To understand the importance of this Valentine miracle, we’ve got to start in Eau Claire, Michigan. In the summer of 1960. I was thirteen. It was only the second time I had ever been out of the state of Tennessee.
And if my granddad hadn’t a’taken a job managing an apple farm in the “fruit belt” of Michigan, I wouldn’t have been up here at all. While the grownups talked about living through the Great Depression, I moseyed down a winding dirt road till I found myself ensconced on the front porch of a small country store.
Listen, I didn’t have a nickel for a “soda” as they called it in this neck of the woods. But I went inside anyways, figuring I might at least entertain a few of the locals with my southern drawl.
Before I could get out one “hey, howdy” or a “how y’all doing” I saw it, just sitting there, waiting for me. They had it up on a shelf, behind the cash register. It wasn’t running.
I eased up on my tip-toes and leaned across the counter to get a better look. It was stuck in between the cigarette selections and the BC Powders. The dust resting comfortably over it told me they hadn’t had many offers.
“How much for the clock?”
The cashier sat what looked like a potted meat sandwich down and smiled. “That old thing has been sitting there for years. “How about,” she paused for a long second, “twelve dollars.”
Might have well been twelve million I thought to myself. “Does it run?”
“It did when Dan sat it up there.”
I liked the dark colored wood. And the wide opening in the face around the hands that showed a smidgen of the brass gears behind. And best of all was the Roman head on the pendulum.
I raced back down that twisting road, “Dad, can I have twelve dollars?” It was some serious hope springing forth.
“Son,” I remember the puzzled look like it was yesterday, “what in the world do you want with twelve dollars?”
“There’s this antique clock…..”
He paused a bit longer than the clerk back at the store. “What in the world do you want with an old clock?”
My heart was sinking past my left kneecap when he finally reached for his billfold. We’re talking twelve dollars in 1960! For a clock nobody had to have!
Maybe he saw the pleading in my eyes. Perhaps he’d wanted something with all his heart as a thirteen year old. Maybe I’d never asked for much. I’m not sure it was exactly a father/son moment. But I have never forgotten it.
It turned out to be an old 1890’s Waterbury Clock. The top crown was missing. And it had had at one time an alarm mechanism that was long gone. It didn’t matter. After I got it home and gave it a good cleaning, it started ticking!
It was only the beginning. As soon as I got a house of my own, I went to filling it with clocks. Of course, at first, they were few and far between. The days of twelve dollar antiques were over. And I had children of my own.
I bought a Coca-Cola advertiser clock from the early ’20’s. Then I bought another one. I found a grandfather clock in Hollow Rock, Tennessee. And a nice Ithaca in Hannibal, Missouri. And an E. N. Welch calendar clock….
And one or two…..or ten more!
Cathy was so gracious over the years. She truly didn’t mind….until we ran out of room. She HAD to put her foot down, “No more, that’s it. We’re not building another house, and we have no more empty shelves, counters, bookcases or wall space.”
My lifetime clock acquiring has been on a suspended hiatus.
I had mentioned once, several years back, how much I liked the Seth Thomas No. 3 Fashion Clock. I couldn’t find one. And to be honest, I’d never actually seen one. That’s how rare they are.
You can see this ending coming. Six months or so ago—completely behind my back—Cathy got in touch with a great clock guy up in Cleveland, Georgia, and sent him on a mission. He lives just 30 miles from our grandchildren…..
She came home this week from visiting the kids. With an extraordinary, excellent conditioned No. 3 Fashion Clock in her arms! “Here’s your Valentine present.”
Talk about true love! Me and that little fat cherub with the arrows are both overjoyed.
And I have reciprocated in kind. I got her a card that reads, “Be Mine for all “TIME.”