I always ask the question what would happen to Early Man should he be down with poor vision. Certainly a dead duck when he cannot see the enemy. An accident victim perhaps; hit by a fast-moving cart when crossing the “road”. I read in an ophthalmology publication that it was Marco Polo who first saw elderly Chinese folks using spectacles around 1270. And there were only a few privileged few like the monks and scholars in Western Europe, who held the lenses in front of their eyes or balanced them on their noses.
Photo 1: Personal Heritage Collection of Spectacles
Around the world, medical professionals will be familiar with the San Francisco-based American Academy of Ophthalmology. The Academy established the Museum of Vision and the Museum has a good collection and exhibits on everything you need to know about vision and eyewear. It even has an on-line exhibition site.
Now why am I on this subject about vision?
Photo 2: If not for the spectacles, I could have walked straight at this granite boulder. Residents who live bounded by Cashew Estate, Dairy Farm and Petir Road areas would not have known there were huge granite boulders as in this picture.
For many who have met me, they know I am bespectacled. I have been wearing them since the day I went to this optician called F.J. Isacs at The Arcade in Collyer Quay in 1966. I started with a bad vision of 600 degrees (still better than Victor Koo) but in my matured years, my vision has made spectacular progress. Soon it shall be a question of when rather whether I can throw away my spectacles.
Photo 3: The optician told me it came from Porsche Carrera line (Above). Though I can’t afford a Porsche, I could still wear one. Then it hit me that I even had one from Volkswagen Motorsport (Below).
Recently I reached into my drawers and found I had some 8 dusty pairs of spectacles. The spectacles came in all type of designs but I noticed I had a preference for tortoise shell finish and in browns. Some were metal frames with glass and plastic lenses. I wondered how many spectacles I have worn from the day I went to work till now.
Assuming I wear a pair of spectacles for an average of 2.5 years and a good 30 years has have passed from then and now, that means there could have been 12 pairs of spectacles in total. It is rare that I still have some 67% in my possession. It is interesting to see the fashion trends of eye wear over time though my spectacles. I wish I knew the actual purchase year for each pair. Checking the spectacle cases, I found that I only went to see three opticians in the same period; CC Chui Optical Company, Siglap Optical and Pavilion Optics because they were closed to my place of work or my residence.
Photo 4: The slit lamp inside the examination room of a public hospital. Each examination room is called a “lane”.
One of the things I found when one visits an optician; eye-sight is tested in darkness with a manual refractor. The optician will make a judgement based on one’s reading of the Snell Chart. When I stepped out of the shop with the new spectacles, I found something was not right. Most of the time, the optician attributed that to needing time for sight adjustment.
Finally when things became critical, I visited one of our public hospitals to get a thorough eye check-up. Surprise! I was tested under bright lights by the optometrist using the auto refractor. The slit lamp was employed to magnify my eyeball and to see the eye structure in 3D. To my question, she replied that people see things in bright lights and to test under darkness condition presents errors for lens prescription. Besides checking for refraction, I also had my eyes scanned for other possibilities. Once done, I was given a prescription and off I went to the optician to order a new pair of frames. From that day, I never had dizziness or seeing slight curvatures.
Photo 5: Andy Lim in sun-glasses. Do you know which brand is used by “Yul Brynner”?
I like to think that spectacles can also be heritage items. Would you think the National Archives of Singapore be interested in my spectacles? While you think for an answer, I am already reading up on the subject of 6/6 vision by removing the worn-out lens in our retina. I say this because I am hoping that I can join Andy Lim of soon.
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