When Brian Pye finished school and went for an optical apprenticeship, he never dreamed he would work in the field for 50 years.
The Warrnambool store manager has worked for OPSM for his whole career. He is stepping down as manager and will work casually until January, which will mark 50 years since he began working.
"It's the only job I've ever had," Mr Pye said. "It was (advertised) in the paper. The only reason I applied for it was because my father said 'there's a job in the paper go and apply'. I was going to do electrical but there was no jobs. I thought 'beauty I'll have a holiday'. Two weeks later I was working. I was 17."
Mr Pye began working for OPSM in January 1970, completing his apprenticeship in optical fitting and surfacing in Melbourne in 1973 and worked his way up to become manager of the Ivanhoe store.
Keen for a country posting, he transferred to Swan Hill where he was manager for five years before returning to the Warrnambool store in 1983, which he has managed ever since. He said the store was unique in that since 1961, when OPSM came to the city, it had only had two managers, David Stennett and himself.
When Mr Pye started he wore a starched white coat, similar to those worn by chemists, and the glass lenses were hand cut in and hand edged. Nowadays, he said lenses were made of resin and polycarbonate materials and machine set into blocks, with most of the work done by robots in a lab.
He said he couldn't estimate how many consultations he'd done but had enjoyed helping customers and working with his team.
One of his first memories was fitting a three-year-old boy with glasses with very strong lenses. "He put his specs on for the first time and just looked with his mouth open," Mr Pye said. "It was fantastic, he looked around. He could now see leaves on trees, when before everything was a blur. I remember that very early on as it was amazing to see how you can help people."
Mr Pye's looking forward to spending more time with wife Peta, daughter Adrienne and son Nathan, and the couple's three grandchildren in his retirement.
He said every day was different and he wouldn't have stayed in the role if he didn't enjoy it. "That's why you keep coming in," Mr Pye said. "Work's good fun and now it's time to have a rest."
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