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A different clockwork Orange

  • The Community Church of North Orange and Tully. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Warren Rice of North Orange, the clock winder at The Community Church of North Orange and Tully, oils some of the gears. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The bell at The Community Church of North Orange and Tully. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Warren Rice of North Orange is the clock winder at The Community Church of North Orange and Tully. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Warren Rice of North Orange is the clock winder at The Community Church of North Orange and Tully. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz


By DOMENIC POLI
Saturday, November 25, 2017

ORANGE — Winding the clock at the Community Church of North Orange & Tully helps Warren Rice feel like he goes back in time.

The 61-year-old spends about 10 minutes every Monday night at the church, walking past the room where worship is held and the kitchen to head to the attic, where the building’s belfry is. But he was no stranger to the belfry when he accepted this position two and a half years ago.

“I love it. I used to come with my dad when I was just little. I remember the machine being so much taller than me and holding the flashlight,” Rice says, reminiscing about helping his father, True Benjamin Rice, who was the clock winder from the late 1940s to the early 1980s. True’s father of the same name filled in on occasion. “And there’s a good possibility that my grandfather’s uncle may have wound it over a period of time.”

“And one of my nephews came up with me this summer and he wound it. So it’s four or five generations of our family that have wound it,” he continues. “I have a son that’s about 30 and maybe one day he’ll be winding it.”

Rice, who lives one house away, became the clock winder when Lloyd Taylor took what Rice calls “early retirement” at 90. Taylor taught him the basics and suggested some maintenance that could be done.

“Pretty much everything that I’ve learned about it I’ve learned just by standing there and observing the thing,” Rice says, adding that he also conducted online research and contacted some clock enthusiast groups. The camachine, which is bolted down, rests 43 steps above ground level and is illuminated by two incandescent lights Rice installed. He said the church attic is freezing in the winter and sweltering in the summer.

To control the clock, which has had virtually no repairs in its history. Rice uses cranks to move brass gears, which raises a 250-pound box of rocks. Over the course of a week, the machine’s pendulum moves the machine’s gears, which in turn lowers the box. To control the church bell, Rice cranks up a roughly 800-pound slab of granite. Every time the bell is struck, the granite is lowered.

“It puts most gym routines to shame,” Rice says.

He oils the machine every month or two. He says the first bell was placed in 1833. That one cracked and was replaced in 1859. The church got the bell, made by the George Stevens Company in Boston, in 1876. Rice explains the church had fallen into disrepair in the late 1930s and early 1940s. When his father returned from service in World War II, he and a group of neighbors decided to renovate it.

Rice’s clock winding is a voluntary endeavor, as he receives no compensation for his work. He calls it a labor of love.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 258. On Twitter: @DomenicPoli