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210208 February 8, 2021


60's Alarm Clock

    Last week I wrote about the early clock radio in my early life and what I currently use to replace it. One feature of the radio in question was the clock part. Before I got the clock radio, only an alarm clock sat on the table beside my bed. Throughout my final Lee High School years it was what I relied on to get me up in time for school, unless my grandmother beat it to the task. That was common in those days.

    The clock which adorned my beside-table was a square Westclox brand named “Spur”. I could not find where the clock got its name but I found the following info on it on the internet. I left mine with my grandmother when I went off to college and have no idea what eventually happened to it, but there are still many of the vintage clocks available on eBay.

    Introduced in March 1938, the Spur (No. 12, plain dial, $1.65; No. 17, luminous dial, $2.25), 4-3/4 square, has a black case trimmed in nickel. The base tilts the clock slightly. Push-in shut off alarm. It offers 30-hours winding using 66-movements. The Spur was one of the first Westclox reintroduced to the public in 1946 after World War II. Only the luminous version (No. 17) appeared in the 1948 catalog. The case measures 4-3/4 square and sits on a semi circular heavy wire base that attaches to the bottom of the case. It has a black dial with white Arabic numerals made of luminous material. It has silver colored hands covered in luminous material.

    I also found that until the 1930’s Westclox clock faces and hands were covered with radium. Radium was discovered in the early 1900s and was soon combined with paint to make luminescent paint, which was applied to clocks, airplane instruments, and the like, to be able to read them in the dark. It is radioactive and has a half-life of about 1600 years, so even very old radium dials remain radioactive. Later the manufacturing process was changed to use phosphorescent paint.

    This was a mechanical clock, meaning I had to wind the thing at least once a day. On the back of the clock were two knobs for winding - one for the clock itself and one for the alarm. There were also two knobs used separately to set the time and the alarm. Also, near the bottom of the back was a slot with a lever inside where you could adjust the timing to make the clock run either faster or slower. It was supposed to run for 30 hours per wind but I can neither confirm nor deny my clock did that. The alarm function was set using the small clock icon in the front and was so small precise timing was at best questionable. You set the alarm by pulling out a knob near the top and turned it off by pushing the knob back in.

    The thing ticked loudly, like a time bomb in a James Bond movie, according to Sue. And the alarm utilized a ringing noise louder than a telephone it seemed. Having it right beside my bed at ear level meant a rousing jolt every morning when it went off. Problems often occurred when I forgot to wind the clock or the alarm or forgot to pull out the knob to set the alarm.

    Today, my Westclox Spur had been replaced with the same device I wrote about last week, the Amazon Echo.


Echo Dot

    Today my bedside table is the home of my Echo Dot instead of a conventional alarm clock. Yes, it cost more than my Westclox back in high school days, but it has many more functions. Today on Amazon the model I have has a price tag of $39.99, but there are newer models for different prices with different functions such as a visible LED clock. For those of you who already have an Amazon Echo you know what I am talking about. For those of you who do not I am only going to concentrate on the basic “clock” functions.

    The best thing about alarm clocks in my life today is I rarely use one. I seem to only need to set an alarm on days I have an early morning doctor’s appointment or when I have to catch an early morning flight to go on a cruise or trip. I do not need a daily alarm to get me up.

    So what features do I like? First of all, I do not have to remember to wind it or set the clock. Since it is electrical, it does not need winding and since it is connected to the internet it automatically keeps the correct time by getting it constantly from the web server. If I want to know the correct time I do not even have to look at it; I just say “Alexa, what time is it?” and I will get a vocal response. If it answers in too loud or soft of a volume I can control it by saying “Alexa, volume up” or “Alexa, volume down.”

    To set an alarm I can do so by just saying “Alexa, set an alarm for 7 am.” If I want it to alarm every day at the same time I just say “Alexa, set a daily alarm for 7 am.” I can choose from over 20 built-in alarm sounds or thousands of songs available on the internet. I don’t even have to reach over and push a knob to turn it off in the mornings. I just say “Alexa, stop” and the alarm quits. If I want nine more minutes of sleep “Alexa, snooze” will allow me to do so before it alarms again.

    And before you say it, yes, since it is electrical it does not function when we lose power to the house, but that is no longer a problem since last week the work was completed on our whole house generator which starts automatically when the power grid goes down.

    My Echo will also give me the outside temperature when I ask it to, or even tell me a joke, but those are not clock functions. However, I can use it as a timer and to set a reminder to alert me when I need to do something. I have mine connected to some smart electrical plugs, and at night when I say “Alexa, goodnight” it will turn off all the lights in the house I choose.

    I am still trying to decide which device will be the subject of next week’s issue but I have plenty of time to do so. Speaking of clocks and time, check out my favorite time song. It was one of two songs The Stones performed on their first Ed Sullivan Show appearance, October 25, 1964.

Time is on My Side

    Now for a little fun...the song from which the lyrics below was released in 1967 a little after my high school days, but its lyrics contain an alarm clock reference. Can you name it?
...The six o'clock alarm would never ring
But it rings, and I rise
Wipe the sleep out of my eyes...

        Memphis, TN - It's been a busy week for me. I've been working all week with the contractors trying to get the final stages of my whole house Generac generator finished up and finally did on Saturday afternoon. We ordered it back in November and it has taken this long to be delivered and installed, but now we are ready for the next power outage.

        I also got my first COVID-19 vaccination on Friday. As of yet I have had no reactions. I got the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine shot and will go back in three weeks to get the second one.

        At first I was going to ask people what their favorite song about "clocks" was, but decided I might get more answers than I could deal with; however, if you have a story about a favorite "clock" or "time" song then send it in and I'll see if I can print it.


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    Radios

Jeffrey Fussell 

LHS '66

Hi, Tommy. Your article on radios reminded me of the Sears Silvertone “lunchbox” style transistor radio that I had when I was in school.   I found a YouTube video of the exact model here:


YouTube Video

    It ran on 6 D-Cell batteries and was on most of the time to 1440 of course. Late at night when most local stations signed off, I could pick up some of the clear channel stations. I particularly liked WLS (890) out of Chicago.  I occasionally tuned into WEM (650), but country was not a favorite of mine at the time. 

Subject:    Radios
Johnny Roberts
LHS  ‘66

    Add me to the list of LHS grads who received the clock radio as a HS graduation or off to college gift. I’m sure it will be a long list. Mine was also AM/FM with a snooze alarm and of course the analog clock. I thought I was so cool.

Subject:    Outhouses
Joel Weinbaum
LHS '64

    Michael Griffith’s comments about his private moments in Vietnam may be a little too descriptive, but lends to the old saying, “don’t get caught with your pants down,” and recognizing the humor of Charlie considering the splatter effect. Following nautical lore the “Poop” deck was just that on the old sailing ships. There was a throne positioned at the upper back railing where all business was allowed to drop into the sea. The saying of wishing fair winds and following seas often turned into the surprise of an uplifting wind bringing back more spray than what could be expected from the ocean. 

    The scene of the method of cleaning the latrines in the movie, “Jarhead,” has been a long practice by the Marine Corps…not just punitive, with all ranks taking a turn! Seaports used to carry a variety of smells from heavy oil to human releases until the EPA called for holding tanks which could be pumped out by sanitary services pier side. Once at sea the fishes got their turn. 



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