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updated: 6/29/2012 7:51 AM

Pekin man still fixes clocks

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  • Bart Hoyle works in his garage/clock repair shop.

    Bart Hoyle works in his garage/clock repair shop.
    Associated Press

  • Bart Hoyle who has no issues at all with gutting an old clock, pulls apart the tangled labyrinth of gears to find out why the old timepiece no longer functions.

    Bart Hoyle who has no issues at all with gutting an old clock, pulls apart the tangled labyrinth of gears to find out why the old timepiece no longer functions.
    Associated Press

Associated Press

PEKIN -- Time is definitely on Bart Hoyle's side. As he works in his garage workshop, clocks of all kinds bong and chime every quarter-hour.

"I don't even hear it," said Hoyle, 53, who's been repairing clocks for more than 30 years.

A school bus mechanic from 1976 to 1993, Hoyle said he likes fixing things. "My Dad owned Hoyle Transportation that provided Pekin's school bus fleet," he said.

"I worked days from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the buses and came home and sometimes worked until midnight on the clocks," Hoyle said.

In 1993, he set up shop on Pekin's Derby Street. After a year, Hoyle moved his Clock Co. store to Pekin Mall.

"I had a great holiday season in 1994, but I decided I wanted to work my hours instead of mall hours," said Hoyle, who still keeps the Clock Co. logo sign above his workshop where clocks cover walls and line shelves. One of those wall clocks runs backward, useful in barber shops where customers can view the time reflected in the mirror, he said.

While so many keep digital time these days, Hoyle acknowledges that the clock repairman may be a vanishing breed. But he feels there's still a need for his services.

"There are still a lot of clocks out there, but too many are in closets or attics," he said.

"Grandfather, mantle and wall clocks - I can still buy parts for those. With a lot of antique clocks, I have to make my own parts," Hoyle said.

In addition to working on clocks for the home, Hoyle is a commercial clock repairman. "I've repaired several clocks in Downtown Peoria - one by City Hall and the other on the riverfront," he said.

"One of the jobs I'm proudest of haunted me for six months," said Hoyle, referring to a clock tower in Fairbury.

"I had to totally disassemble the clock mechanism, then reassemble and paint it," he said of bulky machinery built in 1915. The last he heard, Hoyle said the Fairbury tower was keeping the right time.

Other clock towers that he's worked on are in Flanagan, Champaign and Bloomington, he said.

When he attends clock shows and swap meets across the Midwest, Hoyle said he's looking for books - volumes that itemize different types of clocks and clock parts. He's got drawers full of them already but always looks to add to his collection.

The clock-making community tends to be a close fraternity, he said. "Most of the hand tools I have come from other clock men," said Hoyle, showing off a battered cabinet filled with various glass clock faces.

"I bought these from the widow of a clock maker," he said, extracting valuable glass circles of different sizes. "You'd pay $200 for this alone," he said, displaying one of the larger glass pieces.

Ninety percent of his business now comes from word of mouth, he said. "It's often a relief to people to find someone that still repairs clocks. I find that very fulfilling," said Hoyle, who can be reached at 347-4446.

Whether it's a grandfather clock or a table-top hunter-and-the-fisher model, restoring life to a dated device while providing a guarantee on his work provides a lot of satisfaction, he said.

Clocks have been an interest to Hoyle since he disassembled his first timepiece as a child. "Bud Udry of Udry Jewelers in Pekin suggested that I give clock repair a try. I took a course at Illinois Central College and stayed with it," he said.

As to his philosophy when it comes to clock repair: "If I break something, I learn how to fix it because I'm embarrassed," he said.

Now Hoyle is the instructor. "I'm open to teaching others. I figure I've had 15 to 20 students over the years," he said. While his son isn't interested in following in his footsteps, Hoyle holds out hope that his three-year-old grandson may show an interest.

Sometimes Hoyle finds work when he doesn't expect it. Once while dining with his wife when on vacation, the restauranteur, once apprised of Hoyle's craft, said if he'd tend to the restaurant's clock, the couple's dinner was on the house if the clock was still working at meal's end.

"It was still running," said Hoyle with a smile.

"I had six hours on my hands once while visiting Decatur. I wound up fixing several clocks for a business there. Instead of killing time, I was healing time," he said.

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