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The First One for January/February 2012
Jack Fessler (IN)
Dr. John F. Fessler was a professor emeritus at Purdue University. He submitted this First One in March 2011 and died unexpectedly in April 2011. Dr. Fessler, the author of over 100 articles and a textbook on equine surgery, was known worldwide for his expertise in the education of veterinary students to be surgical specialists. The tower clock he restored and mentioned above was installed and in full working condition for the dedication of the new mechanical engineering building wing held on Friday, October 21, 2011. See http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/purduetoday/general/2011/111020_DYK-HeavClock.
Bob Reichel, *FNAWCC (WA)
Our first one was an E. N. Welch Mfg. Co. parlor clock. My wife and I were taking a short vacation into Idaho and Montana, visiting junk and antique shops along the way. This was in the late 1960s. She said, “Isn’t there something you’d like?” I said, for some unknown reason, “maybe I’d like an old clock.” We decided to stop in Walla Walla, WA, and see our friend, “Chick” McBeth, the assistant fire chief. He asked what were we doing and I said, “Nancy thinks I’d like an old clock.” Chick mounted a ladder into the attic of his garage and came down with a box. The Welch “Nanon,” ca. 1885, all in pieces!
The clock (below right) had been in the Walla Walla fire station in 1889; the gong was fixed with a long wire so the watch officer could signal the stable boy to raise the harnesses on the fire horses and exercise them in the back corral. Chick further told me I should meet Ellis Horn, of College Place, WA, as he had stacks of old clocks. We went to see Ellis and his firm remark to me was that if I was going to buy clocks, that I must first “look behind the dial,” and if you “don’t know—then find out.” Ellis further sponsored me into the NAWCC.
I didn’t know anything about clocks or repairing. My daughter mentioned the clock repair class at the local Seattle Broadway Technical School. I took the clock there, and the class members put it back together. Realizing the cost of repairs, I later enrolled and studied weekly at North Seattle Community College under the tutelage of instructor George Lewis. George was later made an NAWCC
After acquiring a few more clocks, we attended an NAWCC meeting in Portland, OR, and the NAWCC officer who spoke to us emphasized a theme of not accumulating, but of specializing and learning. We realized that among our clocks we now had three Welchs. His advice bonded and we started studying Welch and did extensive research into the company history, its predecessors, and the family. This research eventually led to my small publication, The E. N. Welch Story. I’ve put on many Welch programs at chapter meetings and regionals, and I still support the W&C Bulletin Answer Box.
By private travel and my 40-year professional career with Boeing, we have been able to meet NAWCC members all over the world—Australia, Spain, England, Finland, Russia, and Japan.
I’m nearing 90 with this writing, and I cannot emphasize too strongly the satisfaction I have received with working and learning about clocks. I keep busy daily repairing clocks and assisting others on the NAWCC Message Board. This activity has kept my mind alert and body healthy.
That “Nanon” still sits on a special shelf I made for it and runs faithfully everyday. Maybe some day it will get back to someone interested in the Walla Walla Fire Department history.
Nicholas Kucharik (NY)
It was 1955 and I was seven years old, tinkering around in my grandfather’s basement. There on the workbench was a very simple clock movement, completely out of the case. I shook it and it only ran for a minute. I had no idea what I was doing, but for some reason I took the clock apart. After it was apart, I decided to put it back together again. I have no idea what I did at the time, but it ran when I reassembled the clock. I’m sure I just broke away some dirt that was binding a pivot.
After that I never thought much about clocks until one day in the summer of 1981, my friend invited me to go to a few garage sales to look for antiques. She was a collector of “depression” glass. At that time, I had never really paid much attention to any kind of antiques, let alone clocks. My first day out, I really enjoyed looking through antiques at different kinds of sales. The following weekend I again went to garage sales, and it soon became a routine to go out on weekends, looking for antiques. I slowly began to buy various antique items that really interested me. On one particular Saturday, we came across a garage sale in Ossining, NY. As I walked up the driveway, I noticed this clock for sale. It was a camelback mantel clock from about the 1930s, although at the time I had no idea what I was buying. The clock had no label, markings, nor a maker’s name anywhere, but it was a rack and snail-type movement of a better quality. I really liked the clock and was very fascinated by the mechanics of the movement. It was marked $85 and I decided to buy it. The man explained to me how the clock should work. I brought it home and it was not in running condition. It ran for a minute or two and then stopped. I had no idea how to make it run. After several months, I found a clock repair shop and brought the clock to him for repair. When I walked into the repair shop, I heard all these bells, gongs, and clocks ticking. The walls were festooned with clocks, countertops covered with clocks all over them, and clock movements and parts scattered around his workbench. It was an old shop, right out of the nineteenth century, with tin ceilings, glass and oak cabinets, old tools, and an odor that transformed me into an age of a world long gone by. I stood there in complete awe of the incredible beauty of all those clocks with a wide array of sounds—a symphony of sounds. I had a sense of a world without electricity, radio, television, cars, computers, phones, nor plastic. I had a sense of being in a world with wagons, horse and buggy, oil lamps, aprons, home cooking on a coal-burning stove, books, and of course clocks. I had a sense of a slower paced world, where character, art, and discipline dominated everyday life. At that moment, I became a completely different person. I caught the fever and have had it ever since. Not only do I collect clocks of all kinds but I also collect antiques and have furnished my house with antiques. After that day I continued to collect clocks and antiques as much as I could.
Then one day a family came along and I had to put my passions aside for a time while raising my children, but I never stopped loving their beauty and history. Then suddenly one day, my children were grown up enough for me to have time to myself again. I now spend free time studying about clocks, collecting, and trying to restore the clocks that I have purchased over the years. I still go to flea markets, antique stores, garage sales, and estate sales, looking for clocks and antiques. Amazingly, although much more rare than years ago, there are still bargains every once in awhile.
It has always fascinated me, reflecting back on so many years, remembering my exposure to different clocks over time, in stores, shops, books, movies, family homes, and relatives’ homes, how I was not captured with the fever until that day in that clock shop. I walked out of that shop wanting to have the beauty of clocks and the sounds of clocks in my life. I realized I was born to love clocks and to this day I am as passionate about my clocks as the first day I found them. I know that I need another lifetime to restore the clocks I have collected over the years, but that’s okay, because I will work on those clocks for as long as I can. I will listen to them tick and enjoy their beauty for all of my years. I hope that someday they will find a home with as much passion as they have in my home. There are many beautiful things in life, but what a great life it is to have clocks and antiques in it!