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Blind Melvin Bouck - "An Inspiration to all young people in Missoula"

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Melvin Bouck – “An Inspiration to all the young people in Missoula”

Bouck Boy, Blind To Study Law At Varsity

Musician At Model Confectionery Graduates From Boulder School.

Blind from childhood, but having gained a common school education, studied music until he is able to play the piano delightfully and now being determined to fit himself for the practice of law in spite of this handicap, Melvin John Bouck, familiar to all of the patrons of Model Confectionary store, is a young man whose life should be an inspiration to all the young people in Missoula – and some of the older ones as well. What he has accomplished through patience, perseverance and hard work has at last brought some light into his dark world and it is gratifying to his friends to know that he recently graduated with honors from the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind at Boulder, he being the graduate this year from that institution. He entered the school in 1900 and has been working faithfully since that time, with the exception of one year, which he spent in California after the death of his mother in 1908. Arrangements have been made for him to enter the law school of the university next fall and that has made the young man very happy, for to study law has been Melvin’s chief ambition for several years.

Melvin first came to Missoula four years ago and since then he has played the piano at the Model confectionary each summer, attending school in the winter months. He has given considerable time to his music the past year and a great improvement in his playing can be noted, he having returned here for the summer a few days ago. Yesterday he was the guest of honor at a dinner party given by Mr. and Mrs. Bassini of the Model, the other guests being the employes of the establishment and a number of other friends. The affair was much enjoyed and was especially appreciated by Melvin, who entertained the company with stories of his experience at school.

Of his history the Rocky Mountain Leader, published at the Boulder institution, says under the caption, “Our Graduate:”

Melvin John Bouck, son of Anna Marguerite Bouck and John Melvin Bouck, was born in Butte on June 27, 1893.

At 5 ½ years he lost sight through an explosion of dynamite caps. His father at that time was in charge of several mines in Butte, and the inspector finding the mines overstocked with explosives ordered that they be removed. The dynamite caps, dynamite and fuse were taken to a storehouse near Mr. Bouck’s residence. Melvin and his sister, Marguerite, while playing in the storehouse lit a match and a number of caps exploded. Melvin got the benefit of three of them, and his left eye was entirely destroyed. He retained his sight in the right eye for about three weeks after the accident. A piece of explosive which was in the eye, then worked back and destroyed its sight.

Melvin spent a year in the hospital in Philadelphia under the treatment of a famous surgeon, but received little encouragement save the hope extended to him that some time in the future when the offending obstruction had worked its way out, he might be able to distinguish light from darkness.

The cinder is still in the eye and hence this hope has not yet become a reality.

The above article appeared in The Missoulian on June 16, 1913.


Familiar Role for Melvin Bouck

Melvin Bouck, blind magazine salesman at the local post office, will resume a familiar role May 16 when he plays piano for the Community Theater’s next production, he said Saturday.

Bouck has played piano in and around Missoula most of his life. He gave his first concert when 6, in spite of a dynamite explosion only a year before, which took his sight and three fingers of his left hand. He continued to play and worked his way through college with a dance orchestra.

Community Theater personnel say the production which Bouck is to accompany with music, “The Drunkard,” is an old-time melodrama complete with hero, heroine, villain, sin and redemption. Bouck, who played piano in local movie houses for many years, said, “It will be ‘duck soup’ to accompany this production.

“Movie playing is all improvisation,” Bouck said, “and improvisation is my dish.” “With a ‘reader’ sitting beside me at the piano to tell me what is happening on the screen – even such little details as what the actors are wearing, or what mannerisms they have – I translate the description into the appropriate music,” Bouck added.

Bouck will play improvised descriptions almost continually through the production. He also will accompany the olio acts between scenes of the main attraction.

When asked if he would like someone to relieve him of some of the playing Bouck shrugged his shoulders, stating he wouldn’t be much of a theater pianist if he couldn’t stick it out for five nights, adding “It’s good to be back in the harness again.”

“The Drunkard” will be presented at the American Legion Hall May 16 through 21.

The above article appeared in The Daily Missoulian on May 1. 1955.


Blind Concessionaire Melvin J. Bouck Dies

Melvin J. Bouck, 76, blind concessionaire at the Missoula Post Office for many years died Tuesday in a local hospital.

He was born June 27, 1893 in New York and came to Missoula from Butte in 1906. He was a 1917 graduate of the University of Montana law school.

Blinded by an explosion at the age of five, Bouck told a Missoulian reporter in 1919, “The trouble with most people who have lost their sight is that they have been coddled and helped so much in their daily life that they have come to expect such treatment as their right.

“A person who really determines can do almost anything. I determined I would help myself and not depend upon others. And so I have worked out my problems.”

At 24 he was working as a stenographer in the Florence Hotel, using a method of shorthand he devised himself and writing about 110 words a minute.

He operated Melvin’s Grocery from 1929 through 1931 and had been the proprietor of the post office candy and magazine counter since 1948.

An accomplished pianist, Mr. Bouck provided musical accompaniment for the silent movies in the old Strand and Bluebird theaters and had had his own orchestra for years. He also was pianist for the Lions Club for many years and was a member of the Methodist Church.

Survivors include two sons, John “King” and Gary D., and a sister, Mrs. Margaret Warwick, all of Seattle, a grandson, two granddaughters and two nieces.

Funeral arrangements are pending at Squire-Simmons-Carr Rose Chapel. Memorials may be in the form of contributions to the Lions Club Sight Conservation Program or the Missoula Crippled Children and Adults Rehabilitation Center.

The above article appeared in The Missoulian April 1, 1970.

Blind Boy Article – 6/16/1913

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Melvin Bouck Article - 5/1/1955

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Melvin Bouck’s obituary - 4/1/1970

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Last Updated on Saturday, 06 January 2018 18:58