TUPELO, Miss. (AP) — When Lindsay Rasberry was 8 years old, he read an article in about a man named Ellis Tomsky who collected and repaired clocks.
“The headline said, ‘Tomsky Tinkers with Time,” said Rasberry, 45. “Clocks are my passion. I’ve loved clocks since I was a child. So from that article, we contacted Mr. Tomsky and his wife, Grace. They were transplants from Chicago and had no family here. After about our second meeting, we became like family, to the point where my sister married their son.”
Rasberry began an apprenticeship under Tomsky that would last 10 years.
“I would go to his home on the weekends and help him with his collection and complete the tasks he assigned me,” Rasberry said. “When I was 10, I began to disassemble and reassemble clock movements. I started having confidence in my own abilities around age 16 or 17, where I would take on jobs on my own.”
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Even though clocks were his passion, he didn’t pursue clock repair as a profession because that would have encroached on Tomsky’s business.
“After I graduated from Tupelo High School in 1990, I worked for E.R. Carpenter and Crane, making polyfoam rubber for the furniture industry,” he said. “In 1994, there was a company in Roswell, Georgia, looking for a full-time clock repairman.”
Rasberry got the job and worked there for five years before opening up his own business in the north Atlanta area. He moved back to Tupelo in 2016 to be closer to his roots.
“I always knew I’d end up back home,” he said. “By now, Mr. Tomsky had retired and moved out of the area. I didn’t want to step on his toes. Tupelo is a small town.”
Rasberry operates his business out of the home he temporarily shares with his mother, Sue, on Bryan Drive. The front room of the home has been turned into his shop, with walls lined with clocks he’s collected, clocks to be repaired, clocks that have already been repaired and all manner of boxes filled with the tools of the trade.
“I can work on anything — clocks, watches, music boxes,” he said. “The earliest clock in my collection is from 1740, but I also work on new clocks. I went into watch repair because clocks were falling out of fashion with the younger generation.”
Rasberry cut his teeth on cuckoo clocks because Tomsky didn’t like to work on them.
“They’re inherently difficult to repair,” he said. “But I don’t like to give up on clocks. I like to see them running again, too.”
A clock repair can take as little as an hour, where the customer waits in the shop for the work to be done, or can take half of a year.
“If it’s been neglected or unused for years, it could take six months,” he said. “Each job requires its own specific details. A typical overhaul takes six to eight weeks.”
Repairs can cost anywhere from $45 to $7,000, but a full overhaul on a time-and-strike movement clock is about $275. A house call to service a grandfather clock is $125.
“One cool thing about this profession is that a lot of people I do clock repair for have inherited the clock, so I get a lot of cool stories on how the clock was passed down from one generation to another, from a grandmother to a mother to a daughter,” he said. “It’s a very fulfilling profession.”
Rasberry estimates he has apprenticed 10 people throughout his career in the art of horology, which means the study of time.
“By teaching clock repair over the years, I’ve gotten used to people standing over my shoulder watching me work,” he said. “That makes some people nervous but it actually makes me focus harder.”
Rasberry has 23 clocks in his personal collection in his bedroom and at least that many in his workshop. Walls are lined with tambour clocks, commonly called humpback or Napoleon hat clocks; black mantel clocks; tall case clocks, now commonly called grandfather clocks; and kitchen clocks.
“My favorite type of clock I collect is the Viennese wall clock,” he said. “The sophistication and elegance that goes into the clock’s cabinet and movement is unlike any other.”
Rasberry has done extensive training through the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, which he has been a member of since 1983, when Tomsky paid his first membership dues.
“This is what I will do until I retire and then afterward, too,” he said. “It’s part of who I am. Most people do this after retirement. I’m one of the youngest members of the association. Clock repairmen are dying off faster than they’re signing up.”