Clocks provide interesting hobby for Cartersville residents
by Marie Nesmith
Nov 07, 2010 | 1455 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Above, Ed Bruce inspects a wall clock movement he is repairing in the shop at his Cartersville home. Bruce repairs clocks as a hobby. Below, the inside of Ed Bruce’s wooden movement, circa-1830s wall clock invented by Eli Terry and made by Seth Thomas. The clock continues to operate in Bruce’s home.
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As Bartow Countians reverted back to standard time at 2 a.m. today, keeping time suddenly has become one of people's top concerns. However, for clock repairers and collectors like Cartersville residents Ed Bruce and Harry Childers, respectively, time is always at the forefront.

While Bruce grew up observing his father repair watches, he did not seriously immerse himself in the craft until about 2002. After inheriting clock and watch equipment from his father and father-in-law, he took up repairing timepieces as a hobby.

"I'm 71 years old and my father all my life was a watchmaker in Chattanooga, Tenn., and when I was 12 years old he started teaching me how to work on watches," said Bruce, who is retired from BellSouth and Shaw Industries. "The relationship of course between watches and clocks are pretty much the same except the movements are bigger. So I, throughout my life, knew how to work on watches and did a lot of work with him as I was growing up.

"I sort of put it to the side after I got married and started having children. And then about 15 years ago my father-in-law down in Savannah retired and he started working on clocks. He also had some relationships that were in the jewelry and watch and clock business and he started doing clock work. [Then when] my father died, I got all my father's equipment to work on watches, and when my father-in-law died I got all his equipment to work on watches and clocks. Therefore I guess maybe eight years ago I started just as a hobby, working on clocks -- fixing and repairing clocks. I do it strictly as a hobby."

For Bruce, the most enjoyable part of repairing clocks is seeing something broken become whole again and being a part of that process. His work for local residents runs the gamut, from working on mantel clocks in his workroom to repairing grandfather clocks on-site.

"The most common repair, with especially older clocks, is to clean it," Bruce said. "You put it through a cleaning solution and dry it. You do the rinsing and drying. Of course you have to take it out of the case and then you oil it and you regulate it.

"I've done that for quite a few folks around town. ... My friend, Harry Childers, I repaired [some of his clocks when] he had smoke damage at his house. He has some of the most unusual clocks I've ever repaired. He's got a real nice, I would call it an antique, clock that hangs in his living room."

The owner of about 12 clocks, Childers said he enjoys discovering timepieces for his collecting hobby.

"I just got interested in them. My wife and I would go to antique sales and I started buying them and right now I've probably got [a dozen] clocks in all," Childers said. "I just started seeing them and buying them.

"The first one I really bought was in Alabama at an auction and it's just been ever since [that when] I'll see one that I like, I'll pick it up. ... I like the older clocks and if they look like they're in pretty good condition. And that's what you basically have to go by. If not, you'll buy a junker and just throw it in the trash. That's all you can do."

While Childers' collection ranges from hanging wall and cuckoo to mantel clocks, with timepieces dating back to the early 1900s, he said his first acquisition about 30 years ago is his favorite.

"It's one that I've never seen another one like and I've looked for it in antique books and I haven't seen anything," Childers said. "It's just a hanging wall clock but the brand and name I don't know. ... It's wood and it has shelves on it that you can put little whatnots and stuff on.

"[I] just enjoy [this hobby]. I just like to go buy them and mess with them and do what I can [to maintain them]," he said, adding one way he extends their life is running the clocks every so often.

Although Bruce does not consider himself a collector, he does own some unique and sentimental timepieces.

"I have a clock here at my house that's made with nothing but wood movements," Bruce said. "The wheels and everything are all wood. I also have a grandmother's clock that my father made from a mahogany door. He got the door from Kay Jewelers when he worked with them at Chattanooga. They remodeled and he took the door and made a clock out of it. Of course, the movement is not wood but the mahogany clock is here at my house and it was made totally by him.

"I don't really collect clocks. I have some that have come to me through the years. I've got six. Most of them are old, except for one that I was given by BellSouth when I had 25 years of service. The oldest one is the wooden movement one. It's a wall clock and you can't see the wheels but they're all wood. It was invented by Eli Terry and made by Seth Thomas [in the early 1800s.]"