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Millinocket Optometrists

Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!

By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum

If your eyesight wasn’t the best in early 1900’s Millinocket, there wasn’t much you could do about it. The first mention of anyone to see for failing eyesight was Leo Warren who advertised himself as an optician (one who makes and supplies eyeglasses). An advertisement in the program for the Millinocket C.L.U. Labor Day celebration in 1908 mentioned Warren as a jeweler and optician who did engraving of all kinds.

The December 1925 issue of the Merchants Bulletin has an ad from Charles K. Sleight, Optometrist and Manufacturing Optician. It shows a young boy seated at a school desk with a large stack of books nearby. The caption states, “How Does Your Boy Stand in School?” The ad continues. “Many a school child having a poor school record and a reputation of being backward and lazy is simply a victim of defective eyesight.” It explains that periodic visits to Dr. Sleight “will assure your children of correct vision at all times.” Dr. Sleight was trained to do examinations, fit glasses grind lenses and repair frames.

Dr. Sleight’s office was upstairs in the building across from the original Millinocket Fire Station on Penobscot Avenue. That building, from about 1921 was Whalen’s Drug Store, later Wilson’s Jewelry. As was the custom, various doctors’ offices were often located on the second floor above a retail store of some kind.

A recent donation to the museum is a frosted glass sign, about 24” x 26”, from an office door. It is from the office of G.H Leavitt, a local optometrist from 1935 to 1976. Dr. Leavitt’s office was above Whalen’s Drug Store. Many locals will remember walking through that door with these words on it…G.H. Leavitt O.D., Optometrist, Eyes Examined, Walk In. Another similar sign donated to the museum is from Dr. Shippee’s optometry office. He started his practice in Millinocket on the second floor of the same building.

As part of the medical display at the museum are several pairs of vintage eyeglasses and cases, some of which may have been the result of a visit to one of the above-mentioned optometrists. There is also a wooden eye chart from the GNP First Aid room. The big letter at the top of the chart is a W, not the E people are used to these days.

Whalen’s was a Rexall Store with a pharmacy and a full line of Rexall products. In addition, the drug store sold several lines of cosmetics, toiletries, Zenith hearing aids, and Parker Pens and Eversharp pencils. Anyone with a sweet tooth could purchase name brand chocolates. For children, the store stocked a wide variety of 5 cent candy plus all flavors of ice cream at the soda fountain.

Signs from any former local businesses are great additions to the museum collection as are any advertising materials and photos/scans of interiors and business owners and employees. The collection is growing…come in and share your stories and more!

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