This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on November 18, 1995
DOWNTOWN CLOCK A REMINDER OF '21 COMPETITION
by Roz Young
Once in a while when I drive along Interstate 75 through town, I look to see whether the old clock on top of the Reynolds and Reynolds building is still there and still keeping time.
It takes a rather old Daytonian like me to know why it is there. I wouldn't be surprised if more than half the population has no idea why that ancient timepiece pokes its face above the highway.
The clock used to stand on top of the Callahan Building at the northeast corner of Third and Main streets. The City Trust and Savings Bank owned the building, and both building and bank are long gone.
Back in the '20s, the president of the bank, H. H. Darst, had an idea that schoolchildren of Dayton ought to be trained in the values of thrift. He arranged for all children in the Dayton public schools to have a bank book, and on Tuesday mornings we lined up at the teacher's desk and made a deposit to be stored in the vaults of the bank under the clock.
At the time, the then-50-year-old clock on top of the bank building needed repairs. For almost a year it was missing from the building, but it was ready for reinstallation in March 1921. ``Standing as it does on the corner in the heart of the city where thousands of people each day turn their eyes to know the time and be reminded of their appointments and daily duties as the hours and minutes go by,'' Darst said in a statement to the newspapers, ``we hope each citizen of the city will look at the clock and remember their duty to the children of today who are being trained for their duties and citizenship of tomorrow.''
Lucia May Wiant, the speech supervisor for the schools, talked Darst into allowing one boy and girl from the schools to have the honor of restarting the clock. She held a poetry-memorizing contest in all schools to determine winners from each school. Those winners were to assemble at Steele High School and recite their winning poems. The two winners at the Steele contest would have the honor of starting the clock and would also receive a gold watch.
I decided I wanted that gold watch more than anything else in the world and the way to win it was to memorize the longest poem in the list we had to choose from. I chose The Deacon's Masterpiece, by Oliver Wendell Holmes. The deacon had built a wonderful one-horse shay that was so sturdy it ran a hundred years to the day. And then it went to pieces all at once, nothing first, just as bubbles do when they burst. I concentrated on memorizing that long, long poem, but I never thought of using expression or gestures. I just stood up in front of the class and said it.
But in my class was Adele Wanner, who memorized The House by the Side of the Road, by Sam Walter Foss, and she said her poem with drama in her voice and movement of her body to interpret the noble sentiment of ``Let me live in the house by the side of the road, and be a friend to man.''
Adele won hands down at Brown School and she went to Steele to compete with the winners from the other schools: Ruth Cammerer, Elizabeth Davis, Elizabeth Fuchsberger, Bertha Gold, Dorothy Hagedorn, Garnett Kendall, Virginia Lawell, Roberta McCarthy, Corrine Margolis, Beatrix Mox, Mary Nester, Hazel Nicholas, Clara Noble, Dorothy Pierce, Edith Richards, Mary Ellen Richmond, Adeline Schmidt, Gertrude Skerries, Marjorie Staub, Sarah Stephenson, Ruth Slorp, Katherine Welzer, Christina Wissinger and Clara Yahle.
Boy winners were Robert Barrett, Clifford Brower, John Byzak, Herbert Cammerer, Alfred Craveling, Alexander Emoff, Ben Garrett, Robert Gilliat, Gerold Handy, Harold Hull, Wilson Jehle, Kenneth Johns, Paul Kennett, Lawrence Kramer, Frank Kothman, Harry Leen, Warren Lysell, Willard Poole, Amos Purdin, Marion Reboulet, Henry Shaper, Gerald Weller, Otto Wenning and Carl Wollenhaupt.
They assembled at Steele in the presence of the student body and Frank Miller, superintendent of schools; J. M. Switzer, the mayor of Dayton; William Hunter, president of the board of education; and H. H. Darst, president of the bank. Miss Wiant decided it would be too hard to pick a winner, so she put the names in a hat. Adele Wanner and Frank Kothman won and were taken up to the top of the building to start the clock.
In 1978, when plans were made to tear down the old Callahan Building to make way for the present building on the site, the decision was that the clock, by then 108 years old, just simply wouldn't blend with modern glass and concrete architecture. Sentiment was strong to preserve it, but nobody knew what to do with it until Reynolds and Reynolds offered to place it atop its building on Germantown Street.
The clock is now 125 years old and still keeping accurate time. Downtowners now have to look at their own watches to tell the time instead of glancing up to the old clock, but there aren't many people downtown these days anyhow.