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Only a Matter of Time: A behind the scenes look at Omro's 122-year-old hand-wound clock tower

OMRO, Wis. -- (CBS 58) Daylight saving time ended overnight and it will be 126 more days before it returns. While many of our clocks can be reset with the touch of a button or reset automatically, we found a clock in a small town west of Oshkosh where turning back the hands of time takes more than a little effort.

On East main street in downtown Omro, time is of the essence. 

"If it's not working I hear about it," Lester Pongratz laughed.

Built in 1896, the clock that sits on top of the old city hall building has watched the times change for more than 120 years and once a week, it's Pongratz's job to make sure its in good working order.                                               

 



"I like it," he said. "It's history."

As a kid, the clock helped him stay on time.

"When mom said to be home by five you'd be home by five," he said.

He's been returning the favor for almost the last 30 years.

"(I) take a lot of pride in that," he said.

It's 72 steps to the from the base of the clock tower to the top, but once you make it, it's as if no time has passed at all. 

"(It's) all original," he said of the equipment. "Yup, it's never been changed. All the gears are brass so if you keep them oiled, it will last a long time." 


With a quick check of the gears it's time to set the hands of time.

"If it's a little slow I just take the key and I just take it and turn it to the right time," he said.

And historic clock or not, sometimes modern technology helps. Pongratz uses his smart phone to set the historic clock. However, technology can only go so far. What's next just needs some old fashioned elbow grease. 

"Then I wind it for the hands," he said. "The weights pull pressure on the clock and it makes the pendulum go. "I just wind it until the weights come up." 

While Daylight Saving ended early Sunday morning, Omro residents will have to wait until Monday for the clock to the be changed. 

"Next morning I come to work, I come and I stop the clock," he explained. "Then I just leave and then I come back an hour later and then I just start the clock back up."



Pongratz follows a long line of clock winders who have all made their mark on this piece of history by etching their names into one of the doors of the clock mechanism. 

"I took it over in 1991, July 21 my name is Lester Pongratz," he said pointing to his name on the door.

And just like the clock that's gone "Tic, Tok" for more than a century, Pongratz will be back like clock work, to do it all over again - next Monday.

"As long as my health is good I'll keep winding it," he laughed. "If they let me."

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