I think it is probably because I am getting older that harkens my mind back to a time when life was a lot simpler, and I find myself longing for those days. The reason could be because I grew up in a small town in the midst of a farming community where everyone knew my name. Maybe it was because I never locked a door, or took the keys out of the ignition of a car unless I was in another area. Or, it could have just been that life really was a lot less complicated in the fiftyís? Donít get me wrong though. I have embraced technology with a vengeance. There is no way I want to go back to typing on a manual typewriter, complete with 2 or 3 sheets of carbon paper to make 3 or 4 copies. I like being able to write a letter and send it as an attachment to an e mail to as many people as I want, or need to send it to. Then I can save the document to a file in my hard drive instead of in an old metal filing cabinet. I like having telephones that I can walk around with in my pocket instead of being hard wired to a wall phone. I like knowing when my phone rings that the call is for me, and I donít have to listen for 5 longs and 3 short rings so I know it is our number on the party line. I like being able to go to an ATM and get cash from my bank account whenever I want it instead of waiting for 10 am on Monday morning for the bank doors to open. I like watching DVDís of movies on my color television set. So I donít actually want to go back to that simpler time, but it is nice to reflect back on those days, the days before contact lenses spoiled my pleasures of viewing girls who wore glasses.
On Friday nights during the school year our community center held dances for the youth in the community. The only way that anyone from my age group would not attend was if they were lying in bed at deathís door and I donít think I missed a Friday night dance at the center from the day I turned 14, until I got my driverís license shortly after my 16th birthday. However, just going to a dance didnít mean that I had actually worked up the courage to ask any of the girls to dance. Now as I look back at these dances I realize that all of the girls I had crushes on were the nicer looking, more popular girls, and most of them had boyfriends already. But of course I didnít realize that I should have started out by asking some of the less popular girls to dance as a way to learn to dance better, and overcome my shyness. I blamed my failure to connect with a girl on the fact that there were no available girls that attracted me.
After I got my drivers license I was able to go to dances in nearby towns, where the girls didnít know me as a bashful shy kid. Now I was someone new Ė a mysterious stranger wearing black half Wellingtons, with a pair of pressed black jeans, and a western shirt with snap buttons. I was considered to be good looking Ė even my ducktail haircut was what all the guys were wearing. And, somehow, when I was away from the girls that I went to school with every day, I managed to overcome my shyness enough to ask girls to dance. One Friday night my friend Tim and I had taken my dadís old 4 door Pontiac to a nearby town that held similar Friday night dances at their community hall. Tim was a more aggressive person than I was, and we had only been inside for a few minutes when he nudged me, and told me that there were 2 girls over at the wall that didnít look bad.
"Ok, Iíll go along with you if I can have my pick." I said.
"Hey, they both look pretty decent to me. But I know you want the one with the light brown hair, so Iíll take the girl with the long black hair." Tim replied.
"Thatís all right by me. Letís go before someone else beats us to them." I said.
So we sauntered over to the 2 girls, preening ourselves like peacocks. Once we got closer I was pleased to see that they were both nice looking girls. Timís selection was a bit prettier, but mine was a little better endowed in the chest department. We introduced ourselves just in time, because a few minutes later the disc jockey started to spin the records. Of course the first song was a song I couldnít have danced to if my life depended on it, so while Tim took off with Nancy to dance; I sat with Rosemary and tried to chat over the music. Tim and Nancy stayed on the floor for the second song, and it was one I could dance to, so I asked, and Rosemary and I walked onto the dance floor.
She felt nice, snuggled into my chest as we did the 2 step to the music. And I didnít even step on her foot, so I was happy. The next song was a fast one, and we danced to that one as well. I was going to turn and walk back to the chairs we had saved, expecting Rosemary to follow, but she stayed standing, as if she expected me to dance to the next song.
"Sorry, I didnít realize you wanted to dance to this one." I said.
"I donít really, but I have a confession to make." Rosemary said.
