Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Bike trip yields clock that survives the ages

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 bicycles."

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 does.

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