By the time B.C. turned 18, he was certain that life held more for him than a simple farm life. His older brother, J.F., had purchased a jewelry store in Abilene, Texas, and B.C. decided to move there and work for him.
Over the next several years, B.C. learned the jewelry and watch repair trade.
He never made it that far, and the events of the next few months would shape the direction of the rest of his life.
Penniless, but determined, he began wandering around Purcell and as luck would have it, ran into a gentleman he had known in Abilene who was now operating a “racket” store, what we know today as the “five-and-dime.” As a favor to young B.C., the gentleman graciously allowed him to set up his watchmaker’s bench and small display case in one corner of the store.
In 1892, the very first BC Clark Jewelers store was opened in Purcell, Indian Territory, with a shingle that boldly proclaimed, “B.C. Clark, the Big Watch Jeweler.”
In the beginning, times were tough.
One bright spot, however, was a young woman named Flora Edwards, who ran Purcell’s post office. Out of their initial meeting, when Flora loaned B.C. a dollar and a stamp, blossomed a friendship that led to a two-year courtship. In 1894, they were married.
Purcell was a division point for the Santa Fe Railroad. Locomotives from the North Division (between Chicago and Purcell) and the South Division (between Galveston and Purcell) would end their runs at Purcell, turn around on a turntable, and head back the same way they had arrived.
Proper timekeeping was critical during these times, and the railroads required that all company watches be inspected every 15 days.
BC Clark’s expertise at watch repair soon became renowned among the railroad workers.
As if this weren’t enough, B.C. also operated a car agency in Purcell where numerous automobiles, including the sporty Apperson Jack Rabbit and even a fire truck, were sold. All items offered for sale were the top quality lines, including the jewelry and watch selection, which remained the primary product offered by BC Clark.
Purcell had boomed during the 1800s, but never really grew to be a major city. During the 1920s, its population began to level off and Oklahoma City was growing by leaps and bounds.
In 1929, B.C. purchased an existing jewelry store in downtown Oklahoma City.
Little did he know that an event in the fall of that year would impact the nation’s economy for a very long time.
The Great Depression
After the stock market crash in October of 1929, several Oklahoma businesses were forced to close their doors, but throughout the duration of the Depression, BC Clark Jewelers remained solvent.
BC made a deal with a manufacturer to make railroad inspector’s watches with the serial numbers already imprinted on the inside of the watch. Usually, the serial numbers were assigned and written on a piece of paper that was placed inside the watch. Because the numbers had to be assigned in order, they had to print them ahead of time, and because newer numbers were the better numbers to have, the watches with “B.C. Clark Jewelers” on the face were in high demand.
As an added incentive, railroad personnel who purchased their watches from BC Clark Jewelers could have the payments withdrawn directly from their pay, and then the railroad company would send the lump sum payments to B.C. Clark.