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Family History in an Object: Framed Optical Qualification, Optical Trial Case and a Daughter's Memories

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Family history is important to me. I have cherished objects which hold stories, historical events and so many memories.

Optometrist with Honours

My father's Optical Qualification and Membership of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers - doesn't it sound grand?

My father's Optical Qualification and Membership of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers - doesn't it sound grand?

Dad

My father was an optometrist, then referred to as an optician or an ophthalmic optician. I am the proud owner of his Certificate, gained when he passed his exams, with honours, to become part of this esteemed profession.

A lovely man, the local optician in our village of Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, in the south-east of England close to the South Downs, he was respected by his patients and loved by his family.

This framed certificate now hangs in my house, a constant reminder of what a worthy, kind and honest man he was.

My memories of him include us walking over the Downs, he always with a camera, of which he owned several. Photography was a passion that never left him, and one he handed down to me. Full of fun, a skilled artist and writer, he was a huge influence in my life.


Tools of the Trade

Trial Case, with lenses and heavy Trial Frame

Trial Case, with lenses and heavy Trial Frame

Trial Frame - which felt extremely heavy on a little girl's nose!

Trial Frame - which felt extremely heavy on a little girl's nose!

Work around Sussex

I recall these objects in the house, part of my life since I was very young. Sadly, the trial case and frame in the picture is not his. He sold it after he retired but it was just like that one.

A large portion of my younger days was spent in Sussex, right up to leaving school. Dad's first job there was with an established practice in Hove (next to Brighton), then he had his village practice in a small room at home, later moving up the road to be closer to the centre of village life. Later still he had his own larger practice in the cliff-top town of Peacehaven, just east of Brighton, on the Channel coast.

Of course, my Dad tested my mother's and my eyes, every two years. I was always fascinated by his trial case; the rows of lenses, thin and thick, as well as the trial frame which rested on my nose, heavy enough to leave a red mark when my eye-test was finished. He would use the case also to go to those who couldn't come to him.

The lenses would be slotted into the frame, accompanied by,

"Is it better this way," – quick horizontal flick of the lens – "or this way?"

The twizzle of another lens, and so it would go on until he'd gauged my sight to perfection. The intense light close up to each eye, the red and green on a projected box, the letter card, starting with gargantuan letters, retreating to minute characters I strained to recognise, all fused to give a magical result.

I wore glasses when I was still at primary school, but only for 'close work'. I was told to wear them all the time in class. This lasted only a year or so, then Dad said I didn't need them any more as they'd done their corrective work. Years later, I confessed to him that I didn't wear them as often as I should have and his response, with a gentle smile, was,

"Well I knew you wouldn't so I told you to wear them all the time so that you'd wear them for long enough."

He'd certainly got the measure of me, then, hadn't he?!


An Unexpected Request

One day, at the house closer to the village, there came a ring on the bell and, fifteen years old, I went to the door. It was later in the day and all patients had gone. An old man stood there, with a brown paper bag in his hand. He said,

"I know your Dad's an optician but I was wondering if he could look at these,"

and he handed me the bag. Expecting to see some broken specs, I looked inside.

Looking up at me from inside was a pair of dentures! I was taken aback and, trying hard to suppress a giggle, I excused myself and went to get my Mum, as Dad had gone out. She could tell there was something strange afoot because I was giggling, and when I explained she dealt with it as best she could, explaining,

"I suggest you take these to the dentist. Mr Carr can't do anything about those, I'm afraid. It's not within his expertise."

She was gracious, though only just managing not to laugh, and the man accepted her explanation and went on his way. We both collapsed in a pile of giggles and Dad was most amused when he got home, though quite glad to have missed being put on the spot.

When I told my mates at school, they gasped in horror - how did I manage to keep a straight face?! To this day, I have no answer to that. I hasten to add that secondary school was a long way from the village so nobody would have known the gentleman concerned.


My Favourite Optician

Dad, Mum and Me, Christmas 1974

Dad, Mum and Me, Christmas 1974

Saving People's Lives

My father often referred to his 'mentor', an older optometrist named Bill England, who was wheel-chair bound. I never met him but Dad often spoke of him and I recognised even at a young age that he had great respect for this dear friend.

Dad was born and grew up in Yorkshire, likewise his friend. When my sister had some sight problems, Bill England was called to examine her and he diagnosed meningitis, just in time as it happened. So not only was he a good friend but a life-saver. When I was told this story I understood why my father held him in such high esteem.

I learnt that opticians can recognise certain patterns or symptoms in the eye that can suggest other medical problems. Twice in his career, Dad sent a patient to the hospital with a suspected brain tumour. Both times, the early diagnosis resulted in longer life.


Information

An historical document not only holds memories but can divulge incidental information. I already knew of some of the places my father had lived, information valuable to me to be able to follow his path through life before I knew him. This document furnishes an address of which I had not been aware before I read this carefully. 10 Grosvenor Avenue, Pontefract, was occupied by my father in March 1939, the month and year he became 21. Did he live there for long, was he there alone and what other details could I find? It's something I continue to pursue.

