For Davidson, it's time to quit

Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Bob Davidson has 25 years of experience repairing clocks, and now he'd like to hand off the business to new hands.

by Brian Mosely

Staff Writer

Bob Davidson's name and voice is well known to many in Bedford County and surrounding counties. For many years, he could be heard over the airwaves on local radio.

But some may not be aware of another skill that he has used over the years. After 25 years of clock repair, the 87-year-old is looking for someone to take charge of all the tools and parts he has used to fix these delicate instruments.

Bob says that he grew into the craft, since it was one that his father labored at. Marks Davidson had a jewelry shop in Petersburg and repairing clocks and watches was part of his business. "I guess I got into it through him," Bob said. Unfortunately, Bob's father went out of business in 1934 due to the Great Depression.

While Bob's main business in Bedford County was radio broadcasting, he would find time on the side to continue the tradition from his father and work on timepieces.

In this age of microchips and digital technology, repairing these wind-up clocks with their gears, springs and screws is becoming somewhat of a lost art.

"Things have changed so much," Davidson said. "Right now, the quartz movements are kind of taking over the clock business." He says that the clock mechanisms today are not as complicated as the wind up clocks that he worked on.

"It's a new age, I guess."

But there are still many of the old time-keepers around, such as grandfather, wall and desk clocks and work on those pieces have kept Davidson busy when he wasn't doing other things. Clock repair wasn't something he made his living with, it was just something Bob liked to do.

It takes a very precise hand and sharp eye to work with the tiny clock parts and Bob says that he is still learning how to do repairs, even after all this time. But there is a reason for that.

Every clock manufacturer makes their timepieces differently, and Bob says that there are so many different designs and parts that keeping up with the business has always been a learning experience. One of the problems he would frequently encounter would be an old clock and no parts to fix them with, since the replacements were no longer made.

"You don't learn just one. You learn 'em all," Bob said of the clock makers.

He has been Howard Miller Clock Company's service man in Shelbyville for the past 10 years and gets a lot of their work.

Davidson has always kept the business in a shop in the rear of his property whether he was living on Blue Ribbon Parkway, where he has lived for the past 21 years, or his former home on Old Nashville Dirt Road.

Bob said that fixing some clocks was just a simple matter of cleaning the parts, while others would need more attention.

"Some have to be cleaned, some have to be oiled and some just need new parts ... there's not any one answer."

Davidson is hoping that someone will take up the skill. There may be someone in the area that is already doing repairs that he doesn't know about.

Bob's shop is filled with the tools and parts from his work, along with the mechanisms of many a timekeeper. There are even a few timepieces that have gone unclaimed by their owners. A few would rightly be considered antiques.

He and his wife Lillian will be moving into Carriage House Inn on Colloredo Boulevard and while he won't have as much equipment to work with, he still might be able to do a small repair or two.

"It's a profession that's all its own. There's nothing else like it, I can assure you of that."