It has been close to thirty years since any of these original all wood
versions of the Ball Clock have been made.
I think some history of the
clock and it's inventor is needed and really has not been available.
Hi, my name is Joe.
I am the son of Harley
Mayenschein, the inventor of
the Idle-Tyme Rolling Ball Clock.
The worlds first clock that told time in this new and unique way.
Little did I know when I was growing up, that
something like this clock
would someday come out of the mind of this man. But in afterthought
anyone that knew Harley, should have known that something
un-usual would come out his thought processes. Like all men that
think outside box, you never knew what to expect.
One of my earliest memories of what my Dad did just for a
hobby was his unique and sometimes quite bizarre hand carvings.
He gave them away as awards and or trophies for like golf tournaments.
But they were all over the house all the time.
there were the things he invented just for the fun of it. And MANY
times he was just way ahead of his time, and never thought of
mass producing them. I can think of two items from when I was almost
too young to know any better. In the days of like 1965 or so the
days when small one transistor radios Like seen at the left, remember
them? Well, he built from parts from wherever he worked at the
time, a electronic memory toy. It was about the same size as one
of those transistor radios. And it had four lights across the top, and
under the lights there were four button switches. Say numbered
1,2,3,4. It ran off batteries so you could take it
anyplace. Well you would turn it on, an one of the lights
would flash once. you'd hit the button under the light.
two different lights would flash, and you'd hit the same sequence of
lights but the buttons, if you did it right then it would
add another flash. And this would continue on and on until you messed
up with the buttons sequence. Then it would beep and flash the
number of sequences you got right. Does this sound familiar?
Remember I was
playing with this in 1965. And what in the late 70's or
so, what came out? SIMON! As seen
In the late 60's and or very early 70's my mom did tons of
baby-sitting to help make ends meet. This is of course before the days
of all the regulations in baby-sitting there is now. We had
even dropping kids off in the middle of the night when they had odd
shifts to work. It was not uncommon for me to come home from school to
find a dozen "Rug Rats" running amok all over the house. Don't even ask
me on what the place smelled like with 90% + of these kids being
toddlers! Well Harley also doomed to live in this madhouse,
where kids were here on a rotating basis 7 days a week. So to keep from
going insane, he came up
with this crotchety old sailor dude looking guy. Sadly I don't have
any pictures of this guy. But he was something like the old guy at the
left here. Except he was sitting on a old like shipping crate.
And he had the exaggerated characteristics of the older carvings he had
done so many years before. In the back of the crate was a cassette
player where you could insert a taped story, and as it played this old
guys mouth would move matching the sound coming out from the cassette
story being played. The little "Rug Rats" stayed and listened to
this old guy for hours! Again we just assumed it was something my
dad did and thought nothing special about it. But by now of
course you by now know what eventually came out in 1985. Teddy Ruxpin
1966, Harley was working for a company that had him design the
electronic parts of the Anaheim Angels New scoreboard for their newly
project Harley had, I'm too young to remember how or why he got the
task, but he devised a bacon cutting machine for Oscar Meyer. Oscar
Meyer had a problem with the production line when it came to
packaging bacon after slicing it. They needed to be as close to
1 pound, (Or whatever the desired weight was) They would cut as many
slices as needed to get close, but then to get the exact weight
that was desired someone had to manually add small pieces of bacon
right at the end to make the weight just right. How many of you
remember those small chunks of bacon in the back of the pack? I
know I do. Well Harley devised the machine that as the bacon was
getting cut, it weighed every slice as the pack was being cut. And it
continuously adjusted the thickness of the slice ever so slightly, so
that when it finally would come to the last slice to finish the pack
the weight was exactly where it needed to be.
next one I'm the most foggy about.. I'm positive on one part, but not
too sure if Harley also designed the other part or not.
What it is, he did for Gerber baby food. You all know the lids of the
old glass jar baby food jars, that had the pop up top lids, where
they had this depression in the center of the lid, and if the seal on
the jar was still good it would be indented in. And when
someone would open the jar you would hear this "POP" of the lid
popping up. Now I do not know if he made the lid or not, But I do
know for sure that he did make a sensor that would detect any jars on
the production line that had this pop up thing not being depressed, in
other words the jar did not seal correctly.
The machine he made detected these jars and took them out of the
My greatest memory of his achievments was when
he was working at Motorola. To hear he was responsible for most of the
design in the radio that one day would echo in the ears of millions
being. "One small step for man, One giant leap for mankind! To
know that my very own dad made it possible for man while
standing on the moon was able to talk to us on the earth. And to watch
the landing on our Quasar TV set "with the works in the drawer" that he
also helped design and was able purchase one for us with his employees
Well this was to be the history of the clock right? Well
here we go. I'll Start off with a pretty good story that my
sister wrote describing the very early years.
