Time can be a wonderful thing, especially for those who have it.
Some count the hours, some count the days and some never count at all. Having a mechanical mechanism that can tell you at any given second where you are on the time continuum is a wonderful thing, too. Fixing, refurbishing and maintaining clocks and watches in this disposable age is a rare expertise, but an expertise possessed in spades by James L. Schneider, former owner of Schneider Bros Jewelry at 20 W. Bridge St., which was a family business Jim inherited from his dad, James E. Schneider Sr. Jim studied jewelry and watchmaking and repair at Bowman Technical School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1971. He recently celebrated a landmark 70th birthday, virtually, with his family and friends. The Schneiders have two children, Eric (Alex) and Ellen (Brad) Spencer, and two lovely granddaughters, Kate and Emily. Ellen prepared a memorable slideshow to virtually celebrate her dad’s milestone birthday, which he greatly enjoyed.
Although the store is no longer open, Jim continues to ply his trade in his home attic office, and his expertise varies from Grandfather clocks to cuckoo clocks to pocket watches and everything in between. There is little demand today for hand watch repair, but it is still a chore to keep everything else ticking, and Jim does that well.
He and his wife, Meg Riley Schneider maintain their home at on West Cayuga Street, still as Jim puts it, within the “ Quad.” That’s the area generally bordered by West Park and a few blocks to the north and south.
Jim and Meg Riley Schneider are what you might call a quintessential Oswego couple. Meg is the daughter of famed Oswego High School history teacher and insurance broker Francis T. Riley, and Jim is the son of renowned Oswego jeweler James E. Schneider., who died in 1994. His wife Margaret passed fairly recently at the age of 95. She was the bookkeeper for the family jewelry store for many years.
Meg’s parents, Francis T. Riley (Anne) operated the Fred M. Riley insurance company which was inherited from his dad. Their office was located on East Bridge Street in the building next to Campbell’s Department store, and above the Aero Sporting Goods store. Mr. Riley passed in 1983. His wife Ann died a few years ago at the age of 96. She was a capable teacher as well and taught at St. Paul’s Academy and Fitzhugh Park schools.
The Rileys had three daughters: Monica, Martha and Meg. Meg went on to follow in her dad’s footsteps with a storied career as an Oswego High School teacher, retiring several years ago. Meg taught English. She still maintains a keen interest in the fortunes of her many students over the years, and stays in touch with dozens of former pupils.
In addition to his tick-tockery, Jim has honed his skills as a bass guitar player over the years, starting as a teenager with TG and the Night Riders and continuing until recently with Sweet Soul, a band featuring the talented Sue Sweet on vocals. They often played at Spencer’s Ali, an adjunct of the Clubhouse bar on West Second Street. (Many locals refer to it as the Little Bar, or Robert’s, as it is owned by Robert McGrath. He was also an active member of the Downtown Mayor’s celebration committee.
Jim’s philosophy has always been whatever time you have, be sure to make it a good time. Meg’s trademark smile and friendly demeanor has always assisted them in that goal. Here’s hoping that he keeps his and Meg’s and many other clocks ticking for long into the future. May they unwind slowly, strongly, and steadily for many years to come.
John T. Sullivan is a former Oswego Mayor and the author of three books, “Forks In The Road” parts I and II and an autobiography “Pee Not Your Pants — Memoirs of a small time mayor with big time ideas,” available locally in the river’s end bookstore and online. His column appears exclusively in The Palladium-Times on the first Thursday of each month.