The Church Tower Clock & Bell

(Information from Archives and Daily Facts)

When the Sanctuary was built in 1899-1900 Horace Cousens, a winter resident from Newton Centre, Massachusetts, donated the Clock and Bell for the tower. The clock was made by Howard Clock Company of Boston. The bell was from the foundry of D. T Garratt & Co., San Francisco. His daughter, Miss Harriet Cousens, also of Newton, Massachusetts, later donated $1,000.00 for an endowment fund to maintain the clock through her will in February 1912. The will stated “To the First Congregational Church of Redlands, California to be safely invested, the interest alone to be used for the care of the clock and the bell given by my father, Mr. Horace Cousens, the sum of $1,000.00. Both the clock and bell were dedicated when the Sanctuary was dedicated on April 1, 1900.”

From the “Daily Facts”, an article describes the bell as having a mouth of 49 inches and weighing about a ton and a half. The bell has been heard as far away as Bryn Mawr. Jordan A Engberg, in a paper delivered before fellow members of the Fortnightly Club some years ago, reported that the bell is mounted as a swinging bell, but it appears that it may never have been rung in this manner. It is almost exclusively a clock bell with the hour being tolled by a mechanical striker.

Congregationalists did not have to go to the YMCA for weight lifting exercises prior to 1965. The bell and the “Town Clock”, as the clock was known, were run by weights which had to be raised 40 feet. This weekly task took 20 minutes to half an hour.

In 1957, the clock received a “Face Lift”. Jeweler, Howard S. Smith was hired to do the work. In addition to a complete rejuvenation, including new parts, most of which Mr. Smith had to make, Jones Glass was hired to make a new face for the north dial.

As everyone knows, every clock has its pendulum and the “Town Clock” is no exception. The pendulum for the clock for the Congregational church measures some seven feet in length, and has a weighted end, which weights approximately 100 pounds. This portion is considerably below the rest of the mechanism.

The clock occupies the taller tower on the left and is visible from four sides. The bell, which tolls the hour, is located in the shorter tower at the right of the clock. The clock has a view of the downtown area of Redlands and if it could talk, it could unfold the changing history of the city during the 100 years it has looked out on the town down Cajon street.

By 1965, most of the Congregational men were so “slim” that the church decided it would be all right to go electric. Reddy Kilowatt was hired to power the four-faced clock and the bell.

The Coronation Carillon Bells

For 72 years, the Town Clock in the bell tower at the First Congregational Church struck the hour in tones loud enough to be heard for miles around. In March of 1972, a new sound was added. On April 2, the “Coronation Carillon Bells” were dedicated in honor of Mary K. Shirk. Mrs. Shirk was a longtime member of the church and a civic leader in the community for over 50 years. Wilbur Schowalter, Minister of Music at that time and the originator of the idea of acquiring the instrument, noted that the new Carillon Bells would probably become known as “The Shirk Coronation Carillon.”

Funds for the project were raised from members of the church and people and organizations who wanted to participate in honoring Mrs. Shirk. She did not learn of the project until she came to the church after the bells were installed and they were demonstrated for her for the first time.

The Coronation Carillon was an exclusive development of Schulmerich Carillons, Inc., of Sellersville, PA. This instrument consists of 25 miniature bell units of bronze bell metal, which are struck by metal hammers, producing exact true bell tones almost inaudible to the human ear. These bell vibrations are then amplified more than 100,000 times by means of specially designed electronic equipment. This produces true bell tones, which are far superior to the tones of traditional cast bells of massive proportions.

The carillon provides the tonal equivalent of 80,000 pounds of cast bells tuned to the finest English standards. The range is G below Middle C to G two octaves above. The low G bell is equal in tone to a cast bell weighing 13,250 pounds. The carillon is played from a special keyboard located with the church organ console. Mrs. Kathryn James was the church organist at the time.

