Sunday, April 20, 2008

Couple gets cozy with clocks

By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer

Some people have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing what time it is.
Fred Westbrook of Belton is one such person. He has 55 clocks in his house - and they're all ticking.
When the hour strikes, there's a minute-long whirlwind of sound. There are cuckoos, bells, chimes and whistles; it's a symphony gone haywire.
But the noise is welcome. It doesn't annoy him or his wife, Barbara. And they say the incessant tic-tocs don't disturb their sleep.
'I love to listen to the clocks. I look forward to it even,' Mrs. Westbrook said. 'There I am wanting to listen to them, but I pick up my knitting or a magazine, and no sooner than I do that - I miss it. I guess we've both gotten used to it.'
Keeping their clocks on time, though, is a bit of a chore. 'Most of them are eight-day clocks,' Westbrook said. 'They've got to be wound once a week. We do that on Sundays. It takes us about an hour to get the job done.'
They say they'll never tire of it, but if they do, they'll still know what time it is. There's a slew of other time-keeping devices in the Westbrook residence.
There are battery-powered clocks, digital clocks, decor clocks and a clock on the microwave. There's even a few old-fashioned pocket watches.
The alarm clock in the master bedroom is an easy-to-read digital clock with bright red numerals.
And an Atmos clock sits on the hallway mantle. It gets its running power from the planet's atmospheric pressure and temperature.
So yeah, the Westbrooks have clocks.
But why so many?
The couple's craze for clocks started in Germany in 1969.
'I came across an old clock that had fallen off the wall. It was in pieces, all across the floor,' Westbrook said.
He wanted to take it home with him to the United States.
'At that time, I had no interest in clocks, so I took it to an old retired German clockmaker and asked him to fix it for me,' Westbrook said. 'He handed it back to me and said, 'You can do that. I show you how.' '
That tutorial session prompted dozens of others. He learned about a clock's insides: the cogs, wheels and mainsprings. He learned how to clean clocks, and his fingers learned how to hold a clockmaker's tools.
'And before I knew it, I was crazy with it,' he said. 'I found out you could make a dollar fixing clocks, so I kept at it. People in the neighborhood kept on bringing me clocks to fix.'
The lure of extra cash, though, wasn't what fueled the 39 years he fed his clock habit.
'I enjoy the history of the old clocks, and I'm fascinated by the mechanics of them,' Westbrook said. 'There's always something to learn. Every clock is different.'
Mrs. Westbrook doesn't share her husband's passion, but she's glad the clocks make him happy.
'It gives him something to do,' she said. 'And he enjoys it. Doesn't bother me any.'

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