Father Time

photo (2)It’s Father’s Day, and a corner of my living room is filled with boxes. They contain treasures from an unlikely antique collector, my dad. He loved to tinker. We had a sailboat for the weekends, and our crowded garage housed his sometimes-running classic car. When I was a girl he discovered clocks and the excitement of auctions.

I smile to think of my reserved, book-loving dad–by day an aerospace engineer–caught up in the drama of bidding. He had limits: $25 for a table or wall clock, $125 for a grandfather. But for something special he would go higher. A little. He was, after all, an engineer.

Dad’s been gone twenty-five years. Mom recently downsized to an assisted living apartment, so not every clock could come along. Benjamin Bell, one of the prizes of Dad’s collection, came to me.

The brass face is inscribed with the clockmaker's name: Benjamin Bell Uttoxeter, c. 1761

A shot of “Benny Bell’s” brass works in their traveling box

There are benefits to having a son named Benjamin!Β Then too, my brother has the moon-face grandfather clock (just visible in the top photo). Growing up, I thought every family should have at least three. We did.

The purchase date (1969) was carefully recorded in my dad’s notebook, price $210. How he would smile to see his clock–a Father’s Day gift to me–here in my house.

Is it too tall?

Here he is in my house, without the hood.

The clockmaker’s name is inscribed on the face, as is customary. In 1761 he was listed as being twenty-four years old. Time for more smiling. Could Mr. Bell of Uttoxeter be an almost-contemporary of Jane Austen’s?

Best of all, 250 years later this clock still works. Okay, so sometimes the hands get hung up, but Mom says it keeps perfect time. The strike, however, is anything but elegant. A hammer crisply strikes an iron coil–clang!

So “Benny Bell” now lives in Oregon, and drama is afoot. This afternoon we will remove the works from their box, set them in the case, and place the hood. And the photo shows the problem.

Is our c. 1980 “energy-saver” ceiling tall enough? The tape measure says maybe. By, like, a half-inch. Here’s hoping!

Happy Father’s Day!

UPDATE: It fits!! With not even two inches to spare!
And to think I almost gave up on having this clock because I thought it wouldn’t.

Laura Hile (1)

27 thoughts on “Father Time

    1. Laura Hile Post author

      The real surprise will be in the boxes. Apparently my unmarried brother had an ephinay: too many clocks! Knowing that his three nephews would like them, he boxed them up and sent them with me.πŸ™‚ Many memories, yes.

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      1. Susan Kaye

        Yeah, the whole “I thought you should have it” meme is going on in our family. In actuality, amongst us, is a way to keep from having to deal with a lot of stuff one doesn’t want by giving it to the other.

        Brothers.

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        1. Laura Hile

          Because I am so far away, he did the lion’s share of the moving work. My part was to tell Mom that anything she did not know what to do with should be boxed up and sent to me. Not as many boxes as I thought she’d send, so we’re good. The house will expand (somehow) to take in the things worth keeping.

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          1. Susan Kaye

            Good for you. My mom’s philosophy is that when she’s in doubt we’ll wrestle it on the truck, drive it 400 miles, wrestle it off the truck, and then decide whether she wants to keep it. sigh

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            1. Laura Hile

              The size of their apartment has meant a paring down of non-essentials to an almost Spartan degree. Even the coffee maker was given away!

              As for me, I tend to keep items way too long. A paring down is long overdue.

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    1. Laura Hile

      Gayle, he knew a little on most every subject and could fix or learn anything, simply by reading about it and then doing it. My Michael is the most like him. It’s scary to see how many characteristics seem to be inbred.

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        1. Robin Helm

          And he doesn’t understand why I can’t do it. He has to teach me by showing me, one step at a time. I don’t do well with written instructions.

          I have offered to teach him how to play the organ with a list of instructions – or over the phone. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t take me up on my offer.

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          1. Laura Hile

            Oh, Robin, that is the perfect response. My poor mathematical dad, spending hours helping with my Algebra homework. It wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t easy either and I did not want to learn it. How he would smile to see me teaching the very same processes to students, year after year after year.

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    1. Laura Hile

      They’re like cats, every one is unique and special. At least they don’t shed or need feeding! At home we would wind them up when company came (those that worked), and it sounded like rain.

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  1. Crystal Thieringer

    What a wonderful treasure! I delighted in this story today. In our family, there is a china cabinet made of reclaimed rosewood from my great grandmother’s organ. It seems there is only one corner in every house it just fits in. My dad has it right now, and I’m not sure who will get it once he is gone. Although…I do have a potential corner…

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  2. Laura Hile

    Once I empty the boxes–not today, ha! –the best part begins. My sons will get to choose. Okay, not Ben so much, as he gets Benny Bell. But it’s so great to see them welcome clocks that fascinated their grandpa. That’s not the case with every collection, but clocks have universal appeal. Unlike, say, something like Beanie Babies.πŸ™‚

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  3. adavis

    My dad (also an engineer) loves clocks, though not of the same era as yours. He informed me my brother or I will someday inherit a ship’s bell clock that was his father’s. I always imagine that along with walls, clocks must also have such stories to tell about the people who owned them. I’m so glad it will fit in its new location – how special to have it in your home.πŸ™‚

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    1. Laura Hile Post author

      Right, Stella? My brother did right to send the ones that were “too many” along with me. My sons, particularly the two eldest, are clamoring for them.

      Problem: because of graduate school and college-debt repayment, they are living with us. So my house will look like Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe for at least another year.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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