"Whatís that?" I asked as we walked together to the chairs.
"I am not wearing my glasses, and I donít see very well. I couldnít see where you had gone, and I was afraid to move." Rosemary replied.
ĎIf your eyesight is that bad why arenít you wearing your glasses?" I asked.
"Nancy said I wouldnít get anyone to dance with me if I wore them. They look pretty awful." Rosemary told me.
"I wonít mind if you put them on. I am sure they donít look that bad." I said
Up to this point I really hadnít thought too much about glasses. I did have a strange affinity towards them, and I knew I had a bit of a fascination for the lenses that different people had to wear. I suppose it went back to my grade 1 and 2 teacher, who wore very strong glasses, and I used to stare at them all the time and wonder how anyone could possibly see out of such weird looking lenses. And, of course, whenever any of the girls in my class got glasses I was always more interested in watching them. But, at this point in my life, I wasnít sure if I liked glasses, or if I hated them. I just knew I didnít want to have to wear them.
So, when we got back to the seats, Rosemary had me help her find her purse. She dug inside, and took out her glasses. They werenít even in a case, and when I commented she told me that she didnít carry her case because she never took them off. When she put them on, and I was able to get a good look at them I realized that they were pretty powerful glasses. As I looked at her eyes through the lenses I could see that her eyes were a lot smaller, and when I looked at her face, I could see the sides of her face inside the lenses. But, she really didnít look that bad to me. I kind of liked the looks of her glasses. They were definitely strong enough that she had to wear them, unlike some of the girls I knew. Their glasses almost looked like plain glass to me, and I sometimes wondered why they bothered wearing them.
"They look quite nice on you. I donít know why you didnít wear them." I said.
"Every time I have worn them to a dance I have never been asked to dance. So tonight Nancy told me to leave my glasses off, and she would help me find my way around. But, it looks as if she has found her guy, and I am so helpless without my glasses I have to wear them now." Rosemary replied.
"And you havenít found your guy?" I said enquiringly.
"Well, maybe I have if my glasses donít scare you off. But tell me the truth Ė would you have asked me to dance if I was wearing my glasses?" Rosemary asked.
"Glasses donít scare me away. Lots of girls wear glasses." I replied, not answering her question because I really didnít know.
"But not as thick as mine. I have the strongest glasses in the whole school. After I got these new glasses last year I found out they were stronger than our home economics teacher who we all thought wore really thick glasses. And what is worse is that I think I need stronger glasses again." Rosemary replied.
That was the end of our glasses conversation. Rosemary left her glasses on the rest of the evening, and she and I danced to a number of songs. I quite liked her, and I was beginning to be fascinated by her glasses. Nancy and Tim and Rosemary and I went out to the car together, and we drove the girlís home. But before I left Rosemary at her house I asked her for a date the following Friday night, and she accepted.
So, that began a routine. I could only have the car, complete with gas on Friday nights, and since I had to work for my dad the next day I needed to be home in time to get some sleep. One of the conditions of having the car was that I couldnít miss a Saturday at work. But summer was coming, and once I was working all summer I would have my own money to pay for the gas, and then I could have the car more frequently. But Rosemary and I were having fun together. Some nights we would go to a movie. Other nights we would just drive off in the car to find a private parking place, where we would sit and listen to the radio, and neck, and talk. I liked those nights, as Rosemary would take her glasses off, and we would kiss and hug and pet. But we never went any further than that. One Friday night Rosemary seemed a little down.
"Something is bothering you, isnít it? Is it something I have done?í I asked.
"No, itís not you. I didnít want to tell you, but I guess I am going to have to. I had to have my eyes tested again last week, and I need new glasses." Rosemary told me.
I knew she needed new glasses. The last couple of movies we had gone to had us sitting pretty close to the front so she could see.
"You need them, so whatís the problem?" I asked.
