This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on January 6, 1996
ONE GOOD CLOCK STORY DESERVES ANOTHER 2 OR 3
by Roz Young
The story here about the clock on the old Callahan Building at Third and Main stirred up a few others.
One day in 1978, Susan Zurcher read in the paper that the Callahan Building would be razed to make way for the new Gem City Savings Building by I.M. Pei. Zurcher was at the time assistant administrator of the City Beautiful Council.
`What about the clock?' she asked her boss, Paul Wick. `It surely won't go with the architecture of the new building. But we can't let them throw it away.'
`OK,' answered Wick. `Think of something.'
She went around to Gem City Savings and spoke her piece. Soon she heard from Warren Ross, Gem City president, asking for the council's help in finding somebody who would take the clock and give it loving care. The council sent out the word, and E.R. Strasser of Reynolds and Reynolds responded with a proposition that pleased Gem City Savings.
Foreman industries moved the clock on Aug. 13, 1978, and Reynolds and Reynolds put it in storage. On Dec. 20, 1978, in a ceremony attended by many public-spirited Dayton citizens, the clock, freshly repainted and with new faces, was restarted on top of the Reynolds factory building.
When Grace Powell, of 1137 Wenbrook Drive, Kettering, read in 1978 that the clock was being moved to Reynolds and Reynolds, she noticed that Frank Kothman had been invited to restart one of the hands. He was one of the two original starters when the clock was repaired in 1921.
`Could this be the same Frank Kothman who is was in my 1930 Fairmont graduating class?' she asked herself, and wrote to him to find out. He replied on Jan. 10, 1979. It was the same Frank Kothman.
`Last year as they started to tear down that old building at Third and Main,' he wrote, `it appeared my poor old clock might be headed for the scrap heap. So when Reynolds and Reynolds decided to place it on top of their building, I wrote to both Gem City Savings and Reynolds and Reynolds to express my appreciation for their efforts and explained my unusual interest in the old clock. I guess this gave them an idea of what they might do as a second dedication of the clock.'
After the clock-starting ceremony, the company gave a luncheon at Miami Valley Golf Club and presented Kothman and Adele Wanner Taylor, the other starter, with new gold watches.
`We had a great time,' said Kothman, `and now we're just sitting back until it's time to start the old clock again 57 years down the road!'
Kothman was a graduate of DePaul University - president of his class of 1934 - and was for 37 years traffic manager of the old McCall Corporation. After he retired, he took a job at Sinclair Community College `working four hours each morning five days a week. Really,' he wrote, `it's merely to keep me busy, give some schedule and purpose to the day and perhaps to give my wife, Doris, a bit of a break by getting me out of the house for a few hours.' He died suddenly at Sinclair, where he was supervisor of the mail room, shipping and receiving.
Taylor, the other clock starter, still lives in Oberlin, Ohio.
I also had a call from Dallas Guffey, a former student of mine at Stivers. He has been the electrician in charge at Reynolds and Reynolds for more than 30 years and is about to retire. One of his duties has been to keep the clock running. He invited me out to take a look at the clock from the inside. The fiberglass faces on the clock are 10 feet high, and access to the clock interior is up a 35-foot ladder fastened to the wall. Inside the clock are names and dates going back into the '20s. I think I would know some of the names, but these days I climb no ladders more than 2 feet tall.
The clock is trimmed in bright blue. The last time it needed a paint job, the Reynolds and Reynolds president, Richard H. Grant Jr., thought it would be nice to paint it the old oxidized color it was originally when it stood atop the Callahan Building. But when he looked at it after it was half-painted, he said, `No, that won't do. Back to the blue.'
It cost the company $60,000 to move the clock, but it has brought, said Grant, a million dollars worth of good will.
Edward M. Halloway, of 3308 Carrier Ave., Kettering, remembers the old clock with pleasure.
`Your article reminded me of the old clock that was on top of a post in front of the old Homestead Loan on East Third just off Main,' he wrote. He sent a story about what happened to that clock to Dale Huffman, but he didn't say whether Huffman had made any use of it. The clock is now in downtown Flint, Mich.
Virginia Bush, of 29 N. Hedges St., wrote to inquire about H.H. Darst, president of the bank in 1921 when the clock was repaired and with whom Lucia May Wiant worked on the project of restarting the clock. She wonders if he is a relative. She added a footnote.
`Do you remember the Borden ice cream man who used to deliver in your building at work?' she wrote. `He bumped your foot with his ice cream unit. He was my husband, Cary Bush. He passed away May 17, 1994. He often spoke of you.'
In days when `refreshments will be served' was one of my favorite expressions, evidently I was always in a hurry for the ice cream man to come.