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Charles A. Dean's Clock

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Helen Griffith
Photo Credit: Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Credit: Sarasota Herald-Tribune and Sarasota History Alive

Sarasota History - Charles A. Dean's Clock photo

The Clock…it seems timely to give you, this last Sabbath before the clock strikes the New Year, an introduction to a creative gentleman and his masterpiece-timepiece. We ran into him quite by accident and came away with a human interest story.

Meet now, Charles A. Dean, in his little grocery store at 3911 South Trail. And also meet his extraordinary Grandfather Clock that he started making in 1930 and finally now, as the year fast turns into 1959, the clock has reached completion.

We found his work-of-art in the back of his store, as we searched along the shelves for a tin of tuna and a can of SaniFlush (which reminds me to give you a home-made joke, later on).
Its loud, rhythmic tick led me to make its acquaintance. No face did it wear, and the back case was off, revealing the most unusual set of insides. Not being mechanically minded, we will, with Charlie’s help, try and explain what makes this unusual assemblage of materials…work.


Time on his Hands
“I had time on my hands after moving to Sarasota from Atlanta in January, 1925,” declared Charles. “So I decided to wrap my spare time up into building me a clock.”
We walked over to the tall proud subject-at-hand and its creator went on to point out things. “I started it running awhile back with spring weights and a hydromatic drive, using this phonograph motor that I took out of an old Victor machine. And this red can of transmission oil sits on the old Victrola drive and will last forever. Same principal as used in dynaflow type drive in automobiles.

“An old hand crank from a diesel is used here and the large gears are made of gumwood and the spur gears are made by using eight-penny nails with a piece of brass pipe to make a roller bearing.


“This cap is from an old wine bottle and it’s an important part of the mechanism. The pendulum is made of some old copper and the stick is of maple. The dial is of copper with punched figures, all by hand of course, and that was a job!”


Pretty Face
“I have the face here ready to put in place. I have ornamented it with wood of I think quite beautiful grain…coming from a strip I saved from a crate-box years ago containing a shipment of matches from Russia. It was during World War II I remember.”


Charlie was also proud of the fine wood used for the case of the clock. “It is of cypress and see, it shows the tear-drops. The hands here are carved of black walnut from the old Technical High in Atlanta where I taught math and shop from 1906 to 1916.


“When the banisters were dismantled on the stairway, I was give some of the wood. It has a sort of sentimental value.


“You see the gong strikes once on the quarter hour, twice on the half hour, three times on the three-quarter hour and four times on the hour, “ he explained and pointed out the wood hammers and welding rods for the gong. We noticed how beautifully hand-carved were the gears.


What! No Bark?
But we grinned at a piece of board that read in large bright red lettering DELICIOUS…and at our questioning look, Charlie explained, “That’s the sounding board and I made it from a hot dog stand on the Fruitville Road.”


We thought that the additional picture of a hot dog-all-the-way on the beautiful clock’s sounding board…was THE END!


Our new found friend lives with his wife Ada and three daughters, over at 2285 East Hyde Park and beside his long-time-building of a grandfather clock out of this-a and that-a…Charlie has another hobby most interesting to tell about at a future time. In the meantime…this timepiece must be seen to be fully appreciated, and as we left the store that pleasant recent morning, we could hear behind us…the sounding of the chimes which this enthusiastic, active little gentleman assured we were, “the delight of his customers.”