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Summer 2022

ICO THROUGH THE DECADES

WRITTEN BY:

Natalie Bobrowska and Nora Matland

Although reaching 150 years is a momentous milestone, this is not the first big anniversary we have celebrated. Every few years we return to our history. It helps give context to just how far we've come. This year, we wanted to return to our past as seen through the eyes of our students. We spent weeks digging through our archives, pulling up old student newspapers, yearbooks and even a few scrapbooks compiled by each 50-year club, and along the way, we learned a lot about the personal milestones and the many lives who have made the institution what it is today. Here are just a few snapshots of life that we found.

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1950s

WHAT WAS IT LIKE?
After years of economic strife followed by a war that spanned three continents, the 50s were a time to look ahead and to leave the hardships of the past decades behind. I Love Lucy played on the newly bought televisions and the suburbs were booming. For NICO and CCO, it was a time of transition.

 

After an influx of optometry students in the late 40s because of the GI Bill, student enrollment began to fall as CCO and NICO (two of ICO’s predecessors) moved into the 50s. As the decade progressed, it became clear that two large optometry schools in the same city could not be sustained.

 

As Morton Abram (former president of CCO) recalls, once NICO and CCO started talking about a merger “It was just as simple as that. . . I just thought it was the best thing for optometric education and for the profession.”  It was agreed that the new campus would be on the newly built CCO campus.

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If you were a student at ICO in the 1950s, you would be commuting to two campuses: the newly built ICO campus, where ICO still stands today, as well as CCO’s previous campus in Lincoln Park which served as the ICO Eye Clinic. The standard optometric curriculum expanded to include contact lens fittings, occupational vision testing and treatment, and training techniques to assist patients with reading difficulties. If you were on the ICO campus in 1950, you might even remember the air sirens that Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn set off when it was announced that the Sox won the American League championship.

 

While women were encouraged to stay home and be dutiful housewives, there were still a rare handful of female students in the 1950s. In addition to a slight increase in female students, there was also a slight increase in African American students. Among them Clayton C. Powell, OD ’52 and John L. Howlette, OD ’51 who went on to found NOA, an incredibly important organization for minority optometrists.

SNAPSHOT OF LIFE, 1954

President: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Billboard Year-End #1 Single:

"Little Things Mean a Lot” by Kitty Kallen

Cost of Gas: $0.29


CHICAGO'S TALK OF THE TOWN in 1950s:
  • Chess Records founded (1950)

  • One Prudential Plaza, the first skyscraper to be built since the Great Depression, completed (1955)

  • Richard J. Daley elected mayor (1955)