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Meet the man resetting Toronto’s clock towers for daylight saving time

John Scott — known as “the clock guy” — has been helping Toronto set some of its most notable clocks for more than 35 years.

John Scott, 60, at work in the clock room at Old City Hall. Scott resets many of the Toronto area's clock towers when daylight saving time rolls around.

Contributed/ John Scott

John Scott, 60, at work in the clock room at Old City Hall. Scott resets many of the Toronto area's clock towers when daylight saving time rolls around.

John Scott knows nearly every Quasimodo joke in existence. Same goes for time-related puns.

After 35 years setting Toronto area clock towers back an hour for daylight saving time, Scott says you’ve got to be pretty sharp to get a truly original one past him.

“I’m not John Scott, I’m the clock guy,” the 60-year-old said with a chuckle. “I’ve pretty well heard them all.”

Scott, who works for Hamilton-based Scotiabell, is one of the few horologists — clock experts — in Canada who specialize in clock towers. So come fall and the end of daylight saving time, he’s kept busy resetting the clocks at Old City Hall, the Soldiers’ Tower at the University of Toronto and many others.

“There’s all kinds of watch makers around … but I go big or go home,” Scott said.

“I was over in Toronto all day, changing clocks.”

Daylight saving time ends Sunday for most parts of Canada, with clocks turning back an hour at 2 a.m. But the process takes time. Scott can’t possibly do all of the GTA’s clock towers by hand in one night, so he spreads them out over the course of a few days.

Since clocks “don’t like to be turned backwards,” Scott says he either winds them forward 23 hours — unless they have bells, which make “a lot of unnecessary noise” — or stops them for an hour.

Sometimes, like with Old City Hall, that involves stopping a 300-pound pendulum by hand, a task Scott compares to halting a giant snowball. Getting pendulums going again can also include a few shoves.

“I don’t jump on it or anything, it’s not big enough to ride that way, but I push it,” he said. “It’s not as easy as hitting a button.”

Though Scott says the task can be tiring — he says he’s developed “thunder thighs” from climbing so many stairs over the years — he loves it. For one thing, it’s a chance to check out beautiful and increasingly-rare mechanical clocks.

“Every one of them is different, and I do meet some very interesting people and very nice people,” Scott said. “I see them twice a year, some of them.”

Old City Hall is first on Scott’s list for Sunday morning. People usually complain right away if it’s off, he says. Then, it’ll be onwards to fix the rest of the clock towers in the area until every single one has been set back an hour.

Darkness will come earlier every night until the solstice on Dec. 21.

Daylight saving time will begin again on March 11, 2018, when you can expect Scott to be back in town, springing the city’s clock towers forward.

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