Dear reader of this letter... this
is the best way I can think of on how to write what I'd like to say.
Even though I'm not certain what I'm going to say for sure. Perhaps
this is a situation where an old woman looks back in time on her life
and the major situations that touch a persons life that changes
everything? I mean everyone has their own stories and experiences where
it's like some supreme intelligence (I named mine God) reaches down an
shakes up everything, where after the dust has finally settled, we look
at it and say...oh dear now what?
So mine was when the dust had settled I found myself back in my parents
house with two children in tow, and all three of us sleeping in my old
bedroom. But it wasn't to bad since my daughter was the first
grandchild and my dad sure did think she was awesome. So one day she
walked into his little tinker space of his cosmos ( My Dad had a small
workbench in the corner of my parents bedroom.) Well his
granddaughter walked in with a bunch of gum balls in her hand and asked
him to count them for her. So he lined them on on his work bench and
placed her on his lap and he began to count them out loud one at a
And that was how the ball clock was invented. Yes it was a event that
simple and profound.
Harley made the first
clock and gave it away for a prize of a local bowling tournament. And
soo many people saw it and asked if he could make them one. The
one became two with those two became four more and so on, and so
on, and so on...
after that he was laid off from his job at Motorola because the economy
mimics as it is today. He also found while job hunting that he was, "To
knowledgeable", yet to old to
take a chance with. Employment was all but impossible to find. So out
of necessity of food, and a roof, Idle Tyme Company was born. The first
employee was named Joey. And the Idle-Tyme company moved out from the
bedroom as seen at the left above, and into the garage that we finished
be a habitable workplace as seen below!
Joey's pay was food and a roof over his head.
He was my dads son who
still lived at home since he was still in high school. So after school
my father taught him the fine art of clock building. And please
remember this was way in the beginning when the clocks wood was quarter
inch square runners, the tracks looked like small rail road tracks. Yes
before the router was purchased. Or the planner, or band saw, or, well
they had a small table saw, a dremil, some exacto blades, wood glue and
I became the head of the parts department, making
small parts that they would then take and put the clock together with.
I was a waitress, so at least the bills were being paid somewhat, and I
didn't mind making the parts since I got to sit down and rest my feet
and think of my recent divorce, and things like that. It wasn't to much
later when one of Joe's friends started working for Idle tyme. It
long until it grew to the point of Idle tyme turned into full time and
overtime jobs with the need to move into larger areas to hire more
people and more machinery. The business was growing at an un expected
rate. So fast that we stayed in this new building only for 6 months or
so. And again Idle-Tyme was on the move!
We ended up in a industrial park just outside
of Woodfield Mall still in Schaumburg, Illinois. This building seemed
perfect. Great access, plenty of
room, everything we needed. We thought this was to be Idle-Tyme's
home for a LONG time to come. Little did we know how wrong we
All was well, we had about a dozen
people working for us at this time. Sadly I again do not have one
single picture of this place. We were just too busy building
clocks. Well we were chugging along and one day there is a
visitor in the front office. An inspector for the city of
Schaumburg. He states he is the Fire safety Inspector and wants
to make sure we are up to codes and all that. Of course we
agreed, and had him do his inspection. When he finished he said all
looks pretty good except for one thing. He wanted us to install a
sprinkler system in the building. This all made sense we were
dealing with wood after all, with sawdust, lacquer finishes, and
all that. It only made sense and would no doubt help in our insurance
costs even though we were in a rented building. Then the other
boot dropped. He started giving us the specifications of this
system he wants us to install.
He states he wants 3/4" lines to each
sprinkler head, Ok, typical install. Fed with one single 2" line
running down the center of the room. Again a typical install, nothing
un-usual. Except for one thing. Now remember this guy is
the Cities "Official" Inspector and engineer. He is the guy that
decides if you are up to code or not and he decides what is needed to
make it up to "Code". We all agree that this is indeed a
typical install. BUT.... we then ask Ok where do we get the
water to supply this sprinkler system? And his answer is just connect
it to the main line coming into the building. We tell him
uhhhh, the main is only a 3/4" main. And his incredible
reply? Yeah? We say, ummm you're only gonna get 3/4"
water from that main,, and again his answer? Yeah? we state
that ummm, we have all those heads being supplied by 3/4" water
main? he says yeah. we say ummm, your only
gonna get 3/4" water and it's not going to be enough to supply all
those sprinkler heads! He says yeah you will you have the
two inch line supplying the 3/4" lines that go to the
sprinkler heads. You'll have plenty of water. We tried to explain
to him, that you could have a 6" pipe after the 3/4" main,
or even a 6 foot diameter pipe after that 3/4" main. And that all you
are going to get is the 3/4" flow of water. This "Official" just
could not understand this, and kept saying NO! WITH THE BIG PIPE YOU
WILL GET PLENTY OF WATER! After several hours of
drawings, diagrams etc. he finally says install it as
I specified or I'll just shut you down, it's that simple.
