Recalling the AO St. Louis Branch
By Bill Meppiel
I was compelled to write someone from American Optical due to a very vivid dream that I had last night. When I woke this morning it took me several hours to get my bearings straight as to if I still worked for American Optical or not. Once I determined that I had not worked for American Optical for some 30 years it was quite an emotional let down.
I worked at an American Optical branch (cannot recall the branch number,
maybe 618) in Saint Louis, MO on Clark Street from 1972 --1980. After
working briefly in the office, I moved into the lab and five years later
become a journeyman in the finishing department. I followed in my father's
footsteps who owned a wholesale optical company and worked for a retail
optical company his whole life. (Crest Optical, Ace Optical, Midland Optical,
Alvin Optical and Lauer Enloe Opticians to name a few) The branch where
I worked at the time was managed by Paul Yusteler (forgive the spelling)
who hired me on. I have reflected back on my eight years with AO
many times in my life. Without a doubt, working for American Optical was
and still is the highlight and one of the most treasured memories of my
entire life. I still remember the first and last names of everyone
that ever worked there, and could goon for days about the different comical
experiences that I experienced while working there. I have not been
in the optical business for a number of years now, but I still to this
day drive by the building where I worked for American Optical. I
still from time to time want to stop and visit that building just to see
what memories might jump back into my mind. That "pilgrimage" is
still on my "things to do before I die" list. I spent an entire 29
years in the optical business that included AO, Mueller Optical, Midland
Optical, Lauer Enloe Opticians, Mercy Optical and finally Unity Eyecare.
Since then, about 10 years ago, I moved into the IT field and have been
working for AT&T. I can look out of my window from the 37th floor
of AT&T and still see the old AO building. The only bad memory
that I can recall was when I found out that I was losing my job due to
cutbacks and eventually that branch
>closing. And even that experience, as dismal as it might be, still had a comical twist to it.
Just to note, the optical community of folks from back then really stuck
together. I was amazed when in my father's passing in June of 2005,
that I was greeted by so many people that me and my father had
worked with in the optical business. Some I knew but most I didn't. That is the way things were in the optical business. What a wonderful community of people and what a shame that things are not that way anymore.
It saddens me to think that there are probably very few, if any, surviving
co-workers of mine from that period. I was one of the "young guys"
when I worked there. But I still ponder from time to time what
ever happened to those folks. I pray they and their families fair well. I only know of the status of several of those fellow employees, unfortunately there are now deceased. I am hoping that possibly my name can be passed around in addition to the location of the branch where I worked, if anything, just to see if anyone that I may have worked with is still in some way associated with AO or an AO Alumni ofsome kind. I would give anything to have some pictures of thatbuilding where it was American Optical and pictures of the inside and even the folks that worked there.
Well, need to get to work. I just had to write this letter to someone that is still involved with American Optical.
Have a great day!
1971 AO Product Directory Catalogue
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AO "In Memory of Page"- Honoring Employees who are deceased
Dick Whitney March 14, 2007
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