There are still a few Delta landmarks which have been characteristic of the town for about a century — City Hall (Delta National Bank - 1910), the chamber building (Delta County Bank – 1892), and the sidewalk clock in front of McKnight’s Jewelry store at 343 Main (C.D. Allen & Son Jewelers – 1914). Used for almost a century as an at-a-glance timepiece, it was placed on Main Street at a time before the wristwatch was even invented.
When the clock was installed in 1914, there were still hitching posts on Delta’s cross streets. Early autos backfired a lot, spooking horses on Main Street when hitching posts lined Main, creating an ordinance which required their removal to the side streets, a practical move which probably saved many people, horses, teams, buggies and wagons from injury and damage.
In 1914, most men carried pocket watches, though they were not easily convenient to access, particularly in the winter. In general, women did not carry watches, and those who did likely had them tucked into their skirt waistbands.
The wristwatch was invented as a necessity of war, World War I, as soldiers needed instant access to the time because of the need for synchronized movement for coordinated troop actions. So they fashioned straps to attach their pocket watches to their wrists.
Referred to as the Main Street clock, the clock was purchased and installed by C.D. Allen & Son Jewelers four years (1914) after they purchased the jewelry business of Frank C. Helt in 1910. At that time the store was located three city lots north of its present site, though it only occupied the north half of the lot, with a millinery (hat) store occupying the south half. Seven years later, Charles D. Allen, with his son, Rollie, bought out the millinery store of Mrs. Jeffers (in 1917), three lots south of their first store. They immediately tore down the existing store and replaced it with a new brick-framed store. And they took the sidewalk clock with them, planting it in front of the new store which was twice the size of their earlier store.
When Charlie Allen died in 1931, followed by Rollie Allen in 1944, Rollie’s wife, Marvelle, continued to operate the business until 1947, when she sold it to Garner McKnight, thus changing the business name to McKnight’s Jewelry.
Louis Donald Hebrew purchased the business from the McKnight family in 1960, but kept the McKnight name with the business since that name was familiar to everyone at the time. Still in the Hebrew family, the store is currently owned by his son, Phil.
For about the last five years, southbound traffic on Main Street might conclude that the clock has stopped or has broken, and that is exactly the case. The north side of the clock was damaged by a worker while being painted, while the south side of the clock still works and keeps excellent time. Until repairs are made, however, Phil notes that the clock will remain dormant.
The Main Street clock is a pendulum clock, but the pendulum mechanism is not visible and actually extends several feet below the sidewalk level, with a pair of heavy weights which keep the pendulum moving. Phil has to wind the clock twice a week in order to keep the clock on time. Winding does not wind a spring, but simply raises the weights to begin their slow descent again. The clock was originally designed as an eight-day clock, but when the clock was moved in 1950 when sidewalks were modified, the weight cavity depth was shortened, and the clock then became a four-day clock, thus the need to wind it twice a week.
The C.D. Allen (McKnight) clock was not the first sidewalk clock to appear on Delta’s Main Street outside this jewelry business. A similar clock with a different pedestal appears in several photographs which predate 1908. Though this clock is also situated at or near the site of the current clock, the jewelry business which installed this clock has thus far eluded researchers.
The earliest known jewelry store in Delta was that of C.T. Clingenpeel, opened in mid-November 1898. Clingenpeel closed this store in January 1900.
The first store to open at the site of the original C.D. Allen store was opened in May 1904 by J.E. Clemings. He sold the business in March, 1906 to J.W. Edmonds, who sold it less than a year later to F.C. Helt, in February 1907. It was C.D. Allen who purchased the business from F.C. Helt in June 1910.
Time marches on!