Some time in the spring of 1954 when I was nine and a half years old and a 4th grader I was diagnosed as near sighted. That was long before high impact plastic lenses and a very long time before contact lenses. At first I thought glasses were cool but that feeling didn’t even last until school was out.
Not one of my heroes, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Lash LaRue much less The Cisco Kid wore glasses. I just couldn’t bring myself to imagine me as any of them while wearing glasses. My eyesight at that stage couldn’t have been bad enough to preclude me from laying them aside when the urge to don my well worn felt cowboy hat, my red and black tooled leather cowboy boots. The outfit wasn’t complete without the hand tooled double holster set that Granny had made for me, which held my two Nichols six shooters but that’s what happened.
I may not have been the only fourth grader at Horace Mann Elementary to wear glasses but I felt like I was. So, I put aside my favorite things and searched for other images to emulate.
It must have been less than two months later when we learned that we would be moving to Bountiful, Utah when school was out. Dad had been promoted to a position which would put his office at a refinery in Woods Cross Utah. I wrote about the tears and anguish as Mom backed out of the driveway in Okmulgee and we headed for our new home.
On the way, I was left at Western Life Camp at the entrance to the Santa Fe National Forest in the mountains near Las Vegas New Mexico, for summer camp. Granny was the head cook and chief bottle washer there, so it really wasn’t very traumatic. When camp was over the end of June, I was headed for a new experience, where nobody knew what I looked like without glasses, so the girls had no idea how good-looking Georgie really was.
It wasn’t long after school started, only about six months, when I had to have a new pair of glasses. That was the beginning of a biannual replacement of my glasses which continued with fair regularity for the next seven years.
Two things occurred nearly simultaneously during the freshman year in high school. Georgie was waiting for Mrs. Dixon’s ninth grade speech class to get underway and cleaning his glasses while he waited. That’s when hope and dismay struck their simultaneous blows. A girl, Lynn Withey, a name I will never forget, said, You know, you would be really good looking if you didn’t have to wear glasses.“ The hope was that Georgie could be handsome if he didn’t have to wear glasses. The despair was that he knew Dad would never spend the money for the new technology known as Contact Lenses.
The next two birthdays and subsequent three Christmas’s were something of a marathon of hints, kind of like Ralphie’s quest for a Red Ryder air rifle in “A Christmas Story.” Though, Ralphie’s Christmas had a happier ending.
I had lost track of the number of prescription changes were necessary by midway through the junior year at Bountiful High School when one of Dad’s business partners came to my rescue. Bob Schubach and his brother jointly owned Schubach Jewelry and Standard Optical in Salt Lake City where I had been getting my glasses for the last six years. He made sure that Dad understood that contacts would stop the progression of my worsening eyesight and that if I didn’t get them soon, I would be legally blind within a few years. Sometime in March that year Georgie was fitted with contacts and within a week was wearing them from the moment he got up in the morning until time to go to bed. The transformation in his personality was total. As I wrote in “Dear Mom and Dad”, he was no longer Georgie he was now George.
What followed was fifty-nine years of contacts with the eventual necessity of reading glasses. Those first few years saw various incidents that involved replacing contacts, either both or on occasion just one for a variety of small, for the most part funny circumstances.
The first incident resulted from branding time on a ranch in northwest Texas where George ended up with a face full of young bovine excrement. The contacts couldn’t be worn for 3 days.
Another time was when Mom decided she needed to learn to drive the boat when it was George’s turn to water ski. Both contacts disappeared in the waters of Rumbaugh Bay on Hebgen Lake.
A third time, the right contact popped out just as George was taking a bite of wedding cake. After a fruitless search of the floor and pant cuffs he returned to the cake. Crunch! The contact had landed on the cake.
As the years wore on and lessons were learned new prescriptions were few and far between, so Bob Schubach had been right. The last pair were acquired less than 3 years ago. At the time the optometrist said that small cataracts had formed in both eyes but weren’t large enough for removal yet.
By the beginning of this year it was becoming increasingly more difficult for me to see to drive at night. The lights from oncoming vehicles glared at me. So, I finally made an appointment to have my eyes checked and the first thing the doctor told me to do was quit wearing contacts for the next six weeks. That was necessary for him to be able to make an accurate assessment of what my eyes needed …. And yes, I had cataracts in both eyes. The procedure for my right eye was scheduled for this past Thursday afternoon.
For the first time in sixty-five years I can do what I longed to do nearly that long … I can see clearly now … without glasses or contacts.