My children Nancy and Walt, and our friend Barbara Smith, were
my bicycle companions in 1966.
We leaned our loaded bikes against an old stone wall and
entered an antique store in Llangollen, Wales, "Don’t
buy anything heavy," I warned, "only things like
hatpins and earrings. There are long hills ahead, and our loaded
saddlebags weigh more than 20 pounds."
It was morning, and the shop was not busy. Wandering around in
the shop, I asked the owner if he happened to have an old wall
clock. He thought about it a few minutes and said,
"There’s one in the back. It’s been hanging there
so long that I almost forgot about it."
We followed him to the back room and stared at an ornate
German clock high up on a wall. The white porcelain face with
black Roman numerals caught my eye as did the fact that it had
two winding pegs one for its eight-day time and the other
for chimes. We loved it immediately in spite of the heavy coating
of dust. I asked if it would run. "Oh yes. It runs
perfectly," he said. I assumed it was much too expensive for
our slim travel budget, but it was only "3 pounds 10."
Only $15 for that beautiful old clock!
"Buy it, Mom!" the kids said almost in unison.
"Could you pack it and ship it to Columbia, Missouri?"
I asked. The shop owner called a shipper to see what it would
cost. The shipper wouldn’t take it because he didn’t
know how far it was from New York to Missouri. Walt said, "I
know. We can mail it!"
I extended the 3 pounds and 10 pence to the surprised dealer
who doubted that we could mail such a big clock to Missouri.
Finally, he got a ladder and brought it down. Walt measured its
length as 3 feet and 6 inches long from its ornate, removable top
to the bottom. He left in a run, to check at the post office to
be sure it could be mailed. Nancy and Barbara went to get
newspapers and strong wrapping tape for packing. I went to the
green grocer’s to buy a strong carton or crate.
Outside the shop, I saw a container of oranges sitting on two
empty wooden crates, The man gave me a strong three-foot carton
and some extra slats to reinforce the package. We were ready to
pack our clock when Walt returned with the news that, with the
top off, it was still a few inches too long for mailing.
The lower decoration had been glued to stay! I borrowed a
hammer and screwdriver from the shop owner and we actually
pounded and pried that lower piece off, damaging it a bit where
it wouldn’t show when it was reglued. The owner watched,
disbelieving. "I must say that you must have courage, to try
a thing like this."
"Yes," I replied, "it takes courage, but
shipping a clock requires no more courage than to take three
teenagers halfway around the world to travel two months on
When Chub met us at the St. Louis airport, he said he
hadn’t opened the clock package. "It was badly mashed,
and the clock must be all to pieces." We carefully removed
the broken glass and spread the rest out on the living-room
floor. "Here’s the top piece," Nancy said.
"This is part of the bottom, and I have the key," Walt
said. We three were on the floor together, rebuilding our clock.
In about three hours it was glued and hanging on the wall where
it is today.
The clock ran perfectly, and now, 33 years later, it still