"My eyes have gotten a lot worse, and my glasses will be thicker. You will hate me, and you wonít want to be seen with me." Rosemary was almost crying as she said this.
"Donít worry honey. It is you that I like, and I donít care how thick your glasses get." I replied.
"Well, my doctor said they were probably going to get a lot thicker. I have something called progressive myopia, and my eyes are going to get worse and worse." Rosemary said between sobs.
I could understand her concerns. She wasnít quite 17 yet, and already her glasses were pretty thick. I understood even better a couple of weeks later when I saw her wearing her new glasses for the first time. She told me that her new prescription was -10, and it was more than a diopter stronger than her old prescription. I didnít know a thing about this, but 10 seemed like a pretty high number to me. Her new glasses were in a pretty blue frame of a type known as cateyes. The front of each lens was completely flat, and they reflected things in a strange way. The pointed part of the lens stuck out behind the frame a lot more than her old lenses did, and when I asked about that she told me that these were a new type of lens. They were plastic, to make them lighter to wear, but for some reason they had to be a little thicker than the glass lenses had been. It didnít take long though before I got used to seeing Rosemary wearing her new glasses, and I was just happy she could see fairly well again. Now we didnít have to sit on top of the screen at the movies.
By this time Rosemary and I were a couple. She had developed very nicely, and her figure was definitely one to be admired by all the guys. I had picked her up early a couple of times when we had real bands playing, and we had driven over to my town to go to my local community center dance. Most of my friends had seen me with Rosemary, and they all admired her figure. But it surprised me that none of them could get past her glasses, and I heard many unkind remarks about my blind girlfriend. Even my mom had let a couple of derogatory comments about Rosemaryís eyesight slip in my presence Ė even though I knew that she thought that Rosemary was a nice girl, and she thought she had been a good influence on me. I decided that I didnít really care about the comments, and mom didnít constantly harp at me about finding a girl who didnít wear glasses, so I kept going out with Rosemary. Certainly, I was a normal guy who looked at other girls, but I noticed that more often than not I was looking at a girl who wore glasses. And, not one of these other girls I looked at could compare to Rosemary in the figure, or glasses department.
I left school after graduation, and took an apprenticeship at the local auto body repair shop. My parents were not thrilled about this, as they had hopes of me attending university. But I had dreams of being another George Barris, whose creations were on the covers of all the hot rod magazines I read. Rosemary was almost 18 months younger than I was, and had 2 more years to go before she graduated. So I had 2 years to build up enough money for us to buy a house, and then get married. I did work as many extra hours as I could at the shop, and I was able to buy a 55 Ford 2 door hardtop really cheaply. It had a blown engine, so my buddy Tim, who now worked as a mechanic at the local new car dealership, helped me put a motor from a wrecked 56 Buick in the car. Swapping a Buick nailhead into a Ford was fairly common, and Moon Equipment had an adapter kit that allowed the Buick to bold right up to the Ford bellhousing, so for a couple of hundred bucks I had a running 55 Ford. Then it was time for me to work my magic on the car. I didnít want to do anything radical, so I just lowered it in the back, shaved all the excess chrome off it, and painted it a candy apple red. It didnít take long. A few weeks of driving this car around town, and over to the town where Rosemary lived to pick her up for our dates, and I had a number of very profitable offers for this car. I wasnít quite ready to sell it yet. I was doing a car for Tim in return for his help with my car, and I knew that once both the cars were on the road we would likely have more work than we could do. This was exactly what happened. Tim and I ended up working until dark every night, either swapping motors, or hopping up stock motors for guys. And I was doing the body work on all the cars. Guys were bringing their cars to us from about a 50 mile radius, as we had become known as the "can do" guys.
