Time is winding down for Walker Clock Co, but that doesn't mean time has run out for the loyal customers who turn to Ronald Walker and his crew to diligently repair their finely crafted clocks.
Walker says he is retiring at the end of the year because of medical reasons, but he says he hasn't forgotten the promises he's made to his customers.
Walker, longtime assistant Richard Heaton and Ginette Gearhart, an assistant for 19 years, will continue to work on clocks currently in his shop for service and will honor all warranties.
"I cannot continue to run up and down the roads and keep up the schedule," Walker said. He plans to stop accepting new business, he said, and Heaton is working to open a repair shop to take Walker's place after Walker's shop officially begins closing Jan. 1.
Walker opened his shop, which he built from a disassembled Army barracks, in 1974.
The shop behind his Martinez home is two stories, wall-to-wall with parts, tools and clocks in various states of repair dating back to the early 1700s.
Walker later branched out to Columbia and Charleston, S.C., driving to the cities once a week to pick up and drop off clocks with his wife, Paula, now deceased, or with Gearhart.
At one time, Walker said, he had nine people who worked with him in the shop.
"We started backing off (Columbia and Charleston) the first part of October," Walker said. "We're taking no new customers, just handling our old customers and taking clocks back. We're keeping Augusta full-fledged until (Jan. 1)."
Walker said that it will take about three months to close his business and that he plans to take about three months to get his health in order.
The retired 20-year Army veteran said his involvement with clocks started when he wanted a collection of clocks when he was stationed in Germany in 1954.
"My landlord paid me $10 to haul two grandfather clocks off to the dump because I had a car and he didn't," Walker said. "But I got to thinking about it, I could have kept the clocks and kept the $10, too."
After being unable to find a repairman qualified to fix antique clocks in Germany, Walker began a four-year apprenticeship on his own time with a German clock repairman.
After a stint at Fort Gordon, Walker returned to Germany with the Signal Corps in Oberammergau and apprenticed with an antique-clock repairman for nine years.
"He never changed a part," Walker said. "You were not allowed to change a part.
"I was happy at that because I was dealing in nothing but antiques. You couldn't buy parts for the clocks we were working on. You had to make everything."
Walker had to design a unique clock movement before his mentor would permit him to finish the apprenticeship.
"I built something that no one in history has ever built," Walker said of a movement he built.
"There's no test on a piece of paper that can prove you're a clock man," he said. "As long as you can build a clock, you can fix a clock."
Walker said his retirement is more a temporary time to renew his health thana permanent end to his career.
"I don't think I'm going to miss much of anything," he said. "I think there's going to be enough work to take care of to (keep me busy)."
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