American Optical History
Recollections of Former AO Employees

By: Marilyn Houghton Cass


t was June of 1954 when I began my job as Executive Secretary at American Optical Company for Donald B. Whitney, Product Engineering Manager. I had recently graduated from Fisher College in Boston and was engaged to be married to Bill, whom I've known since our high school days in Vermont.

All the members of the Product Engineering Department were like a close-knit family, so friendly and helpful to a young Miss in their midst. Don's integrity and expertise in developing lens products made him a leader at AO. Besides Don, there were other Engineers in the Department - Wesley Reed, Henry Fernald, Robert Innis, Roger Wadsworth and Arline Rayner. Arthur Dupre worked in a separate office making ophthalmic lenses, and also within the Department was a photographic development laboratory.

What a busy Department it was, with many business visitors meeting with Don and the others. Sometimes I was asked to meet visitors at the Main Plant and escort them to our Department. Don's phone was ringing often, and it was a challenge to type my shorthand notes in between. The work was varied and interesting to me, including the many product development projects and learning about photography.

Many times I was asked to deliver reports and letters to various offices at AO, particularly to the Process Engineering Department. In those days, it was customary for secretaries to wear dress shoes to work, and once in a heavy downpour, I carried my best shoes to keep them dry and ran barefoot to my car. One scary time the elevator in the Lensdale Plant was stuck between floors, and several of us had to climb out! A favorite pastime for many was to visit the AO Store in the Main Plant to check out the latest eyewear and accessories.

The August 1955 Flood will long be remembered by the people at American Optical Company in Southbridge, MA. Don Whitney took many colored slides, and some of us ordered duplicates which show gobs of glass everywhere on the AO grounds.

Some wonderful times were had at Product Engineering Department get-togethers at the homes of Don and Jan Whitney, Wes and Ginny Reed, and Arline and Norman Rayner. The Whitneys hosted a lovely kitchen shower for Bill and me after Bill's graduation from B.U. Law School, and the Lensdale secretaries treated me with a nice shower at the Publick House. Several AO personnel attended our June 1956 wedding in Vermont.

That September I left AO to join Bill at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and the following May, I returned to work at AO while Bill was stationed in Korea. During that time, I worked at the Bureau of Visual Science in the Main Plant and in Purchasing at the Research Center.

The memories of being Executive Secretary for the AO Product Engineering Department in the Lensdale Plant will always be special to me.

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Special thanks to Marilyn for sharing her scrapbook photos!

Dick Whitney March 5, 2002

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