Blind veteran Don Carlo lays groundwork for the Vanguard

Losing one’s sight can be a travesty; for founding Vanguard editor Don Carlo, it just meant that he needed to adapt. He used strips of Braille to label his textbooks and records. He knew exactly where everything was and kept a clean apartment. A Braille plaque outside his door ensured he never walked in on a neighbor.

Carlo was drawn to journalism at a young age, writing news stories for the student newspaper at Washington High School in Southeast Portland. He also wrote feature stories for the News Telegram in 1934 and the Oregon Journal in 1935.

Intent on pursuing a news career, Carlo enrolled as a journalism major at the University of Oregon in the fall of 1940. He attended for one year and then left for California to work for the San Francisco Chronicle.

As World War II escalated, Carlo was drafted to serve in the army. Because of his news writing experience, he took on an editing job, publishing one post newspaper after another. His proudest moments included the times his stories were reprinted in the famous army paper Stars and Stripes.

While serving, Carlo lost his sight in an accident. He was transferred to the army school for the blind in Avon, Connecticut, where he took courses and earned high grades while adapting to life without sight. He started a newspaper for the hospital accompanied by a Braille edition. Carlo spent three months learning the Braille system and learning to use a Braille typewriter. He carried the typewriter to all of his classes and took detailed notes.

In 1946, Carlo enrolled in the Vanport Extension Center in Oregon, the precursor to Portland State. He lived and studied independently in Vanport, golfing in his free time and spending several evenings per week meeting with staff to publish the Vet’s Extended, the first issue released on Nov. 15, 1946. The paper was renamed the Vanguard shortly after.

Carlo kept up with current affairs through a special record player designed to play Library of Congress records issued by the American Foundation for the Blind. He also listened to novels and followed popular news through Reader’s Digest recordings.

The Vanguard continues the tradition Don Carlo set down 70 years ago. The paper is fully student run, with assistance from media advisor Reaz Mahmood. Mahmood is also legally blind and has served the Vanguard and student media for over three years. He earned an MFA of Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.