Grandfathers old clock – I asked for it, now what do I do? Part I


Photo of my grandfather’s clock sent to me by my cousin

I’ve thought about this clock, dreamt about it, wondering where it was all these years…….and now I have it. Now, what do I do?

I have a vivid memory of this Waterbury octagon short drop schoolhouse clock that hung in my grandparent’s kitchen when I was a young boy. After church on Sundays, my father would take us kids by for a visit; it was a weekly ritual. The house was stone quiet except for the sound of a clock ticking loudly in the kitchen. My grandfather was a veteran of WWI and was bothered by certain noises but did not mind the sound of a mechanical clock.

When I was a kid in the 1950s it looked gigantic and for some curious reason, it was painted yellow with red trim. What did I know, I thought old clocks came in all sorts of colours.

My grandfather, William George Joiner, taken during WWI

But he loved that clock. There is a story that my grandfather was fanatical about keeping the clock on time; he would constantly compare the time to his pocket watch and make adjustments, sometimes several times a day. They left the house on Olmstead Street in Eastview (now Vanier, Ontario, Canada) several years before his death and the clock was passed to a son (my uncle) and eventually handed down within his family. My grandfather passed away in 1962.

Movement is essentially intact except for the suspension spring, rod and pendulum.

A year ago I decided to track down the clock and learned that it had stayed within the family. My cousin sent a photo of the clock but upon examining it I could see that something was not quite right. It was missing parts, it looked pretty rough and that case looked homemade. At that time I replied,

Yes, it is indeed a Waterbury time and strike clock. Your description of it as a school clock is correct though it would not have been called a schoolhouse clock at the time. It would have been sold as an office clock. The patent date tells us that the clock was made after 1874 but likely manufactured in the 1890s to 1900.

In clock circles it would be described as a time and strike 8-day octagonal short drop wall clock, Roman Numeral dial face with spade hands. From the photo I can see that it is missing the pendulum (as you said) the hinged wooden drop access door which would have had a glass tablet and the brass/glass bezel which would have covered the dial. I assume these items are long gone.

It also appears to have been in a damp environment judging from the tarnished brass and the fact that the rust from the iron nails has bled through the wood. However, it is not unusual for a clock of this age to be in such a condition. I have seen far worse.

At a recent family get-together, my cousin said that if I wanted the clock I could have it. Yes, I said and I brought it home thinking about my next steps with my new clock project.

There are 4 posts in this series. Part II is in 4 days. In Part II I consider those next steps. Parts III and IV will be in November.

Let me know what you would do with this project.