Vintage, industrial, local and beautiful – a real find!

Westclox clock I cannot tell you how happy I am about the latest vintage object that I have added to the Manse’s decor. I’ve been just bursting to tell you about it, people! It’s the Westclox wall clock that you see in this photo. I purchased it a week ago at Country Treasures in Madoc, and it now hangs in a prime spot in the Manse’s kitchen: the wall against which the lovely old Findlay wood stove that warmed our family in my childhood used to stand.

Is that clock not a fine piece of midcentury industrial design? And it works perfectly! The red second hand sweeps proudly around – a little quickly, it seems when you first watch it, but the clock keeps bang-on time so all must be well. It’s got a nicely patina-ed (I just made that verb up) metal rim. The face is big and easy to read, even when you get out of bed in the dark middle of the night and head downstairs to use the facilities – the Manse’s only bathroom being oddly, and inconveniently, located on the ground floor right inside the front door.

I adore this clock. I even adore the retro touch of it being electric, which means that wherever it hangs there must of necessity be an electrical cord hanging down to the nearest outlet, for all the world to see:

Clock with electrical cord

This clock comes with a cord! (And as you can see, where it’s plugged in is the section of our kitchen wall where we uncovered the turquoise-painted original plaster when we first bought the house. Someday, if we ever get the renovations done and the old painted-over “wood” panelling ripped off, all the walls in the kitchen will be that great colour again…)

The biggest reason why I love this clock is not, however, its great industrial style; it’s because it comes from the Westclox (Western Clock Co. Limited) factory of not-far-away Peterborough, Ont., as you can see from the etching on the works mechanism on the back of the clock:

Western Clock Co.

In other words, not only is it a great design piece; it’s a great locally made design piece.

Westclox factory postcard

A postcard illustration of the Westclox factory in its prime. (Photo from clockhistory.com)

Westclox (the Western Clock Co. Limited) was a mainstay of the industrial scene in the small city of Peterborough through the years when things were still made in Canada. In 1969, during the period when I was kid growing up here in Queensborough at the Manse, my grandparents moved from Toronto to Peterborough, so my family often went to visit them there. The best part of the trip, I always thought, was driving through the narrow one-lane concrete tunnel through the famous Peterborough Lift Lock. And high atop the hill on Hunter Street that you drove up right after that tunnel was the Westclox factory, where workers proudly turned out well-built clocks of all shapes and sizes, from big wall-mounted affairs to those small square folding travel-alarm clocks that we all used to have.

Westclox factory today

The renovated Westclox factory as it is today, much of its elegant industrial style sadly gone. (Photo from clockhistory.com)

(You can read an excellent and informative history of the Westclox factory here, at the website of the Canadian Clock Museum.)

The Westclox building still stands atop that hill, but it now houses offices and condos, and exterior renovations have, sadly, removed much of its great industrial style. The factory closed in the early 1980s, and you know, that was just too bad. I miss the days when things were made in Canada.

At the time of the factory’s closing there was a big selloff of its contents, which my dad attended. He bought a whole bunch of small tables, all with strong metal frames and wooden-slat tops, that workers had used at their individual stations in their watch- and clock-building work. It was a brilliant stroke on his part to get them; I imagine he was thinking in terms of using them to pile tools on and whatnot. (Dad had a lot of tools, and jars of nails and screws, and all that kind of stuff that clutters up workbenches, basements, machine sheds and garages.) I nabbed a couple of those tables, which are, like the clock, well-built and beautiful in an industrial way, and I have happily used them over the years as side tables and coffee tables. I’ve always loved having them as reminders of the Westclox factory.

And now I have an actual made-in-Peterborough Westclox clock as well! And not just any Westclox clock: it is one that was used somewhere – locally, I imagine – at a Department of Public Works facility. How do I know this? Because of the sticker and stencil on the back of my clock:

Clock DPW

Because I love industrial style, it tickles my fancy to think that my clock probably hung for years in a nondescript office/workshop, telling the city or town or township workers driving the snowplows in winter, or the big municipal dump trucks in summer, when it was coffee-break time or when they could finally punch their cards and head home for the day.

Basically, as I think you can readily tell by now, there is nothing I don’t love about this clock.

Isn’t it nice when a lucky find can be so meaningful, and bring you so much joy?

8 thoughts on “Vintage, industrial, local and beautiful – a real find!

  1. Just noticed the date on the back of the clock, when the DPW presumably acquired and stamped it: August 31, 1954. Wasn’t that the year the bathroom was added to the Manse? (And why do I suddenly look just like you?)

    • Ha! You do show up with my photo! Must be something to do with the administrative settings for Meanwhile, at the Manse. Time for you to upload your own photo, Raymond! Meanwhile, yes, 1954 sounds about right for “the facilities” being added to the Manse. And also a perfect date for a midcentury industrial clock that now hangs proudly in the Manse’s kitchen.

  2. Nice clock Katherine, also nice writeup regarding Westclox in Peterboro and their former factory just west of the Liftlocks….like most Canadian factories, now closed, we used to proudly look for items in stores with MADE IN CANADA stickers on them, haven’t seen that for a while…..not to much now made here, although our 2011 Camaro SS is made right in Oshawa ON…..you may already know that you can buy a “electric clock receptacle”( it might be considered an antique), the receptacle gets installed in the wall hidden behind the clock, and usually has a hook to hang the clock from, and the receptacle is recessed so as to wind up and store the cord in, should be available through local lumberyards or big box lumberstores, and probably not made in Canada!!! ……Bob McKeown Stirling

    • Hey Bob, I sure share your nostalgia for when things were made in Canada, and thank you so much for the tip on the cord receptacle! My only hesitation is that I imagine for such a device to work, some reasonably modern wiring is required – and let’s just say that that is not something the Manse has yet. But we’ll get there!

  3. What a wonderful clock! I am insanely jealous! The local connection is icing on the cake.

    I love clocks – especially Westclox and particularly the ones made in Peterborough. Westclox produced clocks, under license, for other makers, including the American company Seth Thomas. I have a nice catalin (a type of bakelite) clock – made in Peterborough. My FIL ( a clock collector/expert) gave it to me from his collection. He must have collected it somewhere local (he lives in Penetanguishene) so it didn’t travel too far from home either. It’s very dear to me.

    • How lovely! And also – thank you for introducing me to catalin! I had not heard of it before, but looked up some images of catalin clocks and they are gorgeous. Given Bakelite’s close connection with this area (there was a factory in Belleville) I am particularly intrigued.

  4. I wish i could send pic, Found exactly same one .loved it at first sight, brought old memory’s back, it had a really good vibe.when i read the back had my year of birth .what a score!! payed $2.99 for this beauty .loved your story about if thanks so much

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