Any historical object can evoke emotions. It can also offer a provocation to continue delving into the information it provides, revealing nuances to shift the focus of history, to bring clarity, add a deeper knowledge to our perspective and maybe change our vision.


Sources

I'd like to thank Mr Neil Handley, Museum Curator at The College of Optometrists, for kindly giving me permission to use the photo of the trial frame above.

college-optometrists.org/museum

© 2021 Ann Carr

Comments

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on January 15, 2021:

How fabulous that you get to keep these memories. I have very little that belonged to my dad. Most of his possessions went to my brother. But I cherish was little I did get. It is something that such joy and memory can come from such little things.

Blessings,

Denise

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 15, 2021:

Thank you, Eric! I totally agree that it's just great coming across things - that's exactly what happened when I found Dad's certificate. I didn't know it existed! I have all sorts still to go through, even after all this time. I wasn't ready before but I'm ok with it all now.

Great to see you! Take care.

Ann

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 15, 2021:

I just love this piece. I so enjoy looking through and at stuff not even passed down in particular, just there after a passing. Thank God for parents.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 15, 2021:

Unfortunately, Flourish, I wasn't good at science but he did help me with my homework and exam revision! I did inherit his passion of photography though, as well as his artistic side of writing and drawing (which both parents had). Good that you have something of your Dad's too.

Thanks for visiting and leaving your kind comment and interesting input.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 15, 2021:

Thank you, Lora, for your kind comments. Yes, the dentures took me totally by surprise and I did have a second's revulsion but it was so funny! I love that photo of us too; it was a good Christmas holiday.

I appreciate your visit.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 15, 2021:

Hello, Linda. Yes, he knew me well!

It's another reason to have regular eye tests, so that anything amiss can be noticed.

Good to see you.

Ann

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 15, 2021:

I enjoyed your memories of your dad. I've often thought how unfortunate it is that children don't go into their parent's profession, especially if their parent was really good at what they did. There's so much expertise and potential mentorship there that's just unexploited. Of course, no one in my family followed in my dad's footsteps. He had deep expertise in food science and technology and now is retired. At least in your case you have your dad's equipment and other memorabilia. I enjoy my dad's 3D chemical molecule set that I used to play with as a child.

Lora Hollings on January 15, 2021:

What a beautiful tribute to your father this article is, Ann. And it is wonderful that you still have these cherished mementos of your father which keep him so close to you. That was a very funny story you told about the man who came to your house wanting his dentures fixed. I don't know how you managed to suppress your laughter! That must have been a real challenge. Your father was a hero in being able to identify diseases early and in so doing prolonging a life or even saving one. And that is such a lovely picture of you with your mom and dad!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 14, 2021:

This is a very interesting article. It was lovely to read about your father and your family’s past. I loved the comment that your father made about your own need to wear glasses. The ability of eye specialists to detect problems in other parts of the body is impressive.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

Good to see you, Cynthia! I'm glad I've given you some ideas. Decluttering is quite cleansing, isn't it? Trouble is, I end up putting many things back but I'm trying to recycle the insignificant things, to make room for things that matter.

I appreciate your kind words and your input.

Ann

Cynthia Zirkwitz from Vancouver Island, Canada on January 14, 2021:

This is a wonderful article for those like me to come across in the midst of another declutter campaign. This particular purge involves historical papers and photos. Thank you for the great ideas!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

Hi Greg! Thanks for your kind and extensive comment. Yes, that's what FSMC refers to, but those letters he was allowed to use after his name (not that he did much) actually stand for 'Fellow of the Spectacle Makers Company' - same thing I know but a shortened version. He was proud of that but didn't bandy it about, being a modest fellow.

I'm sorry to cause your dog's alarm but glad it amused you! I can still see it as though it was yesterday.

You keep safe and well too!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

That's such a lovely thing to say, Linda! Thank you. I am passionate about my history and ancestry. I'm lucky to have so many archives to refer to, many in the form of photos (thank you, Dad!) but also in objects of course.

My Mum was a terror for getting rid of stuff after Dad died; she was never the same again. I would have much more if she'd asked me if I wanted them, but what's done is done.... I don't hold it against her, though it's a shame. One of them was a wonderful photo of her as a young girl, a life-size head and shoulders which hung in the 'best room' at my grandmother's. That disappeared ages ago. She was too modest I think.

Great to have your visit today.

Ann

greg cain from Idaho, USA on January 14, 2021:

Ann, I very much loved this work, another grand addition to the History in Objects pieces you've put out there. I found on Wikipedia the precise meaning of F.S.M.C. to be "Fellowship in Optometry of the Worshipful Company of Spectacle Makers." This was such a great story, and I loved every well-written word of it. I especially enjoyed the denture anecdote! My dog lifted her head up from her pillow when I busted out laughing.

