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Clock Master Keeps Ticking

In Barbwire, Barbara Alvarez takes The Early Show behind the scenes to meet the man who keeps New York City's few remaining antique building clocks ticking.
With the new millennium approaching, this digital girl's been reflecting on simpler times. So I looked up the clock master Marvin Schneider.

He's been referred to as Father Time, and he's quite a character, so I wanted to find out what makes him tick.

For about 20 years, Schneider has cared for a dozen building clocks left in the city. He's a man on the move, and I had to keep up. Reaching a clock tower means a lot of uphill climbing.

But before showing me the clock, Schneider showed me the view from the roof of the former New York Life Insurance building.

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It once dominated the skyline. Now it's being dwarfed by modern high rises.

"I'm not too happy about it, and I think a lot of people will miss being able to see the clock as they come up Broadway," Schneider said.

Back indoors, I got my first look at the inside of a clock tower, which is a little, confusing since you cannot see the hands.

"They're on the outside where people need to see them," Schneider teased.

The sight is spectacular, and Schneider pointed out, it hasn't changed in a hundred years or so.

Later we went to work on the guts of the clock known as The Works.

Its technology was once considered a futuristic wonder. Today it serves as a quaint reminder of simpler times.

The word clock is related to the word glocke, which means a bell, Schneider explained.

"Not all clocks, as we know them, ring. Technically those that don't ring are called timepieces," he added.

Our next clock was in a beautiful old courthouse in Harlem where Schneider showed me something he's proud of: clock graffiti more than a 100 years old.

The mechanically minded Schneider became the city clock master after he volunteered to fix a city clock that had stopped running.

"It just annoyed me to see to see that the clock wasn't going. It was a matter of image, a matter of self-respect," he says.

The next stop: an altogether different clock - one that stands just above ground level in the middle of a small park in Herald Square. We faced a different kind of challenge.

The problem with this clock was the elements that hit the bells were striking out of synch.

"There's something screwy. We'll have to address that. No good," he said.

He has to go back to fix it later. That clock means a lot to Schneider.

"I used to go ou with a girl who lived down the street, and she had to be home by 10 o'clock," he recalled.

They'd smooch in the park till the clock struck 10, then Schneider walked her home. That was 40 years ago.

"I got involved with this clock again and looks like I'm married to it now," he says.

But he did not end up marrying that girl.

"No. No. Not at all," he said, laughing.

Our last clock of the day was across from Manhattan in Staten Island. Schneider reset the time on the clock. But when we finished, something was wrong.

"Somehow the machine got off by an hour," he said.

So we had to climb back up and fix it.

"Sorry," he said.

So what makes Schneider tick?

"I like to do the job right. I like to get it done and do it in a timely manner," he said, laughing.

Fortunately, Schneider has no plan to slow down or retire. The city's antique clocks are in good hands, and he's all over them.

He's even passing his increasingly rare clock-master skills on to an apprentice.

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