I donít know how long it might have gone on this way if Tim hadnít been fired from his job. He had been right on track with his apprenticeship for his mechanicís license, but his employer was upset with all the time he was spending working on cars on his own. Tim and I both had another year to go before we could write the final papers for our license. He was pretty upset with loosing his job, and he knew that neither of the other shops in town would take him on as a mechanic so he could finish and get his ticket. It was my dad who came up with the idea. Dad suggested that we rent a shop of our own, and as soon as we were busy enough we could hire a licensed mechanic who could then have Tim work under him. This would have meant me leaving my job as well, but I didnít want to do that, and Ralph, the man I worked for, had been really great with me. So I talked things over with Ralph. I didnít realize it, but Ralph knew that much of the work we had in the shop was from people who wanted me to work on their cars and Ralph had already figured out that if I left his work would drop off considerably. So Ralph came up with a solution. He would sell Tim and I his shop, and he would stay on as a licensed bodyman at least until I had my license. And Ralph was also a licensed mechanic, so this meant that he could sign for Tim as well. Dad thought this was a great idea, and since Tim and I were a few months away from being of age, Dad signed all the necessary papers. Tim and I were now the proprietors of the only Rod and Custom shop in the area.
Tim was still going out with Nancy, and Tim asked Nancy to marry him before Rosemary and I had set a date. So, I ended up being best man for Timís wedding, and Rosemary was Nancyís maid of honor. Nancy and Rosemary were 18 now, and they had just graduated. Rosemary had a couple more increases in her prescription in the last year or so, and now her glasses looked really thick. They were now dished in at the front, as well as in the rear, and the reflections looked pretty strange. But, I had gotten so used to Rosemary with her strong glasses that it didnít bother me at all. I actually liked it that she was so unusual, and she stood out in a crowd, although she didnít share my views.
Tim and Nancy had settled into their rented house and Nancy was taking an accounting course so she could do the paperwork for the business. I was shocked the first time Nancy was working in the office. I went in to get something, and there she was working on the ledger wearing a pair of glasses. When she looked up at me I could tell that these were not the same type of glasses that Rosemary wore, as they magnified her eyes. I think I made a comment something like "nice glasses", but I donít remember.
A few months later I felt that I had enough money saved for a good down payment on a house. So Rosemary and I selected a home within walking distance of the shop. It was only a 2 bedroom bungalow, but the back yard was a decent size, so we could add on to the house if and when we needed to. We set the wedding date for early in September, and spent hours going over the details.
A couple of weeks before the wedding I went over to pick Rosemary up on a Friday night. She came to the door to greet me, and the first thing I noticed was that she wasnít wearing glasses. Rosemary had told me that there were things called contact lenses that people could wear instead of glasses, but they were pretty expensive. So as we drove off I asked her where her glasses were.
"My eyes got worse again when I had my exam a few weeks ago. So my doctor suggested that I try contact lenses because he heard that wearing them helped stop your eyes from getting even worse. I just got them 4 days ago, and I have been trying to wear them." Rosemary told me.
"How do you like them so far?" I asked.
"The first time I put them in at the doctorís office it was like my eyes were on fire they hurt so much. But after I wore them for a few hours they were not quite as bad. Then I had to go back and they helped me take them out. The next day I put them in by myself, and I wore them for 4 hours. They didnít feel quite as bad, and I was able to take them out myself. Then yesterday I wore them again for 4 hours. This is what you have to do. You wear them for 4 hours for the first week, and then you increase it to 5 for another week. From then on, every week you have to wear them an hour longer, until you get to a point where you can wear them for a maximum of 12 hours. And I have to wear my glasses for one whole day every week to give my eyes a rest." Rosemary told me.
"That would be way too much trouble for me. Iíd just wear the glasses." I replied.
"Well, you are not me. I didnít ask to have really bad eyes. And I am so blind without my glasses that I canít imagine how I could be even blinder. So, if these contact lenses will help stop my eyes from getting worse I will put up with all the aggravation." Rosemary said.
