Historical clock finds its way back home
It began its life as SAIT's official timepiece and it has now taken its rightful place as an iconic piece of our history. The clock that kept time for SAIT for almost half a century has been restored and installed in a Heritage Hall showcase in time for next year's 100th birthday.
About 100 former instructors and staff and members of the retirees' association SAIT's ALIVE, attended the unveiling ceremony in Heritage Hall on Wednesday, June 10. Before showing off the grandfather clock, SAIT's President and CEO Dr. David Ross thanked the group for their hard work on the clock's restoration.
"It's no surprise then that SAIT's ALIVE chose to revive this elegant piece of artistry – a combination of mechanical and electric technology — to showcase our past," said Ross. "It was state-of-the-art technology of its day. It's such a pleasure to have it back in this high-profile display case in time for our centennial."
A brief history of time
The timepiece is on display just steps away from where it was first employed in SAIT's historical main building when it opened in 1922. The clock was purchased from the Standard Electric Time Company of Springfield Massachusetts and was installed in the principal's office, away from public view.
A high-tech marvel of its day, it was wired to every other clock throughout the school — serving as a master clock synchronizing the others and triggering the school bell. The clock was removed and placed in storage in the mid 1960s.
Reviving a relic
The restoration project was passionately undertaken by Blake Gordon of SAIT's ALIVE. Getting the clock up and running wasn't only a major technical challenge; it also involved some detective work. Gordon says staff lost track of the clock for a while after it was initially removed.
Another former SAIT employee, Trevor Beatson was the first to catch wind of the clock's existence in the 1980s. A machinist and millwright by trade, Beatson repaired equipment around campus, and had a personal interest in building and repairing clocks.
Beatson finally tracked the clock down beneath Heritage Hall in the 1990s.
"I made some inquiries and found that it was in storage — literally underground," says Beatson. "I took a flashlight and found it in a big coffin-shaped box. I brought it out and scrounged up some components. Then, with some help from electricians and carpenters around SAIT, and some restoration advice from an expert in New York, I got it up and running and installed in a showcase near the elevator in Heritage Hall."
Of course the story doesn't end there. When the building was closed for restoration in the late 90s, the clock was removed once more, but it didn't disappear. "It sat right next to my work bench," Beatson says with a smile. "I had it next to me until I retired from SAIT in 2002."
Ever since, SAIT's ALIVE has kept the clock safe until the time was right to return it to the showcase in Heritage Hall — the eve of SAIT's once-in-a-lifetime centennial celebration seems the perfect time.
"This is a technical institute — that clock is technology," says Blake Gordon proudly. "I think it's important that we recognize the technology from our history."