Saturday, September 1, 2012

Our House Was Never Silent

A boy in grade school once asked me how many clocks and watches we had at our house. I was never good with numbers. I said, "Oh, about a hundred." He made fun of me. "No you don't! You couldn't have a hundred clocks and watches in your house!" The conversation ended. After school I went home and counted. I was nearly half right.

The clocks in our home included wrist watches, pocket watches, alarm clocks, wall clocks, and mantle clocks in all sizes and varieties, and probably a few other kinds I've forgotten. Most of them were there because they didn't keep time properly or at all. You see, my father had a small, second-job business as a watch and clock repairman and as a jeweler, a trade he learned through a correspondence course.

Each watch or clock that came in for repair received a tag on which was written the owner's name and phone number. My father had little hooks inside his roll-top desk where he hung the smaller ones before and while repairing them. You can see a few on the left side of his desk in the photo at right. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Most of the clocks returned to their owners when they were keeping accurate time. A few owners never came for their timepieces and more than a dozen of the clocks and watches in our home belonged to my father and our family. We all had our own alarm clocks -- the wind-up kind. We all had our own wrist watches -- also the wind-up kind. And there were several clocks throughout our house.

One of the constant time-keepers in our home was the clock you see on the back wall in the photo to the left. It was an electric Bulova advertising clock. The only numbers were 3, 6, 9, and 12; dots took the place of the other numbers. It had a second hand and a light. Whenever we needed to come downstairs at night there was the friendly clock, like a nightlight, casting a small glow. I don't know when or where Dad got it but it seems like it was in the same place from the time I was little until we removed everything from the house before selling it.

The other constant time-keeper was my father's wrist watch which he carefully wound every day. I don't know how he knew the correct time but he was always careful that our clocks were set accurately. Whenever I returned home for a visit from college he'd ask me how my watch was keeping. He'd have a look at it, reset it if necessary, then hold on to it for a day to see if it was running on time, fast, or slow. If not on time, he might keep it till I came home the next time if I could spare it.

I think I took time for granted when I was younger, even as recently as 10 years ago. It came, it went, I did things and there would be more time later or tomorrow. These days I have the sense that time is moving faster than I am, that I may run out of time before I run out of things I want to do. When I was a child living with someone who watched time carefully, I don't remember an extreme emphasis on time other than that some things were always done at the same time, namely, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

With all the clocks there was never complete silence at our house. It was not a small cacophony, if you're wondering, but rather a quiet, friendly, soothing sound. The clocks didn't interfere with conversation, music, or the television. Sometimes the tick of the clocks was the only sound we heard, a sound which was very comforting. All's right with my world - or will be soon - if I can hear a clock ticking.


This is a Sepia Saturday post. If you have time, I invite you to visit Sepia Saturday to find links to others' photographs and words about clocks, time, and a variety of other topics.
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31 comments:

  1. Funny how little things, such as a clock ticking, can bring back so many memories.

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    1. Both sounds and fragrances do it for me, as well as visuals, of course. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, Brenn.

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  2. The sound of time clicking away is something to ponder. In a home with so much time I could see how it would be easy to not notice time.

    I have several watches, I rarely wear any. I decided long ago to try and not be a servant to time. This concept does not always work. Just in case you were thinking of trying it yourself.

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    1. Yes, I've found that not being a servant of time sometimes works and sometimes not. Not when there are appts. for the dentist, optometrist, etc. Works when I have the day to myself. Thanks for visiting.

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  3. I would have loved to have been present in your house at noon or midnight. Must have been a fantastic experience! Now that you mention it, I still have this Bulova Accutron from the sixties. It is running way too fast but I'm sure that can be repaired. Glad you reminded me of that, thanks!

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    1. The only problem with repairing your Accutron might be finding someone who actually works on non-electronic clocks. I don't know if there are many of those repairmen around these days.

      It's strange, but I don't remember many chiming clocks. I think it wasn't until I was in my teens that we began having many clocks that chime. My father built grandmother clocks and then the chiming began.

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  4. You've made me realise that we can't hear any of our clocks ticking except for small alarm clock when it is on a bedside table.

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    1. I can hear a clock ticking when I sat at my computer. Otherwise, the dehumidifier and refrigerator have to be off to hear the other clocks we have in our home.

