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Will Rogers Clocks n' More stands test of time by adapting

Will Rogers Clocks n' More stands test of time by adapting

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David Cox has experienced a lot in his time.

The 77-year-old business owner started going to work when he was just a toddler. It started when Cox’s mom convinced his dad, C.T. Cox, to bring him to work when he was 3 years old.

“She said, ‘How else is he going to get to know his father? You might as well bring him with you,’ ” David Cox remembered. “I guess that’s how I got my go-go-go — from my dad.”

This year marks Will Rogers Clock n’ More’s 75th anniversary. In 1942, C.T. Cox opened the clock shop near Will Rogers High School at a time when it was still legal to use another person’s name without getting in trouble, David Cox recalled. Now, the clock business is just one of two places he knows that still uses the moniker.

David Cox move the shop into the Mini Mall 31 located off 31st Street and Sheridan Road about 40 years ago when and can still be found in there working most days. He arrives at 8 a.m. before the shop opens to get a head start on the day, answering email inquiries about clocks, planning his scheduled visits and tinkering with customers’ clocks that have stopped moving.

“I’m here six days a week working on something or out at someone’s home to check on a sick grandfather,” he said with a chuckle.

While traditional grandfather clocks are no longer sought after like they used to be, the business mostly consists of caring for the large time pieces and educating customers about them. Buying clocks isn’t a top priority anymore, he said. Most people own a smartphone that tells them what time it is via digital clocks that don’t require setting, winding or tiny moving pieces that indicate the seconds gone by. There’s also the fact that digital and atomic clocks don’t need the careful attention to detail it takes to be cleaned or repaired — replacing the battery will often do the job.

Many of the grandfather clocks Cox sees during his appointments are ones the business has sold over the past 40 years. He can usually tell by the miniature mice he sends that still rest perched on one of the clock’s metal weights. With every grandfather clock sold from Will Rogers Clocks n’ More, he leaves a small mouse for the new owner to carry on the tradition of the “Hickory Dickory Dock” nursery rhyme that tells of a mouse running up a clock. He usually shares a little clock history behind it, saying that mice would climb up the tall grandfather clock cases to get a taste of the bacon grease used to lubricate the wooden gears used in the 1770s.

Other facets of Cox’s clock business include researching information for appraisals. Will Rogers Clocks n’ More is the only Oklahoma member listed with the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors website, and Cox has become a helpful resource for many of its members and clock enthusiasts. He receives messages from people all over the world looking for information about clocks made decades ago by companies that have long since closed. Stacks of outdated catalogs that line the floor and cabinets of his office have come in handy whenever customers need information printed before the dot-com boom.

“I guess I was too lazy to throw out the papers and catalogs,” he said, motioning to his filing cabinets and collections of binders. “But now I can search through it pretty quickly to find what I am looking for.”

As a self-taught repairman with decades of experience with various movements, Cox said there aren’t many people left who specialize in clock repair. The grandfather clocks are his area of expertise, and a portion of his attention is given to wall or mantel clocks. Some smaller jobs are contracted out, but he described it as a tag-team effort between his business and Espigares Watches & Clocks down the street in the Farm Shopping Center. It’s a relationship built on loyalty and a love of the work.

“I like to get out and visit with people, and he likes to work at the bench,” Cox said. “I don’t like to work on the bench as much these days.”

His trips to visit “sick grandfathers” take him as far as Oklahoma City, Claremore and Skiatook. Depending on the condition of the grandfather clock, he may be able to disassemble, clean, oil and re-assemble without taking away too much time from his customers. Cleaning and oiling the clocks is a job that should be done every four or five years, but he said most people will forget about it.

“It’s still exciting for me to go out and talk to people and perk up their day with history of their clock,” he said. “I think they appreciate the clock a little bit more when I am done with it.”

Though the clock business has slowed down over the years, Cox still finds plenty of things to fill his time. Somewhere in between the house-calls, bench work and research, he’s managed to squeeze other appointments into his tight schedule. He’s a chaplain for a juvenile detention center, an environmental consultant, a commercial and residential real estate broker and is in the middle of writing a book.

“Maybe things didn’t keep me busy enough,” he said. “But I finally have the time to read some books by Will Rogers himself.”

Jessica Rodrigo 918-581-8482

jessica.rodrigo@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @EatsEatsEats

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