Anyway, thanks for sharing a piece of your life and times and family history. Be safe and be well.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on January 14, 2021:

Ann, how wonderful that you have all of these treasures from your family. They are priceless, and how pleased your parents would be that you have saved them and recognize their value. I feel the warmth and love in the walls of your home.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

Hello, Peggy! Great to see you today and thank you for your lovely words. Yes, I think they're really clever to detect such things, one of the many reasons I'm so proud.

Yes, eye examinations are much more technical now, though not much has fundamentally changed. It's just the results that are more detailed and being able to see pictures of one's eyes on screen is remarkable. Dad would have loved that as he was an enthusiastic technophile.

I treasure that photo, as it's unusual to have Dad on one with me or Mum. He was usually the one behind the camera!

Take care and stay well, Peggy.

Ann

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 14, 2021:

What a great memento you have of your dad's accomplishments. You are so obviously and rightfully proud of him. Eye exams have come a long way from the time you describe. It is amazing what can be seen when viewing an eye. Good optometrists can detect many diseases. Thanks for sharing your memories. That is a wonderful photo of the three of you!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

Thank you, Dora. Your words are uplifting and comforting. He does live on in my heart, with my mother, and I talk to him often. I find that writing these hubs is quite therapeutic.

Keep safe and well, Dora!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

Hi, bill! Thanks for your lovely words. He was great fun, very fair but reined me in if necessary. As long as I wasn't unkind or really naughty (hardly ever!), then there were no cross words and if there were, they were never shouted. A serious, quiet Dad meant I could be in trouble! But that's not a memory that comes to mind often. When my sister came to stay, well, we had side-splitting times all day every day!

Have a great weekend, bill!

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

Hello, Sha! Great to see you.

You've summed up my Dad to a T! They were lovely parents. Actually, the teeth did give a few seconds of revulsion, however the humour of it got the upper hand, so I recovered quickly! Laughter was a common thing in our house which was probably why we had lots of people in and out - my friends were always welcome and they all got on well with my parents. Lovely times!

Thanks for your kind comments.

Take care and have a good weekend.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

manatita: Thank you for your lovely comments and your interesting input. They were quite a couple, my parents!

Keep well!

Ann

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 14, 2021:

Your story is filled with positive emotions--joy, pride even smiles. Enjoyable! Your dad is still a blessing, evoking pleasant memories. Thank you for sharing .

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 14, 2021:

What a wonderful story! Loved learning a bit about your father. That picture of you and your parents, 1974, your father has the look of a mischief. Great smile, like he's barely suppressing a laugh. I would have liked him.

I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into the past, my friend. Thank you for sharing. The story about the dentures was a classic.

bill

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 14, 2021:

Ann, I think I would have been shocked and a bit grossed out had I opened that bag to find a set of teeth glaring at me. You and your mom covered well!

I love the Christmas photo. You dad looks like he was a lot of fun. His expression is is one of joy, light, and a touch of mischief!

I'm enjoying learning about your family history. Thanks for letting us in!

manatita44 from london on January 14, 2021:

A beautiful article of fond memories and the importance of storing or saving family documents.

I do have certificates after all and medals too. Also a cabinet of stuff in my mom's house in Grenada, W.I. I was a grown man of 21, when I left, some 47 years ago.

Yes, it is a gifted profession and the skilled can and do spot other conditions. Higher blessings to your family in the afterlife-life. Beauty is always rewarded. Peace.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

Thank you, Liz, for your kind and complimentary words. I'm enjoying writing this series, as it's so much easier to talk about history when you have a specific and personal basis. Wish I'd thought about it earlier!

I appreciate you continuing support; thank you, as always, for reading my work.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

Miebakagh: Great that you have woodwork and tools from your grandfather and that you are continuing the tradition. I think that's the key to family life, we form a link down the ages.

Thank you for reading and commenting today.

Ann

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

Thank you very much, Sankhajit. I appreciate your support. Glad you liked this.

Ann

Liz Westwood from UK on January 14, 2021:

This is a fascinating article. This well-written and interesting account gives a great insight into your father's life. The anecdote about the dentures is hilarious. Your technique of taking old objects as a base for remembering the past is a great way of engaging with old memories.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on January 14, 2021:

Ann, I can understand how serious you handling what you father hand down to you. Family heritages are histories. I inherited finished woodworks and wookwork tools from my grand father, that inspired me to do basic woodwork. Thanks.

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on January 14, 2021:

wonderful...God bless...

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on January 14, 2021:

Thank you, Pamela! Good to see you early at my door! I'm glad you enjoyed this and I appreciate your support. Yes, he was a lovely man and I still miss him terribly, 20+ years on.

Ann

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 14, 2021:

Your father sounds like a wonderful man, Ann. It is always nice to look back at special memories, especially funny ones. I enjoyed reading your article.