That ended the discussion. And Rosemary wore contact lenses pretty much all the time she was out in public from then on. I suppose it should have made me feel better, because now she got a lot more stares, and I could tell a lot of guys envied me being with her. And of course she wore her contacts for the wedding. I still got to see her wearing glasses around the house a lot, and I was very happy to come home for lunch the one day of the week that she had to wear her glasses all day. And she was right. Her most recent pair of glasses was definitely thicker and a bit uglier than her previous pair. This pair had the same curve on the front, but the lenses had to be placed forward in the frame about a quarter of an inch, and there was a good half inch of lens showing behind the frame. Even so, the temples barely folded closed. And I loved seeing her wearing them.
As so often happens, by the time she was 19 Nancy became pregnant. She had been having trouble keeping up with all the paperwork and Rosemary had been coming in to help her with payroll 2 days a week. We now had 5 employees including Ralph, and Tim had just written his mechanicís license. I had my time in for my bodymanís ticket, but we were so busy I hadnít been able to take the time for the final schooling, and exam. I was busy supervising the addition to the shop, as the old shop was going to be turned over to Tim for the mechanical modifications, and I was going to have a new body shop, complete with a state of the art paint booth. We were busy enough for all of this, and more, so Nancy couldnít keep up by herself. Now Rosemary was going to have to take over, and Nancy was going to help out when she could.
I could have bet on it, and I would have won. I figured that since Rosemary was going to be at the shop 5 days a week that she could choose to wear her contact lenses all week, and she would choose either Saturday, or Sunday for her day in glasses. I figured Saturday would be the most likely, since Sunday was often spent visiting parents or friends, and I was correct. Since she had gotten her contacts Rosemary had a definite aversion to being out in public wearing glasses. I used to try to get her to go out somewhere with me on Saturday afternoons after I closed the shop, but unless it was over to see her younger sister and her husband and new baby, most of my suggestions for outings were nixed. I donít know if Rosemary felt comfortable with her younger sister seeing her in glasses or if it was because her younger sister wore glasses with a reasonably strong prescription as well that allowed Rosemary to go there wearing glasses.
It was strange. Neither of Rosemary or Bettyís parents wore glasses, except for reading glasses. But both girls wore glasses. Betty had a prescription that was probably around -10D, and she didnít seem to have had the myopic progression that Rosemary had. Although Betty was 2 years younger than Rosemary she had not had a prescription change since she was 15, and there were none of the telltale signs saying that she needed stronger glasses that I had often noticed with Rosemary. I did wonder if the girlís myopia would be passed on to their children, as my mother had told me that it was a distinct likelihood that our kids would need glasses.
By the time Rosemary and I had been married for 5 years we decided that we would like to start a family. Rosemaryís eye doctor told her that she needed to have a caesarian section rather than trying for natural childbirth, because the pushing that was required for a natural birth could give her a retinal detachment in her eyes. Rosemary had required a yearly increase in both her contact lens and her glasses prescription over the past 5 years, and now her glasses had little circles in the center of the lenses that she had to see through. I had made the mistake one time of commenting that her doctor must have been wrong when he suggested that contact lenses would stop her eyes from getting worse. That got me the silent treatment for a couple of days, because I hadnít realized that Rosemary really feared that her eyes would get so bad that she would be blind one day. I should have known better, because I had gotten the same silent treatment the time I had noticed her working on the books with her nose quite close to the page, the same as I had noticed her doing when she was reading one of the many romance novels she often read. I commented that it was bad for her eyes to be so close to what she was reading, and she didnít say a word Ė not for 3 days. Then she told me that she had to get so close because the printing was so tiny. I hadnít realized that her strong lenses made everything a lot smaller then normal.
I wasnít unhappy when about 3 months into the pregnancy Rosemary had to stop wearing her contact lenses and start wearing her glasses all the time. At the same time her doctor had to increase her prescription another diopter, and for the very first time I saw her prescription slip. I read the numbers and they were OD -23.50 x -2.50 x 135 and OS -22.75 x -3.00 x 90. Not knowing what they meant I asked the doctor if that was really that strong of a prescription.
