Four Eyes

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There is a shop here along the Albany Highway in the Perth metropolitan area that sells spectacles – I am not sure if they are optometrists, opticians, or just a fashion store. They have a sign out the front of the shop with their name listed as “For Eyes” and the figure 4 worked into the logo. It is a reference to the term ” four eyes ” – a perjorative used against people who wear eyeglasses. I encountered it in the stupider rural sections of Canada when I was a child and because I had to wear eyeglasses since I was 8 years old, I found it offensive.

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I still do. And I am left amazed that the owners of the shop – clever optometrists and aspiring business people that we assume them to be – would not realise that they are insulting the very clientele they wish to court. The people who have need of them do not need to be sneered at. Have they bought into a franchise that demands that name? Is Gosnells the rural Canada of Perth? Are they just arseholes?

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Well, sphincters aside, this post is not about them. It is about 1958. Actually it is about 1:15 but I really meant the year. The Year Detroit Saw Double.

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I daresay Ford and GM had spies in each other’s camps and figured out that ’58 was the year that the other guys were going to replace the two headlamps on the front of their car designs with four. So they did the same. Chrysler did too, and a few of the other manufacturers followed suit – perhaps at the behest of their own designers but more likely as a result of their sales department pointing out that a new trend was starting.

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It must have been glorious news for Delco or whoever made the lamps for the cars – double the sales in one fell swoop. It probably put a heavier electrical strain on the systems so they got more sales for re-designed wiring looms and components. And the public got just what they had not clamoured for.

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If that sounds cynical, you’re welcome. I remember the streets and highways of the time – the city ones were mostly illuminated by yellow tungsten bulbs out in the suburbs and new mercury vapour lights starting to be strung up in city centers. There were no sodium lamps. The place was slowly getting more illumination, not less. Yet , what was perfectly adequate on the front end of a sedan in 1957 was only half as good in 1958? We rarely ran into people in 1957…and we apologised for it immediately after, eh?

 

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Country trips were largely in the dark – the provincial or state authorities put reflectors on signposts on the sides of some highways and some even had rudimentary cats-eyes in the center line. It was only here that the four-lamp system might have been better, if all four lamps were shining at the same time and there were no opposing cars in the other lanes to require you to dim yours. Even for the open stretches i can recall some cars that switched off two of the four lamps when you hit the high beams. God help the Buick drivers with the complex little “Magic Eye” devices protruding from the dash that were supposed to decide when to dim the lights based upon light hitting them. If you did not set the sensitivity right the damn things were flashing up and down all night until they burned out.

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One thing, and one thing only saved the idea – if you lost one lamp on a side from a stone, you at least had another that could do something. You might not have any control over what it actually did but then that was also true of the Canadian government at the time.*

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* And those times have returned, eh?

 

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