Jeff Humphrey

Winding Up Career of Clock Care

Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308

Friday, August 5, 2022 at 2:59 p.m.

It’s been the heartbeat of Spokane for more than 120 years, and Dave Randolph is one of the few people who know how to keep the Great Northern Clock Tower clock running.

“This clock tower is a piece of Spokane’s history. You have to hand-wind it. It’s an eight-day clock, and we wind it every seven days, so it doesn’t run out,” explained Randolph.

Randolph, a Spokane Parks & Rec Facilities Foreman, has spent a quarter century maintaining Riverfront Park’s signature timepiece, but getting up to the clockworks is not easy.

While tools and supplies are hoisted aloft with a rope and pulley, Randolph has to climb 122 steps, on both ladders and stairs, to reach the clock itself.

“The most important thing to remember when working on the clock tower is you never do anything to the clock without the handle attached. With the handle on here, I can keep counterweights from dropping, I can keep the gears from spinning,” Randolph said as he stood next to the clock.

The counterweights and gravity are the driving force behind the clock. That and up to 99 cranks on the handle.

“It’s so relaxing to just sit here and listen to this and hopefully know, a hundred years down the road, it’ll still be working,” Randolph said as the clock ticked off seconds.

But, cleaning, lubricating and repairing this clock could become a lost art. Randolph is getting ready to retire and the tinker knows it’s time to pass on his maintenance skills.

“And if something went wrong because the information to maintain it wasn’t passed on to the next generation, that would be a horrible thing for us to have happen,” worries Randolph.

And that’s why Randolph asked City Cable 5 to produce a “How To” instructional video, hoping his clock knowledge will come into play, even after Randolph is gone.

A lot of people have left their mark on the Clock Tower, but perhaps, no one more important than it’s long-time caretaker Dave Randolph.

“Not too many people have that opportunity, and to do that is an honor and a privilege the city has granted to me, and I love it,” Randolph said with a smile.

And so, here inside the largest clock faces in the Pacific Northwest, Randolph’s loving legacy will hopefully live on.

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