
Many of the presentations during the convention session contrasted life and prospects today with life as it was lived in 1940. After lunch on Saturday participants congregated outside the hotel to take pictures before a bronze plaque at the entrance of the hotel. This plaque displays the NFB logo and the words “Birthplace of the National Federation of the Blind November 1940” both in raised letters and in Braille.
This was a truly memorable convention. Dutch tenBroek’s recollections of his family and especially his father were unforgettable. A champagne toast was offered by President Riccobono at the banquet using commemorative wine glasses for each attendee. No one who was present will ever forget the convention.