The Clock

It all started in 1955 when I was fourteen, visited my aunt and uncle in Pittsburgh, and was fascinated by their collection of old clocks.

Only eleven years later, I was stationed outside Heidelberg and ran across a storefront selling old clocks. I stepped in and saw that almost all the clocks were of the same type (two-foot high pendulum clocks) and were astonishingly cheap. I’m now guessing because no contemporary German would have wanted one of these fussy pre-war clocks, somebody bought a bunch of ’em up for next to nothing in order to sell them to American troops. It could not have cost more than $20 and might have been as little as DM20, so I bought it with the idea that I’d give it to my aunt and uncle to add to their collection.

I set it up in my room and quickly became accustomed to its chiming the hour and uttering a single chime on the half hour. I thought about shipping it to my aunt and uncle, but then decided that since Pittsburgh was pretty much on my way home from my impending discharge in New Jersey, I’d just take the clock with me and present it to them.

When the packers arrived to box all my stuff up and ship it back to Odessa, Texas, I realized that, oh hell, the clock would not fit into my biggest suitcase, so I couldn’t take it to Pittsburgh and it went to Texas along with the other stuff. And thank goodness it did because when I got to Pittsburgh and took another look at my aunt and uncle’s clocks, it was clear that they were fine antiques whereas mine was obviously manufactured for the masses. Thank God I hadn’t mentioned that I’d bought a clock for ’em.

So the clock ended up at my mother’s house, where it lived on the wall in her family room until, not that I noticed, it didn’t. And when Becky and I were cleaning the house out as Mother died, I didn’t remember the clock to miss it, having given it no thought since the early seventies.

Flash forward forty-something years until last month when I got an email from my aunt’s granddaughter saying that when her mother, my favorite first cousin, had died, there had been a clock among her effects that, upon examination, had tucked inside it a hand-written note from me to my mother explaining how to operate it.

Apparently at some point decades ago my mother had given the clock to my cousin although it might have gone first to my aunt before my cousin got it.And now, my first cousin once removed was kindly saying that she thought this artifact ought to be in my possession again. Look, for years I’ve been in lightening ship mode, getting rid of things I don’t need, but somehow, the reappearance of this clock made me want it. Too much of my history is tied up in that clock for me to pass up her offer. So I said Yes. She handed it over to UPS for packing, and in due time an enormous package was delivered to me. My goodness, the packers had mummified the clock in yards of bubble wrap so that a clock with the height, width, and depth of 26″ x 13″ x 5″ fit snugly inside a box that was 36″ x 15″ x 15″. Great job, there.But when I got the clock unwrapped, I was shocked to see that the clock mechanism was lying on the floor of the case. It had apparently come loose in transit from its mounting bracket on the back wall of the case. I examined it closely and saw that one side of the verge that fits astride the pendulum to govern the advance had at some time broken off, but it was nowhere to be found inside the case. I also saw that the pendulum suspension spring had snapped in two, with the loose piece rattling around inside the case.

I thought about just sticking the clock up on my wall as a decoration about which I could tell the above story; but no, I wanted the thing to work. I might have been able to solder a little flat piece of copper to match the missing part of the fork, but there was no way I could deal with the pendulum spring. Time to bite the bullet for professional repairs.

Meanwhile, since this tale – unlike the clock – is running on, I’ll pause here for a photo and take up the story of the clock next week.

My Old CLock

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