FRANKLIN — Four years ago, Dave Bennion joined the Franklin Selectboard. At the first meeting, the board held a reorganization where they had to select a chair.
“This is my first meeting. I’m sitting there and they say, ‘And then there’s the Keeper of the Clock.’ And the chairman of the board turned to me and said, ‘Dave, would you be interested in doing that?’ And I go, ahhhh,” says Bennion.
It’s the moment that started a journey for Bennion.
“I wasn’t familiar with clocks. I knew the clock here functioned irregularly and I said, ‘Well, I guess I’ll take a stab at it, you know?’ I was very unaware of what all went on,” he says.
Bennion stops to read a plaque inside the Methodist Episcopal Church where the clock hangs.
“The clock in the tower was erected by Arthur and Ida R. Hendrick as a memorial to their son Donald Robbie Hendrick who sacrificed his life in ‘proc night’ sports at the University of Vermont Nov. 20, 1920. Age 23 years, four months and seven days,” says Bennion
According to town records, Hendrick was participating in a boxing match during which he fell from the mat and hit his head on the floor. He succumbed to his injuries the next morning. The university dismissed classes and held a memorial service for Hendrick.
“Arthur and Ida bought this with the insurance money from Robbie’s death,” says Bennion, “Cause they didn’t feel right spending the money on themselves. So, they gave the clock to the town.”
June 3 is the 100-year anniversary of the clock’s installation. While it’s been reconditioned at least once, the clock still rings 24 times a day. But Dave notes that it wasn’t always so functional.
“The guy I took over from had done it for a few years and had very bad luck getting it to stay ringing. ... But he was trying to figure it out on his own,” Bennion says.
Bennion said he went into the town clerk’s office.
“When I got the position, I didn’t know anything, so I went down to the clerk and I said, ‘Lisa, we got anything around here on the clocks?’ She said, ‘I know there’s a folder in the filing cabinet that says clock but I’ve never looked in it.’ So I opened up the folder and inside the folder was the original installation manual from 1921,” he said.
Bennion read the manual a few times.
“I saw something that said when you stop the clock the pendulum should swing at least 7 inches and no more than 8 inches, so I got down and I measured the swing of the pendulum and it was about 6 ¾ inches. It was short,” he says.
The rest of the story doesn’t sound so simple when he explains, but Bennion says the pendulum bob on the clock was supposed to have a cup on top of it to hold weights. The cup was missing.
That’s when he found a piece of wiring laying on the floor. Bennion wrapped it around a part of the clock and ...
“I tied it in a knot. It was just enough weight to make the pendulum bob swing far enough. It’s been running ever since,” he said.
Bennion says he ran into the previous Keeper of the Clock in a grocery store some time later.
“He says, ‘Dave! Dave! I’ve got to ask you. What did you do?!!’ He says, ‘I’ve played with that for years, I couldn’t get it to stay ringing! How did you do it?’ After I told him about the weight he said,’Wow. That’s all?’”
At one time there were 31 Seth Tower clocks in Vermont, but according to state records, that number has declined due to age and cost of maintenance.
Bennion says that he will keep maintaining the clock as long as possible.
“This intrigues me. It’s a 100-year-old piece of machinery that still functions the way it did the day it was put in. That’s quality. Stuff isn’t built like that anymore. I saw somewhere where the average television is assigned to lie 3-5 years now,” he said.
But Bennion admits that time doesn’t stop ticking. He just turned 70 in March.
“As you can see it’s not simple to get over here and under this beam, so I’m not sure how many more years I’ll be able to do that. But that being said, there are alternatives...”
He’s interrupted by a chime.
“I get people up here and show them and they say, ‘Wow. That’s cool!’ They really appreciate it.
He adds. “I love this thing.”