Hand wound clock tower still keeping time nearly 120 years later


OMRO – In just a few hours, people have to set our clocks forward one hour for Daylight Saving Time.

For many, it’s not that much work at all -  phones and computers do it automatically, but for one clock tower in Omro, it takes some “old-school” effort.

In the small city of Omro, things have come a long way since the days of horses and buggies.

“Buildings-wise have, and the surrounding area,” said Lester Pongratz, the clock tender.

Some things haven’t changed at all.

“As for the clock tower no,” said Pongratz. “Just that they repainted it and stuff, and it’s basically all the same.”

The clock tower was built in 1896.

“When we were kids, we could see it and we’d know what time it was to be home by 4 o’clock,” said Pongratz.

Now Pongratz is the man who helps keep it running.

“It’s not very hard,” he says.

Every Monday morning, he makes the climb up the several flights of stairs, bobbing and weaving his way up.

“I don’t even count them,” said Pongratz.”Ain’t much room between the beams and everything.”

At the top lies the original equipment, nearly 120 years old.

“It just keeps running,” he said.

He does a quick check of the gears, oils it if needed and gives it several good cranks by hand.

“All I do is turn it, and I keep bringing it up and the weights are over on the east wall, and then as the clock runs, the weights go down and that’s what makes the clock run,” said Pongratz.

Pongratz follows a long line of clock tenders, each one forever etched into this piece of history.

“I followed suit in ’91,” he said pointing to the door of the clock. “I scribed my name in there too.”

“The people that have been around for years, lived all their life in Omro, they’ve grown up with the clock and yeah, it’s a sentimental thing for them,” said Mark Van Pelt, the public works director for the City of Omro.

That means this piece of legacy will keep ticking for a long time to come.

“I like winding this clock every week,” Pongratz said.

Since Daylight Saving Time happens Sunday morning, residents of Omro will have to wait until Monday before the clock is adjusted to the right time.

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