"I have been practicing for 25 years now, and Rosemary has the strongest prescription of any of my patients. I will be retiring in another 15 years, and I doubt that I will ever see another patient with that strong a script." he said.
"I guess that means that her eyes are pretty bad then. Will they still get worse?" I asked.
"No one can tell. I thought that having her wear contact lenses might slow the progression down, and maybe it did. There is no way to know now. She is almost 24, and I am pretty sure that her eyes should stabilize by the time she is 25, but again there is no way of knowing. I would suggest that she wear her old glasses for reading and doing close work though. Some doctors feel that this might help, and I know Rosemary reads a lot, and she does the bookkeeping for your garage, so it is worth a try. I would suggest bifocals, but with the biconcave myodiscs Rosemary needs for her prescription there is no way we can get a bifocal." he told us.
So, Rosemary took the doctorís advice. She wore her old glasses when reading. She was fortunate in that she was able to keep working until she was almost 9 months along, and she only stayed home for about a week before our first daughter was born. But that was all right, as Nancy was now able to return to work full time. Her oldest son was at school, and the baby was being looked after by the wife of one of out mechanics. It was strange looking at Nancy now. She had gone to full time glasses wear, and I could see the bifocal sections in her fairly strong plus lenses. I had mentioned the fact that it was strange that Nancy was wearing glasses now to my wife, and Rosemary told me that Nancy had worn glasses in High School, but she never wore them out of the classroom.
After Michelle was born I was pretty happy that Rosemary didnít jump back into wearing her contact lenses. Now she seemed to be a little more willing to appear in public wearing her glasses. And by the time she was pregnant for the second time I couldnít remember the last time she had worn her contacts. With the hard lenses she wore it was not possible to stop wearing contacts for a few weeks, and then start wearing them full time again. You had to go through the whole getting used to them again routine. At the time there were new contacts on the market that were soft and flexible, but Rosemary was not a candidate for them, as she had a fair amount of astigmatism, and the soft contacts would not correct the astigmatism, so she never tried them. I never tired of seeing my wife wear her myodiscs.
As time went on our daughter Michelle started school and it was discovered that she was nearsighted and needed to wear glasses full time. And when Erin, our second born was 3, it was discovered that she was quite nearsighted as well. Shel was like her aunt Betty. Her progression was not as severe as her motherís had been, but Erin had full blown myopia, as did Bettyís daughter Carrie. Tim and Nancyís oldest son Steve didnít wear glasses but their youngest boy Blair wore quite strong plus glasses. I took Erin for her eye exam just before the eye doctor retired, and after she was finished being examined I mentioned to the doctor that if he were to stay around he was likely to see a couple of patients with higher prescriptions than Rosemary, as both Erin, and her cousin Brenda were wearing prescriptions of around -20D, and Erin was only 13, although Brenda was 18. He told me that that didnít count, because the girls were both from the same family, so high myopia was quite likely to happen in cases like that.
Tim and I had done well with out business. We had rods from all over the country coming to our shop, and we did some cutting edge work. Steve, Timís oldest son helped around the shop after school, and I could tell that he was quite interested in mechanics, so I had hopes that we might have a next generation to carry on. But Blair, with his strong plus glasses was the one that surprised me. Blair was always drawing pictures of cars, and most of his drawings were really good. It didnít disappoint me at all when Blair and my oldest daughter Michelle began dating. They were only a year apart in age, and I knew that it was serious a few weeks after they began dating. I noticed that Michelle was no longer wearing contacts.
"Are your lenses bothering you Honey?" I asked one morning as Michelle was getting ready for school.
"No, not really dad." Michelle said.
"So what is it?" I pressured.
"Well, Blair canít wear contacts." Michelle told me.
I knew that, and I didnít have to press any further for a reason. That is when I knew that there would definitely be a second generation in the business. And all this started with me picking up a girl at a dance.