When a first-time visitor arrives at our house it usually only takes a few minutes for them to notice a “click-click” sound in the background household noises once a minute. That’s when I show them my collection of school clocks wired throughout the house.
I don’t talk about my clock collection very much here but I have a collection of school clocks made by The Standard Electric Time Company. These are the type of clocks that were found in most classrooms throughout the 20th century and are characterized by that familiar click-click sound that advances the time each minute. Thousands of students have watched these clocks over the years, waiting for that minute hand to click to dismissal time.
I’ve been fascinated with these clocks since my first day of kindergarten. I remember sitting on the floor of Mrs. Mosher’s1 room in a big circle. Apparently we were waiting for a bell to ring to announce the start of the day. We watched the clock. It clicked, causing the hand to move backwards slightly, and then it clicked again. The minute hand landed on 9:10. A bell was heard and then the principal, Mr. Bellardini, welcomed us to school. The minute hand continued it’s trick throughout the day, stepping back slightly before moving on to the next minute. The really neat thing was that all the clocks in the school did it at the same time. It didn’t matter if the clock was round or square, had a speaker or not attached to it’s casing, all the clocks said the same time and marched ahead through the day in unison.
I found this very fascinating.
When Earl and I moved into our first house back in 1997 I decided that I wanted to start collecting these clocks and via the internet I found that there were others that shared the hobby as well. In fact, that’s how we met our friends Tim and Gordon in Cheyenne; Tim and I both share an interest in these clocks.
Some find it unusual that a high tech geek like me enjoys the simplicity of this system of clocks. The clocks in the house actually don’t keep in time; as slave clocks they just jump ahead via a magnet, some gears and a short electrical impulse from the master clock in the basement. Most of these systems were controlled by pendulum clocks that resembled industrial grandfather clocks. As progress, um, progressed, the pendulums were replaced by motors, and later, electronic circuit boards. The master clock in our house is from a hospital in Bennington, Vermont. It’s an electronic clock made by the same company, dating 1985. It doesn’t like thunderstorms and occasionally needs parts replaced. This is where the high-tech geek in me kicks in, I have the master clock wired to the internet so that it’s always in time with the atomic clock in Boulder.
I find it relaxing to work on my clocks. Some are nearly 100 years old and they continue to do as they were designed, move ahead once a minute as ordered by an electrical impulse. No two clocks in the house are alike but they are all made by The Standard Electric Time Company. I sometimes marvel at how many times that minute hand has jumped ahead each minute since the clock was built.
And time just keeps marching on.
1 Mrs. Mosher was the same teacher that told my parents that I was “mentally retarded” because I wouldn’t color between the lines and I jammed my papers into my book bag each day. Even back then I didn’t sweat the small stuff. I like to think she just didn’t get me. Later achievements (and multiple IQ tests) proved that she just didn’t know what to do with this little red headed gay boy.