By Darla Sathre (from The Depot Express newsletter, Summer 2014)
Eyesight is something we tend to take for granted until we have a problem. I have worn glasses since childhood, but recently got a new prescription. I am now wearing trifocals with lines. They take a little getting used to, and the first time I wore them in the museum archive room my eyes felt a little dizzy. Nothing major, just some adjustment issues on my part involving moving my head up and down trying to focus on newspaper articles. So when I noticed a 1907 Bemidji Daily Pioneer article about a local optometrist office I got sidetracked. A picture of an eye halfway through an article is what really caught my attention. The article’s headline read “DRS. LARSON AND LARSON INSTALL ELECTRIC SIGN.” The sign they had installed was a large reproduction of an eye. It was wired to wink at passersby!
Before Bemidji had an optometry office, Dr. C. J. Larson had an office in Park Rapids. Several times a year he would come to the Hotel Remore in Bemidji and stay a few days seeing eye patients. Then in September 1906, Dr. Carl J. Larson and Dr. Erick W. Larson started their Drs. Larson and Larson optometry business in Bemidji. It is obvious that they kept up-to-date in their profession. By early 1908 they had a lens grinder in their office. In March 1909 they acquired the new De Zeng’s Luminous Retinoscope and Opthalmoscope. In 1909, Dr. E. W. Larson completed a post-graduate course at the New York Institute of Optometry. He then passed an exam to be qualified as an optometrist in North Dakota as well.
Drs. Larson and Larson had various locations over the years, sometimes residing in the same building as their office. Locations included: the Mayo block, over the post office, over Boardman’s Drug Store, 401½ Beltrami Avenue, and two doors west of the 3rd Street Café. At one time their residence was 515 Bemidji Avenue.
Dr. Carl Larson was also a clarinetist and a member of the City of Bemidji band. He died in 1963 at the age of 85. One of his daughters, Bea, was also an optometrist.
Of course, Bemidji has been home to many other optometrists. While looking for stories about others, I got sidetracked by a story involving the father of former Bemidji optometrist Dr. James Davey. Both father and son were Dr. James Davey. The elder was an ear, nose, and throat specialist in Chicago. He once removed a cyst from the ear of Homer Onassis – you know, the father of Aristotle who was married to Jackie Kennedy. Anyway, this surgery saved Homer’s life and in gratitude he gave the doctor an Italian custom-made nickel bed. About twenty years ago this bed was up for auction, with a minimum bid of $100.000. I am sorry to tell you that I do not know if it sold (or to whom or for how much money) because as I started to dig for more facts I once again became sidetracked. Besides, I have to go now to clean my new glasses. Maybe that is part of my adjustment problem!
Images from the Bemidji Daily Pioneer, July 25, 1907 & the Bemidji Daily Pioneer, March 27, 1909.