Bob Maas

Clocks & Steam

Bob Maas

In his eighties, Robert (Bob) Maas of Port Elgin, has a passion for clocks that began as a young boy.

"My father did clock repairs and I often watched," says Maas, although he admits to being mainly self-taught.  "I remember sending a letter to a company in England explaining that I wanted to know more about clocks and clock repairs.  They sent me two books ... one for somebody who almost didn't know how to wind a clock and the second for someone who had learned how.  They never did send me a bill," he laughs.

He served in the Canadian Navy from 1944-46 but his livelihood after the war was in the field of refrigeration.  "I lived most of my life in Toronto but I've always had close ties to this area.  My parents lived in North Bruce at one time and, since 1938, we had a family cottage in Gobles Grove that I only recently sold.  I remember in 1928, when the great epidemic of infantile paralysis broke out in Toronto, my parents brought me up to the Bruce to live with relatives and go to school to get me away from it. Once it was over, of course, I was sent back."

Over the years, Maas worked on many clocks.  "I maintained the grandfather clock in the Toronto Legion and I could actually stand up inside it. I also maintained the one at Black Creek Pioneer Village, the heritage village in Toronto, for many years.  They asked me one time if I could look at the Town Clock in Southampton because it had not been running for a long time, so I did.  I looked it over starting at the bottom and then climbed to the top.  I took one look and knew it was far beyond what I knew.  Lucky for the Town, they asked Walter from Vincent Jewelers and he's been doing it every since. Let me tell you ... he's the best!  I only work on clocks but Walter can work on the tiniest of watches too."

Cuckoo Clocks

Today, Maas is still repairing clocks and his home is filled with them.  As the hour strikes, each chimes a different tone, sounding almost like a choir of voices in different tones.   Every clock has a story, from the great-grandfather that stands impressively at the door to the unique little pyramid clock that defies the uninitiated to tell its time.  Besides keeping busy with repairs and maintaining the clock in the Port Elgin Legion, he also makes small cuckoo clocks that he gives away at local bingos.

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His work room downstairs is filled with shelves that are filled with, what else?  Clocks in various states of repair. There are anniversary clocks, that Maas claims never work right; there are shells of mantle clocks; there are the complete inner workings of clocks everywhere.

There are tools of every description and some that defy description.  For instance, because Maas is becoming hard of hearing he has developed a unique method of listening to the exact ticking of a clock.  He has figured out how to attach an ordinary baby monitor that amplifies the sound so that anyone in the room can hear it.  He also uses an immense magnifying glass on a swing-arm that magnifies even the smallest clock parts.

"I remember thinking one day of how handy a dentist's pick would be to work on the tiny parts of a clock.  I went over to a friend's house and I told him of my idea.  Lo and behold, he opened a drawer and it was filled with dental picks of every description!  I thought I had struck gold!  His brother, a dentist, had died and he inherited them.  I ended up with three that I still use today and they are, without a doubt, three of my most valuable tools."

Small Steam Engine

A member of the North American Watch and Clock Collectors (NAWCC) and, with a love of steam power, also a member of the Train Club, Maas home is filled with parts, partially repaired clocks, steam engine parts and tools.  What's more, he knows exactly where everything is.

Parts of All Kinds