Heinie White, Horologist

Published 1:12 pm Thursday, July 9, 2009

First off, there is the matter of his name. I learned that it is not spelled like the word we used in grade school for the back part of other kids&squo; anatomy. It is a bona fide German name, a variant of Heinrich, which is itself a variant of Henry.Heinie&squo;s Uncle Henry left his Polk County home at age 16 and headed West, to return briefly some ten years later from Montana. He named Heinie&squo;s newly born older brother Torrance, and left shortly thereafter, saying he&squo;d be back in ten years.Sure enough, Henry returned some ten years later with a second wife of German ancestry. She called him Heinie, and he gave this new name to his nephew born during this visit. Heinie was one of five boys and five girls in his immediate family who lived to adulthood. They all graduated from Green Creek High School. A niece who came by during my visit remarked of Heinie&squo;s family that five were talkative and five were quiet. Heinie is one of the quiet ones, so I had to jump-start him periodically with questions.Five of Heinie&squo;s siblings served in WWII: Madge and Mabel went in together and served their whole time together, practicing nursing in tents. Sam served with the Marines at Iwo Jima; Bill and Torrance served in the Army. Torrance&squo;s Battalion suffered so many casualties in the Invasion of Europe that the few survivors were returned to England and reassigned to other units as replacements. Torrance was killed in France on his second tour.&bsp;&bsp;&bsp; &bsp;Heinie joined the Navy soon after his graduation from high school, but WWII ended while he was in boot camp. It still took a year for the Navy to discharge him, which made him eligible for the GI Bill for schooling. He &dquo;knocked around&dquo; for some three years, including a stint at Adams Millis hosiery mill, before figuring out what kind of schooling he wanted.Being basically &dquo;lazy&dquo; and &dquo;somewhat mechanically minded&dquo; (his words), he knew he did not want to work at anything strenuous or outside, so he applied to the Philadelphia School of Horology.Now there is another word that I had to deal with early on. The Air Force sent me to James Connally AFB, Texas, and we rode the city bus through East Waco into town. As we passed the School of Horology, we speculated that all young men might enjoy this kind of training. But there was no &dquo;W&dquo; before the word, so I eventually looked it up and found that &dquo;horology&dquo; is the science of timekeeping and watch/clock making. Shucks.Heinie set up shop in Tryon under the A&P store (now Owens), where Butler Associates (Surveyors) have their offices now. Next door was the barber shop where Carl Fortner cut my hair, Sidestreet Pizza got its start some years later, and where the Village Book Shoppe is now. The town lowered the sidewalk to Maple Street level, so Heinie saw opportunity in the wet concrete for a bit of mischief: he soldered a penny to a large screw, and inserted it near his door! I could find no trace of it or the screw when I checked the area, so I guess I got my leg pulled, too.Remember when all timepieces ticked audibly to mark the passing of time, and were powered by springs or weights? Like the doctors of old, Heinie made house calls to service the big grandfather clocks. When I told him of a friend at Tryon Estates whose clock needed him, he said that he had been out there often in times past, but is no longer able to ply his trade. We then discussed my 130-year-old double-dial calendar clock, inherited from my grandfather Goodwin, that I must carry in for service. He just nodded in appreciation as I told him that it knows how many days all the months get, including leap year, unlike my modern wrist watch that hasn&squo;t a clue. So much for new technology. &bsp;When Heinie went to work for the Post Office at Tryon, he closed his shop because &dquo;a Federal employee is not supposed to compete with private enterprise&dquo; (his words). He had a city route at first, walking all over Tryon to deliver the mail. By the time he retired in 1988 after 31 years, he had a rural route and the mail was handled by a new US Postal Service.Heinie is the lone survivor of eleven White siblings, who welcomes visitors (entertainment, we hope) and staff (medicines) to his room in Benson Hall. He has the melodious chimes of a grandfather clock to keep him company between visitors, of course.

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