A Clockwork Santa for the Seaside Village

Janine Volkmar
Mad River Union

ARCATA/TRINIDAD – The Trinidad Civic Club has chosen the right man for the job of Santa. Gary Stillman, owner of both a furniture repair service and Clockworks, a watch and clock repair shop in Arcata, has volunteered to play the role.

Stillman has the skills and experience for the gig. He was a theater major at Humboldt State, did voice work when he worked in local radio, is the father of two grown children, and his workbench at Clockworks, a tiny shop on Ninth Street across from the Co-op  in Arcata, looks a lot like Santa’s busy workshop. The shop, which Stillman has owned since 2013, is filled with the rhythmic ticking of clocks large and small.

“I’ve got the Santa glasses and I’ll combine the voice styles of Jimmy Stewart and the Wizard of Oz,” he said, doing a bit of each voice perfectly to demonstrate. It was uncanny to hear him switch characters mid-sentence.

As Santa, Stillman will ride around the Seaside Village in a boat this Sunday, Dec. 10, starting at 10:30 a.m., then proceed to his throne in the new multipurpose building at Trinidad School to pose for photographs and take notes on his gift list. “I’ve got a long roll of paper ready,” he said with a Santa-like chuckle.

SANTA IN HIS WORKSHOP Clockmaker Gary Stillman prepares for his other gig. Janine Volkmar | Union

The club is offering photos with Santa to raise money for repairs to the Memorial Lighthouse, one of the most photographed spots in the county, that commemorates folks lost at sea or buried at sea. The club has been working to save the lighthouse from sliding off the eroding cliff. Plans are being made to move it, but the cost is estimated at $100,000. All donations for the photos will go towards lighthouse repair.

And repair is Stillman’s passion. “Diplomats and surgeons do repairs,” he said. “It’s a much-needed concept in our throwaway society.” Besides clocks, watches, and furniture, Stillman repairs odd items. “Customers bring in umbrellas, pepper grinders and music boxes, asking ‘Can you fix this?’, and I do,” he said. He sells clocks and watches on consignment and charges the same for any replacement battery, no matter the size. He’s all about rescuing things from the landfill.

To hang out in Clockworks is to watch his dedication in action. He takes in a watch for battery replacement and offers to drop it by the customer’s office later in the day. When it becomes clear that he’ll need to order a part for the watch of another customer who is leaving on a trip, he proffers a loaner watch with a kindly “bon voyage.”

Stillman’s Santa will be just one part of the Holidays in Trinidad event this Sunday from 11 a.m to 4 p.m., which will also include an Indie Craft Fair in Town Hall, a Girl Scout-run childcare service so parents can shop kid-free, caroling and food.



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