Downtown With Dad

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When I was around 10-13 years old, my brother and I would sometimes go to work with my Dad on a Saturday. Dad was an optometrist, so this may not sound like so much fun to any of you, but it actually was. We spent some of our time hanging out with Dad at his office, “helping” him, and then there was the bonus of shopping around downtown. And we’d get to have lunch with Dad, of course, which was always fun.

At his office, there were several tasks we could help with. I remember helping him get glasses orders ready in old wooden trays, making sure the names matched, and sometimes filing the index cards with the patient’s records on them. I also seem to remember some rubber stamps being involved, and I LOVED rubber stamps…the kind you could spin the wheels on and change the date. I’m sure he double-checked all of our work, and we really weren’t “helping” that much, but it made me feel so important.

He also had some cool equipment that fascinated me. He had a lens grinding wheel, which had a chunk of “real” sponge at the base to catch the water that came off of the wheel. The water came out a small pipe at the top of the wheel, as I recall. There was also a pan that heated up fine grains of glass, used to heat plastic frames enough to bend them into shape. Somewhere, I think I still have a small bottle of that glass. He also had a roll-top wooden cabinet that was filled with lenses with various prescriptions, all stored in velvet slots. My brother still has that cabinet.

But the topper was a cow’s eye he had in a jar from his college days. We used to use that cow’s eye for our science projects every year. No better way to get an A than to have an actual eye in a jar to augment your report and drawing of THE EYE. I can still see it clearly in my mind…it was blue, and sort of sad looking. My brother also still has the eye, which he says has deteriorated only somewhat over all these years.

Aside from helping at the office, we got to go wandering around downtown. Back in those days it was safe to go shopping around the few blocks without your parents. We were allowed to go next door to the Walgreens, which had a lot to look at, including a paperback book section. I got one of my first paperbacks there, which I still have…The Best of Sick Jokes. There was also an old-fashioned lunch counter at which we’d have our lunch.

If the Walgreens wasn’t exciting enough, there was also a little shop a couple of blocks away that had gifts and such. I remember buying a little ring with a yellow flower on it there, among other purchases not quite as memorable. There was something so cool about having your little coin purse with money in it and making the big decision as to what to purchase all on your own. I still have my little coin purse, which was a vinyl zip up affair with red roses on it. There was also a men’s clothing store nearby, and I remember buying my “mod hat” there, when they were so popular. Yes, you guessed it, I still have the mod hat, and even wore it when I was going through chemo!

So, hanging out with the boring optometrist wasn’t so boring at all! The best part was that it was quality time with my dad, when otherwise, he’d just be at work while we were home.

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2 responses »

  1. Another neat machine was the little heating unit that kept a reserve of molten lead, which Dad poured into small molds to make lens blockers to mount on the grinding machine. Once used, the lead blockers were thrown back into the pool for reuse. And I still know the eye chart by memory, making eye exams difficult to this day.

  2. I still say there’s a librarian in you somewhere, with your love of rubber date stamps! Not for the first time, I realize I would have loved to have met your Dad. I’m sure he treasured the time as much as you did.

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