The carillon has an added feature, a MagneBell tape player. It utilizes prerecorded magnetic tape cartridges of carillon selections and is controlled automatically by a 15-minute-interval, 24-hour-program clock. The tape equipment make it possible for the church to play hymns and other numbers automatically. The volume of sound from the carillon can be governed. It can be equal to that of the Town Clock or switched so that it was heard only inside the church.

The Coronation Carillon is the invention of George J. Schulmerich, who began a search for a new kind of bell and bell instrument in 1930. He was a gifted young electronics engineer and was in the business of installing sound systems in churches. He turned to experiments from which evolved his electro-mechanical bell instruments. Using tiny rods of bronze bell metal, another shape of bell struck by miniature hammers, he had discovered that it was possible to tune these rods far more perfectly than a cast bell could be tuned. They are, in fact, tuned to within one twentieth of 1 percent of perfect pitch and possess the same tone structure as a cast bell.

Schulmerich created a bell tone of purity and perfection that had never been heard before. To amplify these bell-tones, he designed electronic gear, which at the time was pioneering in itself. He then had an electro-mechanical carillon weighing a few hundred pounds but capable of producing the tone of bells weighing many tons. Ultimately he was to build a 71-bell carillon for Expo ’67 for the Sun Life Assurance Company.

Selling the new bell instruments was not easy at first, as it was too advanced a concept in a time of limited technological sophistication. When Father Flanagan installed one in the chapel of the famous Boys’ Town, thousands of visitors thrilled to the perfection of the Schulmerich instrument and soon sales began to boom. By 1972, there were more than 8,000 Schulmerich carillons all over the world. Among them were carillons at Arlington National Cemetery, the shrine over the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor and the chapel honoring the men lost in the sinking of the submarine “Thresher.”

The following is the dedication of the Coronation Carillon, given on April 2, 1972.

Dedication of the Mary K. Shirk Coronation Carillon

April 2, 1972

(From the Dedication Service of the Coronation Carillon as given by Pastor Harry G Suttner)

Perhaps you can or perhaps you cannot see, on my right, on your left, in the choir loft, a plaque, and on it, it says this “Coronation Carillon presented in deep appreciation of Mary K. Shirk, April 2nd, 1972.”

To be sure, we know this is a week early, Mrs. Shirk’s birthday is next Sunday, Easter, and in the nearly ten years that I’ve been here, this is, I think, the most lovely gesture, the finest thing this church has done, in my opinion.

Wilbur Schowalter, the man spearheading this, the one who has done so much, never had a finer thought. Wil, I know you embarrass easily, but I want you to know that this is the finest thing you’ve done since I’ve been here, and it couldn’t happen in memory of a – not memory – in honor of a more gracious, lovely person, the great and gracious first lady of Redlands, Mary Shirk.

We have things around here in memory of this and that, but of all the places I’ve been in twenty-five years in the ministry, I’ve never met a more gracious or lovely person and, typically, she feels, I believe, as she told us when it was first played, that she doesn’t deserve it. If she doesn’t, nobody does. I know, as I’ve said, of no one finer and I am grateful to her and I’m sure Redlands is, for all that she has done, and I am very grateful to you, Wil, for what you’ve done in this, that was your finest hour, but don’t stop!

After a prayer of dedication, our wonderful organist, Katheryn James is going to play on this beautiful carillon, “In the Cross of Christ I Glory”, and then as you go out, Wilbur has checked with the other churches and we are going to interfere for a few minutes with most worship services because as you go out, you will hear on the outside, some hymns on tape. You will get a very fine exposure to this very, very worthwhile – many people have stopped me, many people have said to others, this is the finest thing that’s happened, and I believe it, and in honor of a very wonderful person.

Let us pray. “Oh God, we come to Thee this morning with appreciative hearts for the ennobling companionship and sustaining strength of a most gracious lady, Mary K. Shirk. For her beauty in human thought and deed, for the warmth of her friendship, may this coronation carillon, dedicated to her, remind us always that we know and love her. For Christ’s sake we ask it. Amen.