All About The Watchmaker


Well, it’s about all this dog knows on this subject as of this July 4th!

One of my lady friends, the blogging Petrea, blogged about a wall sign from an old Pasadena watchmaker/time-shop recently uncovered with the Zinke’s Shoe shop demolition to make way for another new, hip cafe.  While the old sign was uncovered it still left many of her reader questions unanswered. 

Btw, when I say, “Old”, I mean from last century, the circa 1960s.




Fortunately, I had also noticed this wall sign a while back.  It sparked my curiosity to check into its history.  I found some additional information but I wasn’t satisfied with what I had, therefore, in addition to my laziness, didn’t feel ready to write about it.

However, now that others via Petrea have shown interest in this old shop sign, I’ve decided simply to share what I do know up to now, to pass this torch to a new generation of readers in the hope someone will take it as a light for discovering much more about the watchmaker and his time shop. So in that spirit, lemme list just some of the facts I’ve uncovered through a quick scan of our Pasadena Star-News  and library records in my only sniff at this bit of mystery history.


Name:  Gelen’s Time Shop.  Everyone seemed to think the name was Helen’s Time Shop.

Address: 600 E. Colorado Blvd, in the theatrical/Playhouse district.  This Art-Decoish style building used to mainly house a theater: The United Artists for about 60 years until I think 1990. Now it looks to me to house mainly vacancies and children/art supplies!

Life of his Pasadena time shop business: it appears to be 10 years, 1966-1975.

Watchmaker Family: Sarah (wife), Susan (daughter).  

Residence: they were Pasadena residents since 1957, living at least partially at a Marengo street apartment.

And, last but not least, the mysterious Watchmaker: Harry Gelen. Born approximately 1915-1918. Polish/Jewish.  Although he was a watchmaker, he fell into many odd jobs to survive – including being a stagehand for a theatre  company! 

In the Polish Army he fought the Nazi’s.  However, he lost his parents and oldest sister in the Auschwitz gas chambers. Harry, his brothers, and youngest sister found relative safety, and his future wife, Sarah, in Russian Siberia despite being put into a forced labor camp. Sarah would became a dressmaker in Pasadena.

After WW2 he found his way back to Poland. However, the communist takeover left a bad taste and he/wife moved from European country to country in the search for a better life.

Eventually, in 1956, he arrived in Los Angeles.  And the following year he finally found Pasadena and his restful paradise. Like those before him from Indiana, Iowa, Illinois beginning in the 1870s; and the rest of the nation and world.

And now you know some of the meaning behind the sign.  Again, I hope someone uses this information as leads to write the next chapters of this adventure story.  There are still many answers to dig up for the numerous questions on this subject, and countless others in Pasadena history.  But I have only one shovel.





I believe in destiny and I believe in God. You can’t believe in one and not the other.  All the ones who didn’t go to the camps in the north died in the (gas) chambers – hundreds of thousands died.  It took 12 hours of convincing and the will of God to let me go.  And because of God’s goodness I am here now.”  – Harry Gelen




Gotta be Thankful this 4th of July. Happy Thanksgiving! Stay Thirsty My Friends



Previous Post: @LATimes…Sunday Magazine


18 responses to “All About The Watchmaker

  1. Thank you, thank you for finding this!! I’m always intrigued by this stuff, and I have to admit I spent some time Googling, and came up with nothing. Didn’t think about the Star News. You’re Good!

  2. My first blog read of the morning and I’m glad I chose this one first. Interesting quote at the end “all the ones who didn’t go to the camps in the north died” by camp, is he talking about the Siberian Labor camp or something else? Maybe you can do a part two….This was a fantastic post. One of my favorites. I also like your new blog set up. Nice colors

  3. My blood sugar must be low ~ I need dinner. I thought the beginning of that quote said, “I believe in dentistry…” Interesting tale, puppy dog.

    • Maybe what u were gonna have for dinner made u think of dentistry! ShSh, thanks for joining our conversation cafe. Your smile colors up the room even more beautifully than our crystal chandelier!

  4. Fascinating, right down to the actual name of the store; without you, we would all guess Helen. Good lesson in how history gets distorted.

    • You should’ve been a teacher, KB: you’re very generous with your grading. No bloodhound, but maybe something has rubbed off on me from hanging around newspaper joints this year.