ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


To Salick’s Clock


by John T. McGiveran


WDT, 12 02 1993

By Margaret Krueger of the Daily Times staff


A pendulum clock that once inspired an 11-stanza poem has found a new place of prominence at the Octagon House.  The well-known 129-year-old clock had graced the window of Salick Jewelry Store for many years, and often drew the interest of citizens and visitors.


Margaret and Sam Luchsinger of Watertown recently donated the clock to the Watertown Historical Society, which operates the Octagon House complex.  “It is a museum piece, and we have had offers to buy it over the years, but we couldn’t sell it.  We have always felt it belongs in Watertown,’’ said Margaret Luchsinger, the fourth generation of the Salick family to own the clock.


The clock, made in Watertown, is unique because the works are contained in the pendulum and it also has a double face.


“I remember it swinging in the jewelry store window at 1-3 Main St.,” Luchsinger recalled.  “It always fascinated people, and there were always many questions about how it worked because you didn’t have to wind it up.  Ordinary clocks are wound by a key or other device.  Most don’t have the movement in the pendulum like this one does.  This has a special mechanism that runs on the motion of the swing, and the face is in the pendulum.”


The over 5-foot-tall clock has been in storage at Salick’s for many years, and is not currently in working order.  Roland Straka, who purchased Salick Jewelry from the Luchsingers in 1988, has offered to examine the unusual timepiece which has been in the Salick family for six generations.  It was built in 1864 by the late Joseph Salick, Luchsinger’s great-grandfather. 


According to a WDT article of August 15, 1920, there are only two such clocks in the world, one in Germany and one here.  The late Joseph Salick, a pioneer jeweler and founder of Salick Jewelry, built the clock here after seeing one like it while he was an apprentice in Germany.


He fashioned the clock by hand, using the one in Germany as a model.  The frame for the clock was made by the late John Keck, a pioneer furniture man from Watertown.  The brass furnishings on the exterior, resembling the sun, were cast by Joe Miller, a pioneer gunsmith, who is also credited with fashioning the brass eagle on top.  The painting of the figures was the work of a man identified as D. Straw.


“Every citizen of Watertown and most visitors to the city are familiar with the swing clock which marks the seconds, minutes and hours in Salick’s Jewelry Store window and which has been on the job for the past 56 years with never a replacement,” according to the newspaper.


Joseph Salick, a native of Westphalia, Germany, opened the jewelry store in 1853.  It is believed to be the oldest in the state.  John T. McGiveran was inspired to write a poem about the ticking of the clock as it stood by the Rock River bridge at 1-3 Main St.  The location is now part of the Rock River Walkway. McGiveran talks about meeting Salick’s Clock as a boy, and ends with an imagined final farewell to the clock.


In a prelude to the poem, McGiveran wrote, “Salick’s Clock has stood in the window on the Rock River Bridge at Watertown, Wisconsin, for upwards of 60 years.  Every inhabitant of Watertown knows the Clock.  Some great men knew this Clock intimately, among them the Great Carl Schurz, the greatest German who ever came to our Shores . . . In fact, every boy and girl raised in Watertown and vicinity since the time of the Civil War knows the dear old Clock.”


Luchsinger said she did not know of the poem until she started to research the clock’s history, and received two copies of the poem which was originally printed in a brochure.


John Salick was succeeded in the business by his son, Charles J. Salick.  In 1913, John E. Salick joined his father.  Sam and Margaret Luchsinger became associated with the business in 1946, and became owners in 1955 upon the death of her father.  They sold the business five years ago to Roland and Terry Straka, who changed the name of the store to Salick Jewelers.


Salick’s has had four locations, but the clock is most remembered for being displayed near the Rock River bridge, Salick’s second location.  The store opened where Fischer’s now stands and shortly after moved to 1-3 Main St.  It was moved to 310 Main in 1933, and to its present location at Third and Main streets in 1943.


06 06 1924


I knew you when life first began,

I knew you when a boy.

I always knew your curlicues

Were pure gold, not alloy.

It seems as though you always stood

On the bank of River Rock;

I knew you then, I know you now,

My old friend, Salick’s Clock.


Tick Tock, Nickety Nock,

Was the constant song it sung;

Tickety Tock, Nickety Nock,

It purred for old and young.

With a cheer alike for young and old

Midst the river’s rune and rhyme,

Tickety Tock,” said Salick’s Clock

“There’s only one thing – that’s time”.


Do you remember years ago,

Before life’s work began,

I sauntered down across the bridge

And hoped to be a man?

It seemed to me as though you said,

“Young man, conserve your prime,

There’s only one commodity

In this world, that is time”.


“They may give you gold,

They may give you lands,

And wealth and high degree,

But all you need is your brains and hands”

Said Salick’s Clock to me.

Tick, Tock, Nickety Nock,

The river kept flowing by.

Tickety Tock, Nickety Nock,”

Said Salick’s Clock with a sigh.


Then I went forth with heart ablaze,

Into the lives of men.

Sometimes I scaled the mountain peaks,

Then back down in the glen.

Success came here – a failure there

My nerve seemed made of rock,

My memory back, on the boyhood track,

When I thought of Salick’s Clock.


“Tick Tock, Nickety Nock”

Was the lilting song it sung;

Tickety Tock, Nickety Nock”

It purred for old and young.

With a sterling heart of purest gold

And a cadence quite sublime,

Tickety Tock, Nickety Nock,

The base of all things is time.


Long years passed – I faced about,

When sorrow cast me down,

I thought of early ambitions

And then of the dear, old town;

My wasted hours and misspent years

Gave my heart and brain a shock.

I doubled back on the boyhood track

To report to Salick’s Clock.


There he stood in the window,

The same old open face;

Tickety Tock,” says Salick’s Clock

While the river kept running its race.

“A success here – a failure there

Your work has been fairly good,

Though you squandered some time,

You tried – and did the best you could.”


Where are the boys you played with

When all was hope and truth?

The boys you fought and swam with,

In the vigorous days of Youth?

Where are they?  Scattered and dead

On the flotsam and jetsam of life.

Here you are with your health and head,

Go onward!  Continue the strife.”


Tickety Tock,” said Salick’s Clock

The river kept lilting by

Flowing down over the old Flat Rock,

Tickety Tock with a sigh.

“Tick Tock,” said Salick’s Clock,

He looked me full in the face

“Keep trying!  You may average up

With the rest of the human race.”


When my days on earth are done,

And life’s book balanced true,

There’s just one sentimental thing

That I would like to do

To stand upon the River’s bridge

Look down at old Flat Rock

And there bid all my friends “Goodbye”.

Then bow to Salick’s Clock.



2012, Clock installed on Main Street




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