Old-time occupations provide livelihoods in 21st century

Nostalgia for antique clocks keeps skilled repairmen busy. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Rich Penn Auctions.

Nostalgia for antique clocks keeps skilled repairmen busy. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Rich Penn Auctions.

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – In a high-tech world, some of the old ways persist.

Jobs like clock repairman and farrier still require a personal touch, as well as steady hands and eyes. Mostly, they require a love of the work.

The “tick-tock” is constant in Mike McCord’s backyard clock shop, punctuated by the occasional “cuckoo!” Clocks of all types line the walls of the Clock Boutique in Hope Mills, in various stages of repair and disrepair.

Repairing clocks has been McCord’s vocation for more than a dozen years, not long after he retired from a 26-year career in the Army.

“It’s just a constant flow of clocks that come in here all the time,” McCord said. That includes everything from towering grandfather clocks to the fireplace mantel variety.

In 1997, McCord bought a clock repair business in Westwood Shopping Center. He later moved the business to Hope Mills. McCord said he picked up mechanical skills from his father. He learned a lot of what he knows about clock repair from the late David Horne of Stedman.

McCord, 65, works closely with Glenn and Erika Stockwell, owners of The Mill antiques and collectibles in Hope Mills. When a customer brings in an old clock in need of repair, they call McCord.

In an age when most people can tell the time by glancing at their cell phone or their car dashboard, McCord said old clocks are still special to people.

“Most of them are sentimental – it was momma’s clock, or what have you,” McCord said. “It’s amazing how many clocks come out of attics, barns and cellars.”


When Pam Kelly lost her job as a computer programmer after almost 20 years, she turned to her first love. That was spinning, knitting and basically anything to do with turning raw wool into clothing and decorative items.

Today, Kelly creates her works out of a small storefront on Anderson Street in downtown Fayetteville. She opened Sunflower Fibers there last August. Kelly, 59, said she discovered knitting when she was 12. She remembers taking her allowance to the five-and-dime in her hometown of Aurora, Ill., and buying a starter kit.

Kelly spun and knit as a hobby while she pursued a career in computers. Her job brought her to Fayetteville a couple of years ago, but she was let go last year, she said. “I didn’t know what to do,” Kelly said. “Somebody said, why not do what you love?”

Kelly sells her creations as well as fabric and other items in her store. She also teaches classes in spinning and knitting and attends shows and workshops. Kelly’s husband, Jim, also weaves fabric and makes some of the looms and other tools Kelly uses in her work.

It’s a far cry from the corporate career Kelly once pursued, but she said she wouldn’t change a thing.

“It’s a passion,” Kelly said, “and I’m living it.”


Woodworking is a family tradition for Antonio Gonzalez. Both his father and grandfather plied the trade in Gonzalez’ native Dominican Republic. Now, Gonzalez creates custom cabinets, doors, tables and other furniture from his workshop in downtown Fayetteville. “I love my work,” Gonzalez said. “I try to do it the best I can.”

Gonzalez came to the United States in 1990, first moving to New York. He found a job making picture frames, but it wasn’t his true calling. In 1998, Gonzalez came to Fayetteville and found work driving a forklift. It wasn’t long before he got back in the woodworking game.

Gonzalez walked into Zimmerman Millwork and Cabinets looking for a job. Bill Zimmerman, who has run the shop for more than 25 years, said he wasn’t looking for help at the time.

“He kept coming back. He couldn’t speak very good English,” Zimmerman remembers. “He said, ‘I want to work here.’ He finally wore me down.”

Today, Zimmerman calls Gonzalez his protege and praises his woodworking skills.

Gonzalez, too, is proud of his work, much of which can be seen at various businesses and homes in downtown Fayetteville. Some customers bring in pictures of what they want and ask Gonzalez to recreate it.

“I don’t advertise,” he said. “People just know me.”


“HOOFWORK” reads the license plate on farrier Jackie Blackman’s truck. That neatly sums up Blackman’s job. He spends his days shoeing horses and trimming their overgrown hooves.

Blackman, 55, has worked as a farrier for 23 years. For 17 years, he shoed the horses for the Fayetteville Police Department until it eliminated its mounted patrol. Now, Blackman travels throughout eight counties caring for horses’ hooves.

“Some of them are boarding barns, some are training barns,” Blackman said. “Some are people who just have horses they ride.”

Blackman carries the tools of his trade in his white Ford truck: an anvil, drill press, band saw, gas-powered kiln and more.

On a recent afternoon, he was at North Star Veterinary Hospital in Parkton, trimming the hooves of a quarter paint pony named Haley.

North Star employee Jessica Fair held the horse’s reins while Blackman filed down the hooves. “Just like trimming your fingernails,” he said.

Haley was calm throughout the procedure, but Blackman said some steeds get antsy. One time, a police horse stepped down so hard on Blackman’s foot that it broke two of his toes. Injuries, Blackman said, “happen to every farrier. It doesn’t happen too often.”

Copyright 2011. Associated Press. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-04-30-11 0914GMT



Nostalgia for antique clocks keeps skilled repairmen busy. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Rich Penn Auctions.

Nostalgia for antique clocks keeps skilled repairmen busy. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Rich Penn Auctions.