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  5. The only clock I have that ticks is a travel alarm clock. I always like to know what time it is, so I sometimes carry it with me when my watch dies.

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    1. You don't use a cell phone to check the time, then?

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  6. How wonderful Nancy to grow up with all those watches and clocks and to have the foresight to take photos so that you could use them on Sepia Saturday many years later! I could do with someone like your father to look at my grandfathers's pocket watch as it no longer ticks and I'd dearly love to have it running again.

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    1. Well, I wish we'd had the foresight to make more photos! I think I have all of two of Dad's watch repair stuff.

      Good luck finding someone who works on wind-up clocks these days! With our throwaway society....

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  7. Your post reads like the gentle and comforting ticking of so many clocks. I enjoyed reading about the constant timekeepers. I remember ours from my childhood: a yellow kitchen clock with a slightly melted 4, 5, and 6 from being too close to the stove, I guess. But it kept working!

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  8. How lovely. Your post reminded me of how senses other than sight bring us back - for me it is the unmistakable smell of the interior of my great grandmother's china cabinet or the smell of my grandfather's pipe. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of those memories!

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    1. Fragrances do the same for me, too.

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  9. I can see why this week's prompt of a clock struck such a chord with you and brought back memories of your father and your childhood. You paint a very vivid picture of what it was like to live in the house.

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    1. I'm not usually a themer, but yes, when I saw the prompt, I couldn't resist. Thanks for your kind words, Sue.

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  10. I enjoyed this post, Nancy. My uncle was also a clock lover; he collected them and his house was constantly chiming. I remember asking my aunt years later how long it took them when the time changed twice/year to go around and change all the clocks. She told me they long ago gave up on doing that and just had to remember when the clocks were all 1 hour off! Great post.

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    1. I had forgotten about changing the clocks for Daylight Savings Time. I can't remember what my father did with the clocks he was repairing. He probably just left those and changed the ones that we used. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

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  11. A very fun post, and if not for time, and clocks, and living, there would never be memories like these!

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    1. You're right! Thanks for coming to visit.

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  12. My home is never silent either. Not sure where I got my love for keywound and chiming clocks, because I don't recall having any in my childhood home.

    Great post, Nancy. It would have been neat to hear those clocks all at the same time.

    Dee @ Shakin' the Family Tree

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    1. I think there's a comfort to a ticking clock and a particularly friendly feel to one that chimes. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, Dee.

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  13. Nancy, I have always been more "Falstaff-ian" in regards to time, but I loved your telling of the story -- a careful weaving of times,places and people --- then and now. Lovely.

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    1. Ah, well, my attitude toward time changes over time. Thanks for coming to visit and leaving a comment.

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  14. I was at a dinner party last night and looked around the table to see how many people were wearing wristwatches. Only one.
    I think it's sort of sad.

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    1. Christine, I haven't worn a wristwatch for ages. For many years I went around wondering what time it was. I tried a small, portable clock in the car but it quit and for a while I carried a wristwatch in my purse but kept forgetting to wind it. When I got my cellphone, all my watch problems were solved. But I agree it is sad that people don't wear watches anymore. I suppose lots of people felt the same way when the style went away from pocket watches and changed to wristwatches. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

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  15. The house of a hundred clocks sounds like a tale from a children's story book. I wish there was a watch and clock repair shop where I live as I have several antiques that I'd liked fixed. I've heard that schools of horology are now disappearing.

    Years ago I played in an orchestra and sat next to a musician who had a cheap pocket watch. In quiet music, his ticking watch was so audible, I became convinced that the regular ticks were influencing the conductor's beats and choice of tempo!

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  16. That's a lot of timepieces to have in one house! Lovely post, Nancy :-) My grandparents had two Swiss cuckoo clocks in their kitchen. I used to pester my granddad to push the hands forward while I stood on a chair to see the birdie popping out :-) Jo

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  17. I always remember the clock growing up too...chiming and ticking when it was due to. A comforting sound. And I agree that time seems to be speeding up as well. (This is Tasha, btw).

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  18. Clocks are always an asset in every household. It tells time, pose as a reminder and keeps us on the go. It is essential in our everyday lives.

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