Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Watch takes its time winding its way home

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Bruce Popham was squinting through his black-rimmed glasses to read the tiny words engraved on the nearly 100-year-old pocket watch in the palm of his hand.

"Holy crow," said Popham, a smile on his lips as he ran his finger over the inscription on the back of the tarnished, bronze pocket watch. "Holy crow."

The watch had belonged to Popham's grandfather, Edwin Samuel Popham, a Winnipeg doctor around the turn of the last century, but for the past 58 years was in Dick Steppler's possession.

Steppler's father, Melvin, was a mechanic with Winnipeg Electric (now Winnipeg Transit) in the 1950s. He found the watch in 1953 while fixing a bus.

"He had to take the seat out to fix the bus," Steppler, 82, explained to Popham, 59, over coffee Friday afternoon. "He took the seat out and it was down between the crack."

Steppler said his father placed an ad in the newspaper to try and reunite owner and watch -- which, according to the inscription, was presented to Dr. E. S. Popham in 1920 by the medical staff at Winnipeg General Hospital -- but no one responded. When Steppler's father passed away in 1955, the watch became his, although he didn't think much of it.

Steppler came across the pocket watch a few weeks ago while going through his father's possessions.

"I just thought, 'I wonder if we could find out who really owned it,' " said Steppler, who enlisted daughter Wendie, 50, to do some research online.

Wendie came up with a list of five Pophams in Winnipeg and began calling them last Friday. Bruce Popham was the second person Wendie tried.

Edwin Samuel, the watch's original owner, died in 1930, Popham said. In the 1950s, three descendants lived in Winnipeg: son Harold and two grandsons, Hugh and Clark (identical twins of another son, Earle). Hugh, Popham's father, died last year.

"I was told of the existence of this watch by my father along the way," said Popham, who contacted his uncle, Clark, after hearing from Wendie.

Clark, now 91 and living on Vancouver Island, remembered being given a pocket watch at age 21, Popham said.

"It could have been my uncle who lost it, but he's not at all certain."

Popham said he has no idea how long the pocket watch was on the bus before Steppler's father found it. Steppler said he doesn't know either.

Popham, who has two sons, also has a pocket watch inscribed with the initials of his grandfather, Earle.

"I guess there's a keepsake for each of my sons now," he smiled.

Edwin Samuel's pocket watch has never been appraised.

"Its value is as a keepsake," Popham said.

"Thank you so much. I'm just blown away. Fifty-eight years later... " he said to Wendie.

roberta.bell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2013 A10

History

Updated on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 6:31 AM CST: Replaces photo

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