Grandpa Max's Clock Repair

Photo by Lydia Selk

When I was growing up, my grandparents had a mechanical mantle clock built in 1967 that would play the Westminster Quarters on the quarter hour. I loved it, and even though they usually kept the chimes turned off, they turned them on when I was visiting. So when I moved out on my own, Grandma gave me the clock.

It hasn’t worked for a couple of years now. The pendulum stops swinging after about an hour or so, even though the clock is thoroughly wound.

When I was living in Missouri, I took it to a clock repair shop and they told me they could fix it by taking out all of the mechanics and replacing it with a battery-operated piece. I basically told them to go jump in a lake.

When I moved to New Mexico, I thought I would try again. I looked in the phone book, and the only listing under clock repair was “Grandpa Max’s Clock Repair.” I gave grandpa a call, and asked if he was open on Saturdays, and he said “yes.” It was then I noticed that there was no address in the Yellow Pages ad.

“Where are you located?” I asked.

“I’m in my house, under my roof,” he said.

Then he gave me directions to his house.

A little old man who I guessed was in his early seventies greeted me.  He had a trim white beard and long flowing white hair. He took me back to his workshop, which was in a heated/airconditioned, comfortable shed in his back yard. He then took my mantle clock apart and, as he examined it, proceeded to give me a lesson in how the clock works, showing me every bearing, every spring, and explaining what each tool does.

“How did you hear about me?” he asked.

“Well, you were the only one in the phone book.”

He laughed. “Yeah, there ain’t a whole lot of us old guys left. I’m 86, so I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around.”

His hands moved with a speed and confidence that is rarely seen in men half his age. His sharp eyes examined parts that I could barely see myself.  When all was said and done, he told me he could repair the clock by replacing the mechanics with identical mechanics, which the manufacturer still made, and which hadn’t changed since 1967 when the clock was first produced. It would take him a couple of weeks to finish it, one week to get the part and install it, another week to run it in his shop to make sure it was keeping time properly.

It occurred to me later that when the clock was made, this old guy was already 56 years old.

That day Grandpa Max helped me see what makes a clock tick. I feel richer for it. I hope he keeps on ticking himself



Photographer Lydia Selk lives in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. She is an artist and photographer who took the time to look for beauty and says that now beauty is all she can see.

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