Inmates in Pendleton Restore Courthouse Timepiece
Gary Kopperud, licensed master clockmaker and owner of Pioneer Timepiece Co. in Pendleton has taken on a project to restore the courthouse clock through his clockmaker’s training program. The class which is part of the prison’s workforce development effort is in fact one of the last of its kind in the United States.
The clock is a Seth Thomas Model of which originally only 15 were produced in the early 1880s. The clock was installed when the courthouse was built in 1902. In the 60s the clock was converted to run on electricity and more than half of the old mechanical parts were lost in the shuffle.
The inmates in the clockmaker class learned how they could put everything back together to restore the clock. Ten new students joined the class over the last three months, along five graduates who now serve as assistant teachers along Gary Kopperud.
“It’s always an honor to work on something as prominent as a county’s only tower clock,” Kopperud said. “It’s very much a part of their history. They’re proud of their courthouse, their clock and their county.”
Refurbishing clocks is an exercise in absolute precision, Kopperud said. In order to make the clock work every gear must have the exact number of teeth, and the pendulum measured at just the right length, in order to beat in time. If something goes wrong, the seconds could tick away too fast or too slow.
Inmate LuRay Batterton (52) from Lewiston, Idaho, is one of the graduate teachers in the class. He said the class has changed his life, and helped him learn to work with people.
“It gives you a feeling of accomplishment,” Batterton said.