When Wesley and Louise Kruse set about renovating their Southern California home recently, one decision weighed more heavily than others:
What to do with their antique clock?
The Ansonia Regulator has told them the time since Kruse's mother, Vera, died in 1995. Before that, Vera and her family relied upon it in three different homes.
Wesley and Louise determined the old clock wouldn't be a good fit for their new décor. Their children weren't interested in keeping it. So Wesley decided the timepiece finally should go back home to Modesto.
This is the kind of story that warms a historian's heart not simply because it involves an antique, but because it involves research and digging into the city's past to understand its value.
As always, there's a back story. This one has two, courtesy of Wesley Kruse and the museum's Janet Lancaster and, in a roundabout way, The Modesto Bee.
The clock is at least 96 years old based upon markings on its back that read 1916.
It came to the Kruse family via Vera's aunt, Pearl Moore. Pearl is the daughter-in-law of Clara Moore, who, with neighbor Tina Smith, became the namesakes of Claratina Avenue in north Modesto.
Pearl Moore worked as a seamstress at the old Federal Outfitting Co. store at 924 10th St.
Through her research, Lancaster learned the store had opened in 1922 as one of a chain that began in Stockton and expanded to 22 stores.
During the Great Depression, it was one of the few stores that offered a credit option.
The store moved twice, staying on 10th Street each time. The name at some point was altered to The Federal (dropping the Outfitting Co.) and eventually became part of the Spiegel's chain. Spiegel's eventually closed all of its stores and went catalog only by the mid-1950s.
When the store closed, Pearl got the wall clock and gave it to Vera Kruse, who took it home to Whittier.
Now that the family no longer needs it, Wesley decided the clock should be returned Modesto. But to whom?
He'd met Bee reporter Garth Stapley three years ago, striking up a conversation while they were visiting a Modesto cemetery. So Kruse contacted Stapley, who passed on Kruse's contact information to me. I e-mailed folks at the McHenry Museum. Lancaster contacted Kruse and began her research into the store's history.
He offered to bring the clock to Modesto and presented it to officials Wednesday morning during a docent meeting.
Brad Moore and Cheryl Moore Ketner of Modesto, two of Pearl Moore's grandchildren, attended.
The clock, Kruse said, works just fine.
Wayne Mathes, who heads the McHenry Museum and McHenry Mansion, said the clock will become part of the old store exhibit near the gift shop.
"We're going to hang it on the wall with a photograph of the (Federal) store and something explaining its history," Mathes said.
People occasionally offer artifacts that somehow left the city, he said.
"It doesn't happen that often, but it does happen," Mathes said.
For Wesley Kruse, bringing the clock back here made perfect sense.
"I just had a sense of completion," he said, minutes after handing it over. "It's where it belongs. It's back home."
A timepiece that represents a piece of time in Modesto.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at email@example.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.