PRINGLE — Timing, they say, is everything. Especially in athletic competitions. Having an accurate, reliable game clock, not to mention a competent clock operator, is essential.
For decades, high above the floor of the Kingston Armory, the Stegmaier Beer Time clock hung like a watchful guard. The clock kept time for many Wilkes-Barre Barons basketball games going back many years. And it was not in the best of places — not for fans or for players and coaches. But it was the game clock.
It also kept time for many high school games, most notable the 1967-68 Wyoming Valley West team that used the armory as the Spartans home floor for many games.
I have personal knowledge of the Stegmaier Beer Time clock — I was a member of the Wilkes-Barre Junior Barons that played before the Barons’ home games for three seasons in the early to mid 1960s. I can still see the lights of red and green and the yellow tone of the face of the clock. If I try hard enough, I can hear the sound of the horn as well.
These were the days of overflow crowds at the armory, when a cloud of smoke hovered over the basketball court and, at times, made it even harder for anybody to see the clock. But it was there — always.
Until about a year ago. I was in the armory covering a senior citizens fair when I noticed that the clock was missing. I asked the guys from the 109th Field Artillery where it was, and I was told it had been taken down for repairs. I was told the clock was taken to the West Side Career and Technology Center on Pringle Hill where a teacher and his class were going to repair it.
Apparently the old, reliable clock had stopped working. And now it was up to this teacher and his class to make it better.
Months had gone by without word on the progress of repairing the clock. So I tried to get somebody from the school to let me know what was going on and, after several calls to the school and board members, I got to see the clock.
The clock has been dismantled. It sits in Mr. Ray Eichler’s electrical construction classroom awaiting repairs. I am told by acting Superintendent Thomas Duffy that the clock is being worked on — that when school resumes in September, the class will begin getting it back in game shape.
“I’m told they have had some difficulty getting parts,” Duffy said. “It’s definitely a work in progress.”
Although I haven’t met Mr. Eichler or any of the students, I find myself having a great deal of faith in them to get this job done. Besides, Mr. Eichler and his students are the only ones who apparently have come forward to take this task on — a task, I say, of great importance given the history of the clock.
Duffy tells me the students have done considerable research. They want the clock returned to what it once was, not a mere shell of its once magnificent greatness. It’s a matter of finding the correct bulbs, for instance, and making sure the proper paint is found.
The Stegmaier Beer Time clock is historic. It served well over the decades, and it deserves to be refurbished and re-hung in its proper place.
I will return to the West Side school when the project is done. I will thank Mr. Eichler and his students for a job well done. I really look forward to that day.
I did find a little information about the clock on the internet:
“Pictured is the unique Stegmaier basketball scoring clock at the Kingston Armory. Though the Eastern Basketball League, along with the Barons, folded in the late 1960s, this old time scoreboard still exists. Another testament to its age is the two digit scoring lights. During the games, the gold neon ‘Stegmaier Beer Time’ would be visible for all of the fans to see.”
The Stegmaier Beer Time clock only had a 2-digit display, meaning once a team hit 100 points, it went back to 01, 02, etc. I can remember several times when the score would say Visitors 52, Barons 05. We weren’t losing — we were up by 53 points.
Godspeed Mr. Eichler and your incoming class. Bring back the Stegmaier Beer Time clock that served us so well.
Timing, after all, really is everything.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle, or email [email protected]