After a decade of depression, the clock at Short Vincent and East Ninth finally got fixed. The hands had stopped moving in October 1929, the same month as the Black Tuesday stock market crash. But on May 15, 1939, insurance company Great Lakes Life sent repairmen up a ladder to add its name to its new office building and get the gears ticking. Time, like Cleveland’s economy, restarted. “Again the wheels whirred rhythmically, the white faces shined and the hands moved steadily in their ceaseless journey,” the Cleveland Press reported that afternoon.
The newspaper closely cropped this photo to the clock and ladder. But the full image shows as rich a view of 1939 Cleveland as we’ll ever see. The cars and trucks still look much like those carved earlier in the decade into the stone hands of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge’s Guardians of Traffic. A man stands inside the cigar store window to clean the glass. Young women lean out of the third-floor window to watch the clock-repairers. An unpublished photo, taken from that upper window, shows the dark-coated man inside the clock, hat off to reveal his thin, sandy hair, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He gazes straight at the photographer — two men watching each other work.