jump to navigation

Clock Repair Makes Time Pass For Pendleton Inmates April 15, 2009

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Time comes in two forms for a handful of inmates at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. There’s the time they serve — and the time they keep.

Serenaded by chimes, gongs and cuckoos, prisoners in the Clockmakers and Repair Training Program spend their days in the unlikely company of grandfather clocks and other antique timepieces.

And now they’re gaining a reputation as among the few who can fix stately tower clocks like the ones in London’s Big Ben and Portland’s Union Station.

"Nobody knows clockmaking to the extent that we learn to be clockmakers," says inmate Michael S. Teague, 59, who will graduate from the 21/2-year program Tuesday with six other inmates at the medium-security prison. "Anybody can buy a clock. But who can repair them?"

Inmate Jeff Halladay, 49, a graduate who mentors others in the program, says working in the clock shop "is a great way to make time count for something."

The program began 13 years ago almost by a fluke. Gary Kopperud, a master clockmaker in Pendleton, drove to the prison to install a timepiece in a grandfather-clock cabinet that inmates were assembling. The clock was to be raffled to raise money for a community organization.

While there, an inmate asked Kopperud about clock repair. Soon, Kopperud was volunteering to teach inmates the skills he began learning from his father at age 10. Now 63, he launched the program and still oversees it.

The prison shop fills a gap. Clockmakers and restoration experts began vanishing from the American scene in the 1980s, Kopperud says. The few left typically have backlogs of a year or longer.

Adding to that, he says, the nation is suddenly awash in boomers sentimentally attached to weight-driven and spring-wound clocks that once ticked and chimed in the homes of parents or grandparents. "They want them to run," he says.

Plus, says Kopperud, almost nobody west of Minneapolis repairs and restores tower clocks. The Seth Thomas clock company in Connecticut counts 3,000 remaining nationwide. Some no longer run, "and people have given up because nobody knows how to fix them," he says.




no comments yet - be the first?