Larry Boucher, left,
and his part-time woodworking helper, Charlie Forester, examine
an antique clock in disrepair. Markings on the clock indicate
it was built in 1820 by W.E. Conant in New York. Larry takes
pleasure in observing the work of previous clockmakers and bringing
old clocks back to life.
When time stops, citizens of Peculiar seek out Larry Boucher. Usually,
they find him hunched over his workbench, peering at tiny, ancient
cogs. They bring him broken grandfathers, cuckoos and wall clocks with
the hope that he can restore life to their now-silent tickers.
“I’m just a servant to the lost clock that doesn’t
work,” says Larry, who dons a flip-up visor with magnifying glasses
atop his shiny, bald head.
The 56-year-old clock worker sports a salt and pepper mustache and
silver-rimmed glasses that he peers through with soft brown eyes. At
his small store in Peculiar, Larry repairs and restores antique and
“The whole purpose is to preserve and restore these old clocks,
so they ring on the hour and half-hour like they used to,” he
says. “And maybe I can earn some money to pay the bills and make
some people happy along the way.”
Next to the entrance, where three grandfather clocks stand tall, a
host of clocks rest on shelves and hang on walls in two adjoining rooms.
The clocks date from the late 1700s to the present. Their perpetual
tick-tock, tick-tock and routine chimes resonate from every room.
shop is full of old clocks, some of which date to the late
In one back room,
Larry stops at an impressive grandfather clock and spins the clock’s hands. “This ol’ guy makes a lot
of noise when he goes off,” he says as the clock’s deep
chimes begin to ring from within. Larry often refers to grandfather
and grandmother clocks as “he” or “she,” and
he treats them with the same care he would show any customer.
“The people who bring me their clocks appreciate the clocks’ value
and history,” he says. “They don’t just bring those
to anyone to work on, and I appreciate that.”
Larry enters the store’s back room where an elderly gentleman
with a hunting cap, overalls and a pleasant smile is examining a
wooden case. The man, Charlie Forester, works for Larry part-time,
repairing the clock’s woodwork. Charlie is responsible for
exterior repairs to the wooden cases while Larry fixes and cleans
the clocks’ inner
|After peeling off the
cover, Larry examines one clock’s
inner workings. As he works, he’s careful to mark the parts
so he can put the clock back together.
“I work on the guts and Charlie does the makeup,” Larry
He turns and sits down at his workbench, where dozens of screwdrivers, wrenches
and other tools angle toward him from their resting spots in a homemade tool
holder. He removes the face of an antique wall clock and begins to take apart
the movement, or inner workings, one gear at a time. He carefully picks them
up and places them in a nearby bowl.
“We’re gonna have to go through every pivot, every pinion, every
gear,” he explains. “And everything has to be cleaned, polished
As he works, Larry scribbles on a small note pad and makes tiny markings on the
gears with a fine marker so he can remember how to put the complicated mechanism
back together. He is careful not to alter the appearance of the clock or make
any permanent marks.
“I don’t do anything that can’t be undone,” he says. “We
want to make it the closest to the original as possible.”
To see how the
piece originally looked, Larry sometimes refers to photos of antique
clocks in his collection of books and magazines that he receives
as a member of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors
and the American Watch Institute. Since he began collecting and repairing
clocks in the early ’70s,
while working as a meat and poultry inspector in Dallas, Larry has taught
himself everything he knows about clocks from these publications.
inner workings, or movement, of a clock often fail after years
of neglect. To restore life to the clocks, Larry takes apart
the movement, cleans and repairs it.
“It’s really not that complicated,” he says, though that doesn’t
appear to be the case.
Once he finishes taking apart the clock, Larry carefully cleans the parts by
hand with a solution based on a 100-year-old recipe. He is careful not to remove
any of the markings from previous clockmakers that provide a clue to the past.
While he works, he often ponders the origins of the writing.
“It’s kind of fun to ask, ‘Who made this clock? Why did he
make it?’” he says. “After a while, you begin to see
trends of clock makers going in and out of business during the Depression
and Civil War.”
To pay tribute
to his predecessors, Larry dresses as a traveling clock repairman
from the 1880s, wearing a black vest and derby hat, during the Harrisonville
Living History Festival each year. At his booth, he demonstrates a foot-pedal
lathe and other antique clock-working instruments to educate others about
clock restoration and history.
much of his day at his work bench, where he takes apart old clocks,
cleans and fixes them, then puts them back together.
“Those clock makers were craftsmen and artists in their own right, he says. “I
like to think I’m just a shadow of that. Not that I’ll
ever be that good, but just a shadow of it.”
Suddenly, Larry hears the door open. He gets up and goes to the front room where
a woman with a small nose ring stands at the counter. She buys a set of clock-shaped
salt-and-pepper shakers and leaves as a man with a brown vest and tinted shades
walks in the door.
“I have another clock for you, buddy!” he exclaims. “My wife
was in hog heaven after you finished that last one!” He sets a
broken mantle clock on the counter and Larry examines it closely. Larry
asks the man a number of questions about his expectations, from the price
to the wood’s
polish, and the man leaves.
demand a lot,” Larry later explains. “When a customer
comes in, I ask a lot of questions. I want to know, ‘What do
you expect from me to make you happy with your clock?’”
the Harrisonville Living History Festival each year, Larry
dresses as a traveling clock repairman from the 1880s. At his
booth, he uses this foot-pedal lathe to educate young and old
about clock repair and restoration.
Apparently, Larry has answered that question. He currently has more than six
months of work lined up, which is impressive considering his store has only been
opened since March of last year. Before that time, Larry worked out of his home
in Peculiar after moving there in 1986 with his wife, Barbara.
While Larry waits on customers, Charlie continues to work on the
wooden case in the back room. He shapes elaborate new knobs and paints
them with black spray paint. Once the paint dries, he will attach
the wooden pieces and repair any other broken parts.
As he works, he talks about the “ol’ timers” and how they took
their time to build products that last. He cites the pyramids of Egypt and Henry
Ford’s Model T as examples.
In the meantime, Larry finishes cleaning gears and begins to reassemble the movement.
When everything comes together, the clock will look and run like new.
“Really, the rewards of bringing these clocks back to life are worth more
than the money or anything else you get from doing this job,” he
Clock Service is located in the Sanders Center shopping center in
Peculiar, just west of Hwy. 71 on Route C. The store is open Monday
and Wednesday from 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m, and Tuesday from 10 a.m. -
7 p.m. Larry also makes house calls on Thursdays and Fridays. For
more information, call (816) 779-6696.