December has always been a joyous time for Westcloxers. (Except for 1942, but we’ll save that for another time.) I can’t begin to tell you how many “Baby Boomers” have commented on the wonderful Christmas parties the company used to throw for the children/grandchildren of employees. I’d like to talk about another December event that was anxiously-awaited by an elite group of employees – the annual Quarter Century Club banquet.
For those who don’t already know, the Quarter Century Club was an organization comprised of members who had been faithful employees of the company for at least twenty-five years. Each year, new members were initiated into the club, based upon their years of service. They were collectively known as “The Class of ….”. Each would receive a solid gold lapel pin bearing the club insignia, along with a leather-bound book containing photos of all members of the club. (Supplemental pages were supplied every year thereafter.) These presentations were made at a December banquet provided by the company. These banquets were held at various locations, but most people now recall those that were held in the elaborately decorated cafeteria of the factory.
In addition to new members, those who had extended service were also honored. Employees achieving thirty-five years of service received another gift. Depending on the era, this would have been a diamond stick pin, a solid gold wrist watch, or a Seth Thomas wall or mantle clock. Watches and clocks were suitably engraved. If an employee reached fifty years of service, he or she was awarded $1,000!
If you’re wondering how an employee could work in the same company for as much as fifty years, be assured it was not uncommon. In the years before government-mandated labor laws, people began their working careers much younger (Some were just children!), and many of them never retired.
Let me tell you about a very special December long before any of us can remember. It was 1918. The United States’ involvement in the Great War (WW I) had ended a month earlier, and people were breathing a sigh of relief and feeling happy again. All Western Clock Co. (Westclox) employees who had been with the company for at least twenty-five years received an invitation from Mr. Roth, General Manager of the company, to gather together to partake of an excellent dinner at the Hotel Peru on Saturday, December 28, 2018. The January 1919 issue of Tick Talk told the story:
“…During the evening the Westcloxers formed themselves into a permanent club to be known as the Westclox Quarter Century Club and elected Mr. Robert Paton chairman. Mr. Paton was tendered this honor as he was the oldest member of the club in point of years of service.”
“A large part of the evening was given over to stories of ye olden days, each guest being given the opportunity to tell of his or her early days with the Company. We’d like to reprint the tales, but sorry to say, we did not have a Dictaphone hidden in the wall so all the stories got away. Needless to say that all the members had a good time, and they are already looking forward to the next meeting.”
“Considering the small number of people who were employed twenty-five years ago, it is remarkable that there are fifteen people still with us who were part of the old force.”
Here are the members of the inaugural class of the Westclox Quarter Century Club:
Mr. Robert Paton, Tool Department. Mr. Paton began working for the Company in 1886. (Note: Remember what I said about some people starting their working careers when they were still children? Mr. Paton was about 10 years old when he began his Westclox career!)
Mr. Joseph Klein, Experimental Department; 1887
Mr. William Bishop, Timing Department; 1887
Mr. Frank Holsinger, Automatic Screw Machine Department; 1887
Miss Anna Behrens, Four Inch Finishing Department; 1887
Miss Bettie Barker, Four Inch Asembling Department; 1888
Mr. Hubert Reeve, Shipping Department; 1888
Mr. Ernst Roth, Secretary and General Manager; 1889
Mr. H. E. Hackman, Assistant General Manager; 1890
Mr. John Wolfe, Buffing Department; 1890
Mr. Gustave Hoenscheid, Buffing Department; 1891
Mr. Otto Sentfleben, Tool Department; 1891
Mr. Bernard Nelson, Stock Department; 1892
Mr. Ed Strohm, Tool Department; 1892
Miss Mary O’Brien, Wheel Cleaning Department; 1893
The Quarter Century Club continued to be very active for just over fifty years. The final Quarter Century yearbook was published and distributed to the Class of 1969, and it appears the club was phased out in approximately 1970, under Talley Industries. During that half-century, hundreds of new members were inducted into the club. The Westclox Museum is proud to have a number of Quarter Century Club pins, yearbooks, watches and clocks in its collection, and always happy to add more in honor of the dedicated men and women who earned them.
Now it is time for a new tradition, and we are not waiting for the one hundred year mark. In December 2017, ninety-nine years after the formation of the Westclox Quarter Century Club, the Westclox Museum is establishing the Westclox Century Club. Unlike the Quarter Century Club, this club will pay tribute to all of the clocks residing in the museum that were made in the Western Clock Company/Westclox factory at least one hundred years ago! We are currently identifying, cataloging and photographing the clocks that will be included in the inaugural class of the club. We’re not sure exactly how many members this class will have, but it is likely it will match or exceed that of the first year of the Quarter Century Club. All of these models will be displayed together for easy viewing by the public, and their individual portraits will be kept in an official record book. You will want to be sure to stop by the museum to meet these old-timers.
Have a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New year. We look forward to seeing you at the museum in 2018.