Tuesday, February 9, 2010

From Inside My Father's Desk

I sometimes wonder how I came to have so many of the small objects from my father's desk. But here they are, in my home, still in his desk.  Maybe you will enjoy seeing some of them.

As a side business, my dad was a jeweler who repaired and sold wind-up watches, clocks, and jewelry.  It seemed that there were always watches and clocks in various stages of repair at our house, along with the several clocks on the walls and the ones we used in our bedrooms.  Names like Elgin, Gruen, Swartchild & Co., Bulova, and Regulator were common in our home.  Also common was the ticking that was never silent, that kept us company night and day.

A childhood schoolmate once asked me how many clocks I thought we had wound and running at our house.  I told him probably a hundred.  He scoffed.  I went home and counted.  I was never very good with numbers:  there were about 40 clocks that were in process of repair or that were ours, and about half of them were ticking.

My father seemed to have a penchant for small containers, mostly boxes of metal, cardboard, and wood, and chests of little drawers.  Watch repair parts arrived in tiny tins.  The tins were packed inside cardboard boxes which had metal tabs on the sides.  The tabs slid into holes on the box top, then folded over to hold the lids in place as they bounced through the mail.  The tins and boxes were probably a necessary by-product of his work, but if he didn't like or appreciate them, surely he could have passed them on.  Most of them came to me empty, the parts used to help some watch tick along.

These photographs are deceiving.  The blue tin on the left is about 1 1/2" across.  The other two are about an inch at their widest.  The tin at the top of this post is also about 1 1/2" across.

Tools My dad must have had excellent manual dexterity and fine motor skills to manipulate these tools to work with the tiny watch parts.  In the round glass box at top, those little watch hands are perhaps 1/4" long, maybe shorter.  Miniscule!

In the photo on the left, the longest hammers are about 8" long.  In the photo on the right, the tweezers are 4 1/2 " long.  You can approximate the lengths of the other tools.

Some tools he bought, some tools he made as the need arose.  I understand that he made the littlest hammer in the photo on the left.  He also made the little "poker" with the flat spiral handle in the photo on the right.

The screwdriver is laying against a metric ruler with millimeter markings and centimeter numbers.

The plastic of these loupes is worn and broken.  They were very well- and often-used.  However, the magnifying lenses themselves are in perfectly good condition and I sometimes use them to remove splinters or pick out threads or see fine detail.  They can be combined to increase the magnification as needed.

And then there was the Sen-Sen.  I suspect that anyone who's ever tasted Sen-Sen remembers either liking it or disliking it.  People usually have a strong reaction to it.  My dad kept one of these little packets with its tiny black gems of pungent flavor, not in the desk itself, but in the chest of small drawers on the right hand side of the desk top, bottom drawer.  I think there was always a packet there but only occasionally did Dad offer us the black bits, and I don't know what prompted the offer.  I only recently learned that Sen-Sen was (and still is) marketed as a breath freshener when I searched for it on the internet a year or so ago.  I was thrilled to learn that it is still made -- and that it tastes the same!

Perhaps I have these items because I happened to be at the right place at the right time when my mom was cleaning out Dad's desk; or perhaps my mom realized that I would appreciate them and saved them for me; or perhaps no one else in the family wanted them.  I think having these objects rest in the home that was always theirs, my father's desk, is the perfect place for them.

You might also like My Father's Desk.

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.



  1. Nancy,
    I sure enjoyed this post. I remember Sen-Sens. I liked them.

  2. I love those little tins, and my grandma would have loved them too. She was a great collector of little containers of all kinds. And you got tools too! Cool stuff! I was in my dad's garage the other day and spotted, high up on a shelf, my grandpa's tool box. When the weather's warmer, I'll have to see about getting into that!

  3. Mary - I was surprised that Sen-Sen tastes exactly the same now as it did when I was a child. You know how things change over time and our memories are sometimes better than the real thing? Not so with Sen-Sen.

    T.K., when you open that tool box in the spring, I hope you find wonderful things - and that you'll share them and your memories of your grandpa with us.


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