"A (1950's) VIEW OF AO PRODUCT ENGINEERING"
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
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
Click Here for AO Recollections
Special thanks to Marilyn for sharing her scrapbook photos!
Dick Whitney March 5, 2002
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