WHITMAN — Dr. George Leavitt III, 80, has always welcomed his patients to the optometric practice which has been in his family for 100 years with a sign in the entry way: “The doctor is in please be seated.”
In June, the business will close with his retirement.
He laughed when he realized that, all these years, most families who come in often don’t sit. The younger patients run for the toy box in the warm, sunlit front room. School aged children sometimes bring books and work on homework while they wait, he added.
Leavitt has recently informed his patients many whom had seen his father Dr. George Leavitt Jr., that he will move on to retirement with his wife of more than 35 years, Barbara.
He recalls several families who have been patients for four generations with the practice. He also has several patients who are in their 90s and still “going strong.”
Dr. George Leavitt III has seen advances in trends and types of materials used in contact lenses going from very hard lenses to paper thin, soft lenses. He expressed his continued amazement that contact lenses can be so thin and still have a proper prescription.
The biggest change to the profession he has seen in his career was in the early 1970s.
“In the 1970s optometry passed a diagnostic pharmaceutical bill in Massachusetts at which time optometrists were allowed to use diagnostic eye drops in the anterior segment of the eye,” he said. Using drops allowed for diagnosis of glaucoma, high pressure in the eye, abrasions and other eye diseases.
Reminiscing about his business’ history in Whitman Leavitt said his father George Leavitt Jr. came from a time when advertising was not used. Leavitt and his wife viewed timeworn brochures recalling that his grandfather’s generation was word of mouth and small town connections allowed for patient contact and reliable care.
The office is in the lower level of their home where the bustle of traffic passes by a prime location. They often heard the whistles blow at the old shoe factory when lunch began and the foot traffic was heavier back in the day, he said.
The practice has moved slightly since its inception in 1914 with his grandfather Dr. George Leavitt at its first location of 25 South Avenue, moving to 12 South Avenue then to the current location across from the post office at 8 Laurel St., in 1969.
Some of his patients became friends, like Harry Monk who has since passed away. A talented craftsman he would hand-carve water birds out of driftwood and deliver them to Leavitt whenever he thought a thank-you was in order, Leavitt recalls.
A collection of birds was unintentional, laughed Leavitt but came about as other patients added to it with unique fowl carvings and collectibles over the years. Recently a young patient had counted the figures, which totaled over 60 sculptures.
Leavitt who decided there was a beach house waiting for their enjoyment and relaxation will be wrapping up loose ends and closing his doors in June.
Perhaps the driftwood will inspire him, too