The business of time going strong, with or without Daylight Saving

Ray McGuire at work (KXAN Photo/Andy Jechow)
Ray McGuire at work (KXAN Photo/Andy Jechow)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — At 2:00 a.m. Sunday, Daylight Saving Time marks its return, and with it, an opportunity to present a portrait of an Austin clock store that has a special appreciation for time.

It may not surprise you to learn that daylight saving is not a topic that elicits a strong reaction, and that includes those found at the “oldest clock store in Texas”, McGuire’s Clocks. It’s a subject that really only makes waves twice a year.

“I don’t think it’s necessary anymore, I think it’s antiquated,” Jason Ward said. His stepfather, Ray McGuire, owns the store, where Ward has worked for the past 20 years. It’s a family business transitioning into its third generation.

Many Americans would like daylight saving’s summer hours to be permanent. They enjoy that extra hour of sunlight, and don’t see the point of additional morning sunlight.

The other side of the coin: a concern for children walking to school or waiting for their bus in the dark, and studies that show an increase in traffic accidents after the spring shift in time.

An October Rasmussen survey found that only five percent of American adults were not sure which way to turn their clocks. It seems like “spring forward, fall back” is catchy enough to jog your memory, but not catchy enough to be used in a chant to bring down daylight saving or make it permanent. “We are the five percent?”

Legislators across the country have tried, with varying levels of success, to wind the system down. Hawaii and Arizona opt out, just as the majority of countries around the world have opted out.

North America, Europe and the habitable parts of Australia remain the major holdouts.

Members of the Texas House of Representatives were determined to put an end to it, but, as the Associated Press puts it, stalled their efforts when they realized this would mean a choice “between attending church and watching out-of-state football.”

A time-honored tradition at McGuire’s

In the back room at McGuire's: (from left) Jason Ward, Archie "Ray" McGuire and Ian King (KXAN Photo/Andy Jechow)
In the back room at McGuire’s: (from left) Jason Ward, Ray McGuire and Ian King (KXAN Photo/Andy Jechow)

A handsome row of grandfather clocks greet you as you walk into McGuire’s, located at 4915 Airport Blvd.

Many of the grandfather clocks are American-made, by Howard Miller and Hermle, a German company with a division in Virginia.

Many of their clocks are 100 years old or older, and occasionally they’ll see clocks that are 300 years old, and prices to match.

For an antique clock, which has been around for at least a century, prices at McGuire’s range from $200 to an $8,000 grandfather clock sold recently, which a dealer will in turn sell for around $15,000, Ward says.

An ornate grandfather clock, made in America by Howard Miller, is listed at $28,183 on McGuire’s website.

If your ideal clock weighs less than 300 pounds and doesn’t involve an insurance policy, they’ve got plenty of that too.

Outside McGuire’s, founded in 1965, the march for and against daylight saving continues at a slow and unsteady pace, but inside, the business of time is going strong.

“There’s a generation of people out there wearing very tight pants with beards that seem to be more inclined to like that Old World type of stuff,” Ward says.

In the early 2000s, they were selling four to five grandfather clocks a year. Now, it’s one a week.

Ward and McGuire attribute much of that new success to their website and the store’s Facebook page.

When scoping out potential new buys, Ward says he knows right away when he’s found something special. “In a hundred years a Ford Taurus is going to be worth zero, it’s going to be in a landfill ‘cause they made billions of those things,” unlike that solid wood grandfather clock sitting in the corner, the number of its twins dwindling each year.

The night of Saturday, Mar. 12, the Sun sets at 6:38 p.m., and on Sunday it sets at 7:38 p.m. That extra hour will hold until Nov. 6, when we fall back to earlier, darker evenings, just two days before Election Day.

Lawmakers in more than a dozen states are seeking an alternative to daylight saving, but will they get their way?

In a year where we’re told, politically, anything can happen and all bets are off, maybe they will.

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