Saturday, August 14, 2010
Signs and Tags and My Father's Jewelry Business
Besides working as a foreman in a steel mill, my father, Lee Doyle, was a part-time, self-employed jeweler. His shingle - a lighted sign - hung on the west side of our front porch on Furnace Street, facing Main Street.
I must not have paid too much attention to what the sign looked like, except that it was a golden yellow and had his name on it, because I was surprised to find these two photographs showing two different versions of the sign. The one in the photo on the left had lights inside and was lit at night when Dad flipped a switch inside the house. I can't remember whether he turned it on at night only on the evenings he was home or if it was on every night. That photo (with my older sister) was taken at the tail end (or possibly the very beginning) of a roll of film. (If that's not correct, I hope some of you readers who know more than me will improve that information, please.)
People came to our house from the Ridge as well as some out-lying areas. They dropped off wristwatches, alarm and other kinds of clocks, and jewelry for repair. Some people called ahead but most just knocked on the door. I think most of Dad's business came by word of mouth.
When someone brought an item for repair, we wrote the individual's name and phone number on a tag. The older tags were numbered with a tear-off ticket to give to the customer as a receipt. The newer ones that he used in later years had only a space for a name and phone number. I think people were more trusting in those days and didn't mind not receiving a receipt indicating that they'd left an item at our house.
We would lay the item on Dad's desk so he would see it when he came home and was ready to work. After he repaired the item, he put it in an envelope and he or my mom would call the customer to let him/her know that the item had been repaired and how much it cost. Sometimes they made arrangements for day and time for the person to come retrieve the watch or whatever it was. More often than not, the people just stopped by.
I doubt my father ever made very much money with his watch repair business but it must have been worthwhile for one reason or another for him to continue.
In those days all the clocks were wind-up and had tiny gears and wheels and springs. Dad was giving up his repair business at about the time battery-operated clocks began to be popular.
If you want to learn about the roll top desk where my father worked on the jewelry, you can read My Father's Desk.
If you'd like to read about and see photos of some of the tools he used and see boxes from some of his suppliers, you can read From Inside My Father's Desk.
If you'd like to look at some other old photographs and read about them, you can go to Sepia Saturday.
Do you have any self-employed ancestors? Do you remember any small businesses that were set up inside individuals' homes?