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TIJT donation passes tradition to students

Published or Revised September 27, 2005

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Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology horology instructor Frank Poye holds several watch crystals that were part of a recent donation to Paris Junior College’s jewelry program.

Tiny pieces of finely machined, often oddly shaped metal are treasures of the watchmaker’s trade, intricate parts of the timepieces that grace our wrists and necklines and keep us both on time and in fashion.

Watchmaking and repair - as much art as trade - are known collectively as horology, and horology students at Paris Junior College’s Texas Institute of Jewelry Technology now have an even richer learning environment thanks to a recent donation of equipment, books and watch parts.

“Many of the components are things that students may not have seen. It’s nice that people still think to pass this on because we can always use it,” said PJC horology instructor Frank Poye.

The books, equipment and myriad watch parts were used for decades by George Franklin Wauhob in his watch repair business in Booker, Texas. Wauhob died in 1998, and his wife Zella May recently donated the material to TIJT.

“He never had any formal training,” Mrs. Wauhob said of her husband, adding that his two brothers also were in the watch repair business. “My husband had watches sent to him from England and all over the United States for repair.”

Wauhob began his business in Woodward, Okla., in 1947, but moved to Booker in 1949. He retired about 10 years before his death, Mrs. Wauhob said.

“Some of the old books are really neat. Some are what we have already, but the condition is nice,” said Poye. “Quite a bit of this [donation] can actually be used in class ... I don’t see too much that we don’t already use, so this can add to what we have.”

Poye noted the numerous watch crystals in the donation as an example. While his students don’t build watches from scratch, they are taught crystal fitting, “something people do every day” since that is a part often and easily damaged.

“They’ll never know exactly what they’re going to have coming in, so it’s important to see a lot of different styles,” Poye said. “Some of those [crystals] would be fitting watches that are well over a hundred years old. Probably the newest pieces in that donation were from the ‘60s, but much of the vintage restoration would require things just like that.”

The watches on which students work during their courses range from vintage to new.

“Parts can be pretty difficult [to find] at any time,” said Poye. “You might end up with something that’s very old that’s easy to get a part for, whereas there are often things that are so new they don’t have anything in the distribution network to take care of that particular piece.”

“We are totally appreciative of having donations because we have a lot of interest in our horology program,” said Ulla Raus, TIJT’s division chair. “It’s nice when a retired watchmaker can donate his equipment to us so that we can train young ones on his bench ... The equipment kind of lives on.”

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