GILLETTE, Wyo. — When most people need to know the time, they look at their phones, their computers or the dashboards of their cars.
Fewer and fewer seek that information from the old mahogany clock on the mantle, hearing the grandfather clock bong out the hour or even the warble of the cuckoo clock on the wall.
At least in one small haven in Gillette there is still an appreciation for old fashioned clocks, whether they're for decoration, collection or, as always, function.
And when a clock stops ticking, there is only one repair shop in Gillette, tucked within the American Audio store in the Powder Basin Shopping Center: The Clock Doc.
Even with the steadily decreasing demand of owning a clock that's as much a piece of furniture as it is a timepiece, owner Jerry Green said there are still lots of people needing clock repairs.
"There is an unbelievable amount of history about clocks," Green said. "Some people collect them, buy them and fix them up. Back in the '80s, there was a rush for them, but that's come and gone."
The old history is displayed right next to the brand new technological items in the store, including the latest speakers, headphones and other sound systems. Some of those sound systems have internal digital clocks wired right inside them — another example of technological advances threatening tradition.
But clocks are still all around the community for one purpose or another.
"They're heirlooms much of the time," Green said. "If it was your great-grandmother's clock, it would mean something to you."
The chance of finding a clock repair shop is becoming increasingly more rare. Even the Clock Doc only exists as part of American Audio.
But customers still come in from as far away as Sheridan to keep their timepieces ticking.
Roger Smith, a frequent customer of Green's, has at least one clock in every room of his home, addicted to the rhythmic sound of the pendulum oscillating from side to side.
"I've always been attracted to them, especially the older clocks," Smith said. "I think they're neat and I like the sound of them."
Green started learning about clocks in the early 1980s. He learned how clocks work and how to repair them by reading books and simply through trial and error.
At one time, Green's home housed nearly 100 clocks, some for function, others simply for decoration, but he ended up selling many of them.
Now with the only clock repair shop in Gillette or even northeast Wyoming, he found that people still own and care about clocks. He said he will usually fix between 20 and 25 clocks a month.
"At times, my store is full of clocks," Green said.
Some of the clocks in his shop include an anniversary one that Green found on the Internet that he decided he would buy and fix. Fancy ones of the type could cost up to $3,000, but Green sells it for just more than $120.
Another is an original Coca-Cola clock made by the company in the 1950s, and still another is an old cuckoo clock that was kept in a basement for many years. The bird had been torn off the top and paint had chipped, so the original white color could be seen in many places.
Green bought it, put the bird back on top, repainted it, oiled it and greased the springs.
The closest clock repair shop outside of Green's business is in Rapid City, South Dakota, and he said the price and time limitations of having a clock repaired there can be prohibitive.
Green said he charges between $100 to $200 to fix a normal clock and about $360 to fix a grandfather clock, while a typical price would be more than $1,000 elsewhere.
Dwindling supply, but same appreciation
Green provides a service that is quickly becoming extinct. But some, like Smith, maintain that his services are necessary and much appreciated.
"I think few people could have fixed the clocks I have," Smith said. "He does a really good job at it."
The Clock Shop also does pickup and drop-offs, and Green said it normally takes about three days to fix a clock, depending on what needs repair.
"It started out as a hobby back then," Green said. "But in this economy, we're all doing everything we can for extra income. Now this is a hobby that makes money."
In this time of technological advancements, where satellites project time onto phones and automatically update things like daylight saving time and time zone, a return to the increasingly endangered species of old-fashioned clocks can be quite welcome to many people.
Green and Smith believe that clocks tell stories in that constant, rhythmic and comforting monotone: tick-tock, tick-tock.
Information from: The Gillette (Wyo.) News Record, http://www.gillettenewsrecord.com