Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Four of us were working on an itinerary fo...

Four of us were working on an itinerary for a 45-day bicycle tour in Europe in the summer of 1966. My husband’s brother-in-law wanted an ornate, antique wall clock, and he brought us a magazine picture and said, “See if you can find me one similar to this.” The fellow had no concept of what it meant to buy a big thing like that and get it back to Columbia! I smiled politely and said, “We’ll see.”

This was our second European bicycle trip, and we’d learned some important things. The most important lesson was: travel light. This was several years before Nancy decided to make antiques an important part of her life, but we looked for things like lace and hat pins, not clocks. Walt, age 15, was interested in way-out clothes and in bicycle shops. The fourth person on this 900-mile tour was our neighbor and friend, Barbara Smith, who liked children’s shops because she had a baby sister.

We spent several days in Iceland, landed in Luxembourg and “did” some European countries before going to Britain. In Llangollen, Wales, we found an elderly man’s antique shop, and we were browsing around for lace and hat pins when suddenly I spied the clock! It was high on a wall in the back room, and the owner, Mr. Andrews, said, “It’s in perfect condition.” That was hard to believe because of dust, cobwebs and its motionless pendulum.

It was a beautiful, dark wood wall clock, and I asked, “Would you wind it so I could see that pendulum swing?” It was behind a lot of other antiques, and he said, “Don’t worry, it works quite well.” There was no reason to doubt his statement. I was not thinking of Chub’s brother-in-law when I asked the price. I was visualizing that 4-foot-long beauty hanging on my living room wall. Mr. Andrews said, “Three pounds, 10.” Three pounds and 10 shillings was a mere $15. “Can you arrange for the packing and shipping to Columbia, Mo., USA?” I asked. He made a phone call, and the shipper would get it to New York but not to Missouri.

We all loved that clock, and I said, “We’ll take it anyway! We’ll ship it by mail.” Mr. Andrews looked at our four loaded bikes and shook his head. Walt ran to a nearby store that had the usual cubby-hole post office and learned that the clock, with the decorative top and knobs lifted off, was still an inch too long for mailing. We’d have to remove the bottom part some way. Mr. Andrews accepted payment and loaned us a hammer and screwdriver with which we lovingly pried and pounded our clock apart for mailing. We reinforced the orange crate, wrapped it all carefully and left the glass sides in place, knowing they’d be broken.

Chub met us at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, and we immediately asked, “Did the clock make it?” He said he thought not. The box was badly mashed and everything rattled. Nancy and Walt and I spread it all out on the living room floor, and I began picking out the broken glass. Soon the kids were saying, as with any other puzzle, “Here’s a piece that goes with the one you have.”

In an hour or so I was wishing for Mr. Andrews, who said, “I’ll say one thing, you sure have courage.” I replied, “*‘Yes, I guess it takes courage to go halfway around the world on bikes with three teenagers.’ And you were right. The clock works quite well!”

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