Idle Tyme the Original Rolling Ball Block


Harley Mayenschein

  Inventor And Founder Of

The ORIGINAL Rolling Ball Clock
    It is almost fourty years ago when my father made his last of his original all wood  Ball Clocks.
On October 30th, 1985 He passed from a heart attack, And that was the end of anyone making the Ball Clocks.

But I am excited to say, The Ball Clocks are BACK! I am building them again!

  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.

            Then 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, and one of the lights would flash once. You'd hit the button under the light.  Then  two different lights would flash, and you'd hit the same sequence of the lights but the buttons,  if you did it right  then it would add another light to the sequence. 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 above!


          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 people 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 24 hours a day. 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

       In 1966, Harley was working for a company that had him design the electronic parts of the Anaheim Angels New scoreboard for their newly constructed stadium.

         Another 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.

      This 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 production line.

     My greatest memory of his achievements 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 discount card.

        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 once 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 too 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 as seen here to the left.) 

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 time.  And the light bulb above his head lit up, 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 so 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...

          Three months after that he was laid off from his job at Motorola because the economy was in the dumpster.  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, and into the garage that we finished off to 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 even before the any equipment was purchased. No planner, no band saw, or, well they had a small table saw, a dremil, some exacto blades, wood glue and black paint.   

 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 wasn't 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 were!

      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 discussion, 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.!

       This 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 departments, shipping department, office, taxes, payroll, 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!

       The clock shop crew 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, Mahogany to name a few. 

     Celebrities from all walks of life wanted a custom made Clock!  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. He even put one of the clocks in His Tommy Bartlett Exploratory, In those days it was called Tommy Bartlett's Robot World. And the clock is still there today!

       We bult custom ones with different balls,  like a golf ball clock, base ball clock, etc.  But the 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 photo above standing next to the Bowling Ball Clock is 50 years old now, the very same Girl  that asked her grandpa so many years ago to count her gumballs for her  has now turned 50.

     Tyme sure does slip away. it is 2007 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.

          And then 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 clock 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 one clock 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... Drop him a E mail message if you want one. 

Patrice Ann Gunville
Daughter of Harley