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  • Writer's pictureJoseph F. Berenato

Town clock comes back to Hammonton

Town Clock Committee chairman Bob Schenk (left) and co-chair John Runfolo (right) pose in front the town’s refurbished 1929 Seth Thomas street clock.  The clock returned on March 2 after being repaired in Ohio by The Verdin Company. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

After spending more than five months in Ohio, the town clock has come home.

The clock—a 1929 Seth Thomas street clock—was removed from its location at the intersection of Third Street, Vine Street and Central Avenue on September 18, 2020 and brought to The Verdin Company in Cincinnati, Ohio for a complete restoration.

On March 2, representatives from The Verdin Company brought the refurbished clock back to Hammonton and began the two-day reinstallation process.

Representatives from The Verdin Company returned the town clock and began its reinstallation on March 2. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

“What a long, strange trip it’s been,” Town of Hammonton Clock Committee co-chairman John Runfolo said.

Bob Schenk, the clock committee chairman, concurred.

“We’ve been doing this for six years. We started in 2015, then ‘16, we took a two-year break in ‘17 and ‘18, then we started again in 2019. Now, March 2, 2021 it’s coming back. It’s been a long time, but we feel lucky. It’s a great day for us, for Hammonton, for the committee—everyone,” Schenk said.

Workers from The Verdin Company set the clock’s base. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

Harry Stafford, who was on hand for the delivery, noted that the process started during Hammonton’s sesquicentennial committee, of which he was chair.

“We discussed it, and decided that we had some leftover funds from the fundraising so we decided to fund the clock. Subsequently, it had a second fundraising committee that Bob and John ran—quite successfully, I might add—to fund the rest of it. The remaining dollars were picked up privately. It’s great,” Stafford said.

Clock committee member Dan Bachalis noted that, when the planning began, he was still serving as a member of town council.

“We helped work with the mayor to set up the committee, then negotiated over the course of a few months before we finally agreed to dedicate the funding for the town clock. I’m extremely excited to see this done. Seven years and even before it—at least 10 years we’ve been talking about this—and six years of active fundraising. I’m just totally thrilled that this is finally back up and running. It looks beautiful. It’ll be wonderful to see it all lit up,” Bachalis said.

Electri-Tech Service Manager Joe McShane began the electrical work on the clock on the morning of March 3. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

Runfolo noted that the committee was “very happy that it’s all private money.”

“People really got behind it. There’s been incredible support. We’ve got a great committee, and Bob did a tremendous job of fundraising. This started with the sesquicentennial, because we did have extra funds after we celebrated the sesquicentennial. Since the clock was part of our logo, we felt that was a perfect mix, and we said to just keep the money in escrow. We promised the people who donated and supported the sesquicentennial that we would use it for the clock, and we did. We’re very proud of that, and proud of the town of Hammonton for supporting us,” Runfolo said.

Runfolo said that the committee has continually received positive comments regarding their efforts.

“The most heartwarming ones were the $5 and $10 donations, where people said, ‘I grew up here,’ and ‘I took my elementary school pictures at the clock,’ or ‘my mom used to take me to the post office and we used to look at the clock.’ It’s amazing how people remember the clock. It’s a part of their history and part of the town’s history. We’re very proud of it, and it looks great,” Runfolo said.

Sean Wooton, Senior Field Service Technician for The Verdin Company, ensured that the clock’s head was resting securely on the column. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

Sean Wooton, the Senior Field Service Technician for The Verdin Company, noted that, when the clock was removed, it was in several pieces—namely, the head, the column, the cabinet and the base—but that, when the company repaired the clock, they “rebuilt the whole post and the base so that it’s all one piece.”

“When we took it out, it was in pretty rough shape with rust and all. We’ve got new hardware—the big eyebolt will come in there and is going to bolt on the inside of the head. We’ve got a new baseplate and a new footprint over there that the town had put in for us. Now, instead of two bolts, there’ll be four. Once they put it through production, cleaned it up and put all the new hardware in there, it’s got some reinforcing steel inside the cabinet that’s probably an eight-by-eight tube of steel inside of there. They’ve got reinforcements from the base to the column. This thing will be rock solid,” Wooton said.

Wooton said that the timepiece and all of the inner mechanisms are new.

“You won’t have to worry about too much stuff. It’s all automatic. It’ll set for Daylight Savings Time and all that. If you lose power, it retains where it should be and it’ll reset itself. The LED lights will last for probably longer than I’m going to fool with clocks. There’s a photocell on there, so that they’re automatic with the sun,” Wooton said.

Workers from The Verdin Company replace the faces on the town clock. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

Schenk said that the clock has several coats of dark green paint.

“That’s the original color: dark green. There was no other color, like all these fancy colors now. In 1929, dark green was the color. We jazzed it up a little bit,” Schenk said.

One of the ways they “jazzed it up” was by adding gold leaf on the accents of the clock.

“The total cost of the project was $94,500 of the contract. In that mix was $9,400 worth of gold leaf, between the gold and the application; the application was quite lengthy on the clock to make it look a little different than the way it was here before—but there was some gold on it originally. We had an option: gold, or gold leaf. The gold leaf is permanent—lifetime. I checked with Joe Boy (Berenato) at Action Auto Body on the finish and on the gold application, and that’s what he recommended,” Schenk said.

Town Clock Committee member Dan Bachalis, committee chairman Bob Schenk, committee co-chair John Runfolo and former Sesquicentennial Committee chair Harry Stafford pose in front of the town clock. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

Wooton said that the paint is epoxy, so “it should hold up really well up here.”

“You guys get some pretty gnarly weather for being so close to the ocean ... There is a protective Lexan overtop the bezels and glass so that it can protect it a little bit with the hands,” Wooton said.

All of these upgrades and protective measures should greatly extend the life of the clock.

“This clock will last 100 years,” Schenk said.

In appreciation for the efforts of the community to raise the funds necessary for the clock’s repair, Schenk said that a celebration is forthcoming.

“We’re going to have some kind of a dedication; we want to do something pretty big. We want to recognize all the people that donated to this project; it was 100 percent funded by donations by the people of the town. We’re going to have a big celebration, when we can, when it gets warmer and when COVID is over,” Schenk said.

Town Clock Committee co-chair John Runfolo (top), chairman Bob Schenk (left) and Councilman Jonathan Oliva (right) pose in front of the refurbished town clock. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

Councilman Jonathan Oliva, who was present for the completion of the installation—and the starting of the clock at 12:02 p.m. on March 3—said that the clock committee has done “a spectacular job.”

“Truly, this is a beautiful piece of artwork that’s come back to our community. I’m very excited, and the town is going to be very appreciative of it, and care for it for many years to come,” Oliva said.

Wooton also commented on the aesthetics of the clock, as well as on the experience.

“It’s a pretty clock. It’s really neat. It’s nice doing stuff like this, instead of making it brand new. We do brand-new clocks, as well, but, as long as I’ve been doing this, I like fooling with the older stuff. It’s rewarding. It’s cool. It’s neat for cities that take the time and effort, and bring the money together to get this together instead of just putting a new one in. It’s cool to refurbish something that’s almost 100 years old,” Wooton said.

For more clock photos, check out the photo gallery below.

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