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Man creates clock repair shop after immigrating to US

February 25, 2018

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) — Among dozens of moving parts and soft ticking of clocks, Saadat Hosseini works with pieces and mechanisms on a micro level.

In his downtown Kearney timepiece repair lab, Time Center, clocks of all kinds cover the walls and counters waiting to be taken apart and repaired or picked up by their owners. He started the business 18 years ago.

“I felt like it was needed for a local shop that can work on watches and clocks because there seemed to be, at least in this part of the country, a treasure that people kept from their parents and grandparents and there was no place for them to fix it and I decided that maybe I should take the plunge.”

Even with technology advances, people still look to get their timepieces fixed whether it’s the latest design or an old family heirloom.

“Clocks have been around for hundreds of years. Today, people still have connections with them. ... They go and look and purchase timepieces that reminds them of the past or some loved ones from the past and they like to get those fixed up”

In observance of great patience, Hosseini tweaks and pulls at parts using tiny tools, adamant to get to the bottom of why the piece refuses to work. While some devices may only take a few hours to work out, some may take days. With some pieces, after working on them without much fruition, he must set them aside and come back to them another day.

Whether working to fix a pocket watch or an old grandfather clock, Hosseini often must work with pieces ranging in size from .01 of a millimeter to a single millimeter. He pointed to one piece in particular he was building that was perhaps no larger than the tip of a needle.

“Patience is a virtue here because a lot of times you just have to be patient with the pieces. They are intricate pieces. They could easily get damaged. I do get a lot of timepieces that come and already somebody got into them and they have internal damage and then it takes time to go through and diagnose what the problem is and fix those.”

Though most of his clientele is from Nebraska and surrounding states, Hosseini has serviced clocks and watches from across the world and different eras. He once had to fix a clock from the 1800s built completely out of wood — inner workings and all.

Hosseini grew up in Isfahan, Iran, a city that today has 2 million people, the Kearney Hub reported. He was the oldest of four children in a Baha’i family. Even as a youth he would tinker around with devices and take them apart.

“For me, as a child . anything that was mechanical, I had a draw toward it whether it was an engine that was not working or working, I was always interested to break it down and see what made up an engine.”

His father was first a farmer, then a truck driver, and he often took Hosseini on trips with him. Then political strife erupted.

First came the 1979 Iranian Revolution, followed by war with Iraq in the 1980s. After the revolution, non-Muslims faced tremendous persecution. Undeterred, he earned the equivalent of a GED, and hungered for more learning.

For two years, he was an apprentice in a mechanic’s shop and learned to repair heavy machinery such as mine compressors, Caterpillars and large engines, but he never lost his interest in tiny things.

He then opened his own mechanic shop, but religious persecution persisted. There was no U.S. Embassy in Iran, so in 1987, he and a cousin finally sought political asylum in Lahore, Pakistan, and applied to go to an English-speaking country. Farsi was his native language, but he had always been fascinated with English, especially after listening to the music of Pink Floyd. For that reason, he applied to go to Australia, England, New Zealand or the U.S.

For two years, he waited in Lahore while completing paperwork and being interviewed by representatives of various organizations, including Christian groups that were relocating religious refugees. Finally, in the spring of 1989, the U.S. Embassy called him, and that September, he and his cousin landed in North Platte. The North Platte Baha’i community had agreed to sponsor them.

He was 24 years old. He had a single suitcase and $5 in his pocket and couldn’t speak a word of English.

Four weeks after arriving, he found a job at the Whistle Stop in North Platte, a small hotel and restaurant for Union Pacific Railroad employees. He did laundry and worked in the kitchen. One day he went to Hoover’s Jewelers, then located in downtown North Platte and, in broken English, offered to help fix watches.

“Do you have any documentation?” the owner asked. Hosseini did not, but he offered to fix four or five watches to show the owner what he could do. “See if a diploma fixes watches, or I fix them,” he told the owner. It did the trick. He got a part- time job as a watchmaker. Eventually, he was sent to Denver for a week of training and learned to do jewelry repair.

He worked there until 1992, when he transferred to the University of Nebraska at Kearney to continue the education he had begun at Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte.

At UNK, he studied aviation because it was something he’d never done. As a child, he watched airplanes overhead until he couldn’t see them anymore. “I always wondered what it would be like to be in the cockpit.” He earned a bachelor-of-science degree in aviation from UNK in 1996, got his commercial pilot’s license and went on to become a flight instructor, a hobby he still pursues.

In 1998, he married an Iranian-born woman named Naghmeh, whom he had met at a Baha’i conference in New York City in 1992.

Hosseini worked at Hoover’s Jewelers at Hilltop Mall while going to school, and extended his education for an extra year so he could graduate debt-free. He continued to work there until he opened his store in 2000.

He still hoped to become a pilot, but then came 9/11, which devastated the airline industry. Married now, he decided to open a clock shop instead.

The Time Center was first located on West 23rd Street, but it outgrew that space in two years, so he relocated to 17 E. 21st St. in 2002 where it has remained.

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Information from: Kearney Hub, http://www.kearneyhub.com/

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