You have 30 days to install it! And walks out the door!
Well that did it for
Harley. He says we are moving again. And to someplace where people do
not care, or are at least willing to listen to reason. He grew up
near Bangor Wisconsin, and said that that's the area we will be going
and the hunt was on! It didn't take too long to find the perfect
place. It was a small property of about 6 acres or so. That had
this GIANT old farm house on it. That was plenty large enough for all
of us to live in. my mom and dad, as well as Joey and myself and my two
kids. It was great! Then out behind the house was this
GIANT old two story tall Quonset hut.!
building was used for many things in it's history and you could tell
from what was left behind! from upstairs a huge and heavy thick steel
backdrop for a target shooting range. to downstairs all the oil
and grease stains on the floor from when it was a shed to house road
equipment and snowplows and such.
Well it was just back to the three
of us building clocks. dad, myself and joey. but of course we had
to make the building habitable for the shop for all it was is the metal
shell, no insulation or anything just the bare metal walls
etc. After that was completed clock assemblies began! And
Idle-Tyme grew and grew Fast again as before. More room, and planers and band saws, and parts
department, office, taxes, playroll, bigger building, more equipment,
And then Joey turned into Joe and got married, It wasn't too long before we had hired a large crew! We
were up to about 50 people or so in less than a year!
clock grew by leaps and bounds, at peak production we had to be making
close to sixty clocks a day! And people were even asking for custom
made ones of exotic special woods from all over the world. . Zebra,
paduke, rosewood, mahogody to name a few. As well as
celebrities from all works of life wanted a custom made One of
the funniest was Tommy Bartlett of the famous Tommy Bartlet's Water
show in the Wisconsin Dells! He came right to the factory and
spent the day watching the clocks being made and ordered several for
himself as well as gifts. Then continued to "Hang Out" with Harley, and
show him off to all his friends, somewhat Like "Look who I know,
The inventor of that fantastic Rolling Ball Clock!" Personally
when he came to visit I was hoping he'd let me take a spin in his
awesome red sports car, but never got a chance to.
As well as custom ones with different
balls, like a golf ball clock, base ball clock, etc. but
best had to be the Bowling Ball Clock.
The owners of blue Bunny Ice Cream also owned a Bowling Alley In Green
Bay Wisconsin. They requested us to make one that uses Bowling Balls! I
have to admit that was a BLAST TO BUILD!!! We had to construct it
outside the shop. there was just not enough room to do it inside!
here is a Picture of the finished clock with my daughter Melissa, this
is her standing by the Bowling Ball Clock.
All was happy in the world of the Idle-Tyme Ball Clock. And things were going
just fine until the outsiders entered and said, if you give me I'll
give you, and like a cancer it made the people grumpy or sad, or
confused, until one day in late October when the clock stopped just
long enough to...make us all cry. The passing of Harley from a Heart
Attack. And that was it. It was over. We all
got off the rollar-coaster ride and said to ourselves, never
again... But time marches on tic, tic, tic..
That little girl in the
above standing next to the Bowling Ball Clock is 41 years old now, the
Girl that asked her grandpa so many years ago to count her
gumballs for her has now turned 40. Time sure does
slip away. Anyway....here it is 2010 and my baby brother Joey,,
oops, correct that,, "Joe" e-mailed me
saying he lost his job, what can I do? I don't want to loose everything
I've worked so far for. And I thought...well I can give him a temporary
fix of one house payment, but my husband and I are also feeling the
crunch of gas prices one minute, food prices the next, since we are
also living the life so many americans are presently feeling.
I thought about how many times I would go to that popular auction site
(E Bay) and say, my stars..Look at the price that that old colck sold
for!. And to think what we sold them for in the beginning.
So one day when Joe wrote about him going for his job searches and how
no one is hiring...I said...if you make only two clocks a week...and he
kind of laughed and said...heck, remember when I would make ten
clocks a day? And I was a goofy kid not taking anything to seriously?
You see my dad invented the clock,
but my brother made them, and fine
tuned them. When dad was out there wheeling and dealing. Joey was
sitting at his work bench putting the clocks together. There is not a
single person on this planet who know how to actually put a ball clock
together better than Joe.
So dear reader...this is chapter
two, or the
reincarnation of the ball clock. Included in this letter (or on this
site) will be links of interest, links of history, links of links, and
even a link where you can order a clock...I think..drop him a E mail
message if you want one. Or.maybe he'll just sell
them on the popular auction site? We don't know yet. But we're just
letting you know...get ready....Idle-Tyme is about to begin
Patrice Ann Gunville
Daughter of Harley