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Austintown optician ending 58-year run

June 21, 2018
J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

On Friday (June 15) an outdoor tent was set up at Optical Solutions, 6006 Mahoning Ave. to house food, a frame trunk show and giveaways, all to honor retiring optician Emmett Woodrum

"He is just a great person to work with and to be around," said office manager Sue Moran.

During the party in the parking lot, Woodrum was able to talk with guests and reminisce about how he got started in the profession so many years ago.

Article Photos

Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier

Optician Emmett Woodrum enjoyed Friday as the staff at Optical Solutions, 6006 Mahoning Ave. in Austintown celebrated his upcoming retirement after 58 years in the profession.

Woodrum is a 1957 graduate from Columbus Aquinas High School. The following year he went into the service and became a member of the medical corps in the U.S. Army's 60th Station Hospital in France. Like most young men serving in the armed forces, Woodrum sent money home to his mother, which later caused him some tax problems.

"I had claimed my mother as a dependent," he said. "I had to pay some taxes back on that one."

After working in the medical corps and in the children's ward in France, Woodrum was discharged and returned to the states with the intent to get into a field for eye care. His first job was with White Haynes, on North High St. in Columbus, which was a 37 store chain that operated a lab where lenses and frames were made.

"The manager [at White Haynes] asked if I wanted to become an optician," Woodrum said. "That took me to training in Detroit where eye glasses were manufactured."

After training he ended up in Zanesville working for eye surgeon Martin Letson M.D. From there he moved to Cleveland to learn more about contact lenses. He ended up working for Colston Optical in Cleveland until 1962 when he was transferred to Sears Optical on Market Street in Youngstown. That was the building that is today known as the Mahoning County annex near the merging of Market Street and Southern Boulevard.

"While at Sears, I managed the optical department," he said. "I had the honor of adjusting glasses for George Burns and Gracie Allen."

From Sears he went back into an office setting on the fifth floor of the Home Savings and Loan Building in downtown Youngstown. He was working for Dr. John L. Keyes, who lived in Cleveland and commuted daily by train to Youngstown. In those days, opticians were not licensed.

He continued to move around, working in Warren for Don P. Simon, at Town Optical in Youngstown with Jack McMacken and in 1975 moved over to Eyecare Associates, located near the South Side Hospital on Hillman Street.

In 1977, Woodrum decided to open his own business and did so with Eye World in Boardman. That lasted a short time and because of a tough economy, he was forced to close his business and go on the road as an eye glass salesman.

"I went on the road for about a year," he said. "I had to do what it took as I was supporting a family with five children."

In 1982 he got a break when a position opened up with Optiview Vision Center, which later was taken over by Optical Solutions. The takeover included a contract with General Motors, which brought good business traffic through the doors in Austintown.

"This is the store I am leaving the profession from," Woodrum said. "Sue Moran is the store manager now and she is carrying on the long-standing traditions and quality service that we have long been known for."

"It was 58 years ago that I looked at my first eye," he said. "Now I will officially retire at the end of June. I haven't given retirement a lot of thought, but I believe my wife Janet will help me out."

He said over his life, raising a family of seven has been all work and little time for much else. He thinks about traveling, but he still has two at home to get through school.

His two 16-year-old sons Jermy and Joshua are sophomores at Fitch.

When asked what he will miss the most after retiring, he said it is hard to answer.

"It is hard to say because I put all my time and effort, hopes and dreams into achieving a better life for my family," Woodrum said. "I haven't yet met that goal, but with God's discretion I know everything will be alright in the end."

His family will be sure to keep Woodrum busy. He has seven children, nine grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Woodrum will officially retire at the end of June.



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