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By Mike Hazlip—
Tucked away between Beto’s Tacos and All Quality Graphics on Auburn Boulevard is a small commercial building in Citrus Heights where optometrist Texas L. Smith has been seeing patients for decades.
While he has operated Texas Smith Optometry in the current location for almost 40 years, Smith has over five decades as an optometrist.
In 1965, Smith was in his early twenties and had just finished optometry school in Southern California when he received his draft notice from the Army. The notice came within a week of his graduation, Smith said.
He was able to convince the Army to give him an extension until he could pass his certification tests and become a state board certified optometrist. About six months later, in December of 1965, Smith joined the U.S. Army, serving at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
“Everyone in Hinesville, Georgia worked at Fort Stewart, Georgia,” Smith said. “It was a Huey helicopter training base, and so they said: there’s 5,000 people, and you’re the eye doc for these 5,000 people.”
Smith said going from Los Angeles to Georgia was a culture shock, but he gained valuable experience working with so many patients.
“It was the deep, dark South, and it was like the Civil War had ended three months earlier, the way they talked,” he recalled. “Even the optometrist that was in Hinesville, Georgia, was a young guy just out of school, had two waiting rooms. The eye part was not as unique an experience as going from Los Angeles to the dark South. That was a unique experience.”
Smith was discharged in 1968 and decided to settle in Northern California to be near recreational areas like the ocean, Lake Tahoe, and Folsom Lake. He said he had never been to Sacramento before moving to the area to open his practice.
Smith first opened his practice at the Grand Oaks Center on the West side of Auburn Boulevard, across the street from his current location. Not long after, he said he had the opportunity to purchase the commercial building where his practice currently is today at 8036 Auburn Blvd.
“Best $12,000 I ever spent,” he said.
Smith rented out the space to a hairdresser until rising rents and a renovation of the Grand Oaks Center prompted him to move his practice in 1984.
Smith’s longtime assistant Lori Egan now manages most of the day-to-day operations of the practice. Egan started working for Smith as an intern at the age of 13, and Smith said she’s the youngest person to ever become a certified optician in California history.
He said optometrists were not allowed to prescribe prescription eye medication or treat minor eye conditions when he first started his practice, but laws have changed in the years since. Smith still keeps his focus on the optical needs of his patients, however.
“If you have a medical-type practice, you have to be available almost 24-hours-a-day for emergencies,” he said. “I just don’t have the time to do that.”
Over the years, Smith has seen all types of patients. He recalled one three year old boy who came in for his first eye exam. Smith used pictures to test the boy’s vision instead of the alphabet, and Smith said the boy was able to clearly see each picture and even used politically correct language beyond his years. After the exam, Smith said the boy told him “I know my alphabet.”
“He was just accommodating me,” Smith said with a chuckle. “Because I just assumed at three he didn’t know his alphabet, so I just flip up to the picture chart to start with.”
At the age of 78, Smith, who still keeps paper records, now works three days each week and spends time with his wife of 36 years. He also enjoys fishing, and displays several trophy winning fish mounted on plaques on the walls of his practice.
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