? Does anybody really know what time it is?
Does anybody really care? ?
– Chicago

Time is precious, but we still need pastimes. As we consume time, time consumes us.

We mark time arbitrarily, with seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years — and with age and calendars. Today, our phones and countless other devices serve as a reminder that time is fleeting (and difficult to manage). These digital clocks fill a need that society once met in a much more public way.

‘Hey buddy, got the time?’

In downtown Lebanon, there are at least three public clocks, none of which work — if indeed keeping time is still their collective goal.

Situated at 760 Cumberland Street, three stories up on the face of the Farmers Market Building at 35 South Eighth Street and behind the Farmers Market, in the parking lot on its west/Ninth Street side, they form a triangle in the heart of Lebanon’s business district. And in the middle of that triangle resides The Timeless Café.

The clock on Cumberland Street. (Falk)
The clock on the Farmers Market Building. (Falk)
The clock in the Farmers Market parking lot. (Falk)

The Timeless Café is home to more than 50 non-functioning clocks. Not unlike how their public cousins outside ended up, those clocks are today merely ornamental in purpose.

Read More: Filet at Timeless? Popup dinners show demand for evenings out in Lebanon

“When we took over four years ago, we just kept the concept. It’s timeless,” said Dwayne Spencer, owner of the Timeless Café at 18 South Eighth Street.

“That’s the concept, you come in here, get a cup of coffee and forget about what’s going on outside the door. Relax, and leave the outside world out there. It was the previous owner’s concept, I really liked it, so I kept it.”
Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

The Timeless Café, just across the street from the Farmers Market. (Falk)

Although time is likely to stay frozen at Timeless Café, many over the years have wondered whether Lebanon should work to restore clock functionality. Might doing so help restore some of the collective feeling that seems to have defined years past from our contemporary viewpoint? Or, as Chicago asked, does anyone really care?

“It’s the kind of thing I think people would like to see the clocks running,” said Karen Groh, president and CEO of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It becomes one of the elements that can add to the quaintness of downtown. The clocks become part of that story and feeling. It’s just one more layer that can add to that feeling of being in a quaint downtown.”

Read More: Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce announces 2021 incoming directors and officers

Time passes. Time waits for no man. Time marches on.

The three downtown clocks have been broken for quite some time, so long that many locals don’t remember when they worked.

For many of those years, the public standing clock near Eighth and Cumberland Streets was stuck at 12:44, ambiguous regarding a.m. or p.m. That is until recently, when the hands of the clock were removed.

That clock is part of the property of the old bank building which currently hosts businesses Legal Risk Services and Habitats of Hope. An employee inside the building said the current landlord has plans to repair the iconic clock.

“When you’re milling around downtown, we don’t want to think about time,” said Groh. “When things come full circle, you don’t want to remind them of time.”

“I think a lot of locals have almost forgotten about them not working,” said Spencer. “It’s kind of out of their minds. It’s sort of like, ‘Hey, that clock doesn’t work.’ They’re still nice to look at, but I don’t look up there to know what time it is. It’s funny how we see things every day, but forget about them and put them in the back of our minds.”

There exist three public clocks in downtown Lebanon — none of which work.
The clock in the parking lot is stuck at about 10:44. (Falk)

Time affects the body and the mind, but never the soul. Time is more important on earth than it is in Heaven.

To figure out why Lebanon’s three downtown clocks have been in disrepair for so long, one only needs to follow both the changes in societal needs and the increasing money involved with maintaining the public clocks as such installations became fewer and fewer. It would seem the parts and labor to fix them, and the subsequent act of maintaining them, could be a costly undertaking. Not to mention the access issues.

“You would have to get the property owners’ permission to fix them,” said Groh. “Someone’s got to pay the bills. So is it up to the property owners to get them fixed?”

“To me, it’s nice to see a clock with some history behind it,” said Spencer. “I love looking up at the architecture downtown. I love old history. If they would work, I’d love to see it. But you brought up the point about costs, and I get that too. I get that it could be a financial issue that they don’t work.”
Time is money. But you can’t buy time.

Dwayne Spencer, owner of the Timeless Café. (Falk)

With the City of Lebanon scheduled to move its operations and police department downtown to the Harrisburg Area Community College building, it will be interesting to see what effect — if any — the move has on the city’s three downtown public clocks. At its core, one of the reasons for the move is to help revitalize the business district of Lebanon, an initiative that’s been going on for years.

“It all depends on what you’re referring to,” said Spencer. “When it comes to people and relationships, time is very important. But sometimes, time is against you. My father’s in bad shape right now, and it seems like I took my time with him for granted. It’s almost like time is running out.”

“That’s a huge question,” said Groh, 56. “At my age, sometimes I ask myself, ‘How many years do I have left?’ There are times when it’s a Wednesday, and I can’t wait until Friday. But I wonder why I want time to go so fast. There’s something so rewarding about a full calendar, but then there are other times when I have a block of time to fill.”

A non-functional clock as decoration in the Timeless Café. (Falk)

When we’re younger, we don’t have enough time. When we’re older, we have too much time. Just the right amount of time is called ‘patience’.

“For me, time is a double-edged sword,” said Groh, shedding her Chamber hat. “It’s about how much can I accomplish. But on the flip side I ask myself, ‘Am I rushing things and not appreciating the moment?’”

“You don’t want to waste time,” said Spencer. “You can take time to spend with people. As you get older, you want to use time in a quality way.”

All in good time!

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Jeff Falk is a seasoned journalist based in Lebanon, PA. He's a graduate of Cedar Crest High School, Penn State University, and a lifelong resident of Lebanon, born and raised. Currently, he is a feature writer for Engle Publishing in Lancaster, the editor of LebCoSports.com, sports director at WLBR...


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