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The First One for April 2011
Roger W. Sherman (OK)
My first clock was given to me some 45 years ago by my father. He had come to visit, and in the trunk of his car was the saddest looking clock I have ever seen. He had found the clock lying on an earthen floor in the garage on a property he had purchased.
The moisture and other nastiness from the earthen floor had caused a great deal of the veneer to come off, all of the paint had flaked from the dial pan, and in general the case was in pretty miserable condition. Much to my surprise, most of the paper label was still attached to the case back and the movement appeared to be intact. The clock was mine if I wanted to work on it.
After replacing missing and damaged veneer and refinishing the case, the clock looked really presentable. Now to the movement. Not knowing anything about clocks at that time, I thought that if the movement was soaked in a good solvent, rinsed, dried, and then lubricated with a good oil, it just might run. I cleaned and oiled the movement, put a new cord on it to support the weights, and found a pendulum bob. To my amazement, the clock ran.
With a working clock, a dial was now required. As an engineer I had at my disposal a complete set of drafting tools, so using the original dial pan, a picture of a clock dial, some white paint, and India ink, I produced and installed a new dial to complete the repairs.
One thing about the clock did bother me. The paper in the case indicated a Seth Thomas clock made in Thomaston, Conn. But the movement says Plymouth, Conn. As time passed and I became more interested in clocks, I learned that in 1865 the town name was changed to Thomaston in honor of Seth Thomas. Brass works in the manufacturing process stamped Plymouth continued to be finished and used, but paper labels were reprinted quickly. I now know that I have an 1865 or 1866 Seth Thomas OG clock, which proudly graces my mantel in my home.
My interest in this clock and encouragement from others has led me, after retirement, to become a clock repairman and I have acquired a collection of some 22 high-quality clocks, which range from an 1815 Seth Thomas, woodworks, pillar and scroll, to a 1955 cuckoo and all types in between.
Robert Boyd (NH)
It was around 1966, and my wife and I were renting a small cottage on Otter Pond near Sunapee, NH. We had three small children and the cottage on the small lake was perfect for us. The owner had proudly told me he had built the cottage from the wood of a single pine tree on the property. He showed me the stump. As we ventured around the area we came across Collins Clock Museum in Georges Mills, NH. (Refer to Brooks Palmer’s The Book of American Clocks, plate number 288, for a picture of this museum.)
By 1966 Clarence Collins had already passed on and his son Lee was living in the house. Lee had given up his career as an actor in New York City to take care of his mother and father during the latter years of their lives. To create income for himself, Lee was selling the clocks one or two at a time, and had already sold most of the collection. He was down to the dregs of the keg, with many of the clocks needing repair in order to sell them. I felt at home in this house littered with all sorts of clocks in disrepair.
I immediately made a friend of Lee and his clocks. I would come over to his house and make myself at home, matching works to the proper case and making small repairs. On the last night of our vacation, just after my wife and I climbed into bed at the cabin, a whirring noise came from under the bed, and then a bonging. I had to confess I was taking several clocks home to repair for Lee and had stashed them under the bed. That started my hobby of collecting and, by necessity, repairing clocks in my spare time.
I was working for a small motor control company in New Jersey as chief engineer and, in that capacity, I made frequent trips to Springfield, VT. During my trips I would return to the Collins home and return clocks to Lee. One of the clocks I brought back was an unnamed wall clock with wooden works. Being an engineer I was fascinated that clockworks could be made of wood. Lee agreed to sell me the wooden works clock for, I believe, $20. I refinished the case and placed a lithograph in the lower part of the door. It was on this clock I learned that the verge on these clocks can harden, and if you try to bend it, it would break. I then had to make my first clock part.
The clock hung proudly in our den and I enjoyed its tick. I still have my first clock, pictured below, and it’s great to still have that first clock. If I were to see it for sale today, I would not give it a second glance. Too bad, because as we have more knowledge, we miss the enjoyment of the lesser treasures around us.
I made many more trips to Lee’s house after my business calls in Springfield. Lee was, I would guess, in his late 70s and not in good health. However, he enjoyed going out to dinner at the New London Inn, and I managed to take him out several times a year.
Another of my clocks I bought from Lee was an unnamed wooden works tallcase clock. Later, that clock entertained the children in our neighborhood. I told them I got the clock in New Hampshire from an abandoned inn that had been cursed. The story was that the inn was haunted and a ghost of the last innkeeper to stay at the inn had hidden in the clock and died from the curse. From that time on, his ghost would come out of the clock every Halloween night and walk the halls of the inn at midnight, the bewitching hour, when the clock would strike 13 times. I invited all the kids in the neighborhood to come see if the ghost would appear on Halloween night.
I lit the room by blue light and shortly before 10 o’clock, the kids gathered with me opposite the clock. I had told them that since New Hampshire was two hours ahead, he may appear at 10 o’clock. (They did not know much about time zones.) The clock struck 1,2… 11,12,13! The door slowly opened and a glowing figure came up from the bottom of the clock and, in a slow deep voice, verbally recounted in detail the gruesome deaths, one each year, of five innkeepers who died tragic deaths from the curse on the inn. His story lasted about five minutes.
He then Gurgled:
“Tonight I walk the halls of the Inn. But wait, I can’t come out of the clock!”
“I cannot walk the halls in a place other than the inn where I walked in life. The curse is broken!”
Moaning and groaning, the ghost of the clock slunk down in the base of the clock and the door closed.
The kids by then were in a ball at my feet, across the room from the clock. I turned on the lights and the kids filed out of the room, staying as far from the clock as possible. I frightened away every baby-sitter in the neighborhood. The next day I had to show them the motors and tape recorder played back at slow speed I had put in the clock to make it work. The ghost made several encores for the parents in the neighborhood and for a newspaper reporter. The teenage girls still avoided the room the clock was in. I sold the clock to a friend several years after “The Ghost in the Clock.” The ghost never appeared again, as far as I know.