Home > FTIAT, Guest blogger > FTIAT: The Clock

FTIAT: The Clock

Like many things, memory of how Georgette (Georgette Sullins’s blog) and I crossed blogging paths is lost to me. However it happened, I’m grateful it did.

Apart from having a fascinating–and, luckily for us, documented!–personal history with space expoloration and current life full of teaching-related adventures (yes, those are possible!), she’s a thoughtful, supportive commenter. Knowing she’s out there ready to share such comments has been and will hopefully continue to be a huge part of my comfort publishing sensitive entries.

Recommended post“Guess what?” II

The Clock


The key never moved. It’s amazing to me how in a house of four kids and two busy parents the key was never lost, misplaced or mysteriously disappeared during our weekly routine or the moves to different states. Usually the key lay on the mantel under the clock or was carefully placed inside the back door of the inner workings. Thankfully this assured our household that time would march on and the strains of Westminster, Whittington or St. Michel would continue to maintain the rhythm of our household.

The key belonged to a mantel clock that my father kept wound from Sunday to Sunday for many years. It was an eight-day clock. We grew accustomed to hearing the chimes at the quarter, half hour and on the hour for many years. We knew it was the start of another week when Daddy would crank the three mechanisms: one to wind the hour, the other to wind the minute hands, and one to keep the chimes ringing.

It was my gift to him and my mother after they arranged to send me to Spain for a summer. The trip was a dream come true for me and I wanted to thank them in the most special way that I could. I reserved some money for a very special purchase. Since I was in Europe, I planned to find something very practical, and something that would remind my dad of having lived with his family in the Dutch embassy. Daddy had told us of the clock his father would wind up once a week, and the chimes that would ring throughout his house. I told my aunt and uncle of my intentions and so in the city of Sevilla we looked through the stands at the Jueves (the flea market), the shops on and around Calle Sierpes (the shopping district), and around the Barrio de Santa Cruz. All the vendors asked right away, “¿Cuál timbre?”, “Which chime?” Their question confused me and made me second guess my decision to look for the clock, because I hadn’t given any thought to which chime I wanted it to play. I asked my uncle, “What chime did Papi’s clock (his father and my grandfather) play when they were children?” “I think it was Westminster,” he answered.

So we searched for a clock that would chime Westminster. Although I was in Spain, we found the chime but the prices were exorbitant for me. Then, one day my aunt told me she had spotted one at just the right price. We went with cash in hand and bought it on the spot before it could be sold to someone else. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out the clock could be set to three different chimes. Surely, one of those chimes would be the right one.

At the end of my summer stay, my uncle boxed it up carefully for the trip back home. He tied a rope around the box so I could carry it more easily on the plane. He even punched holes through the box so the customs officials could tell it was a clock and it wouldn’t need to be opened. “Guess what?” I said to my parents as they looked at the box when they met me at the airport. “We found it in Sevilla and it chimes!”

I couldn’t wait to get home to find a place for it. At the time we lived in Florida so there was no fireplace mantel. For a time it rested on the top of the television. Later, when we moved to a colder climate, it found its proper place on the mantel. The tradition continued for weeks and years. Daddy thanked me by taking pleasure in winding the clock every Sunday night. During the week we were not disappointed. The chime played clearly and predictably. However, we had to laugh over the weekend because by Saturday and Sunday the sound of the chimes had slowed down, sounding tired, in need of their weekly cranking by the key.

Side note: Before the clock ever entered our house, I had learned a song at church. The lyrics were sung to the melody of Westminster chimes, “Oh Lord our God, Thy children call, Grant us Thy peace, And bless us all.” With or without the key, with or without the clock, I used to sing it to myself. It has become a spontaneous prayer when I’m reminded of the familiar melody.

I hope you enjoy one of the sounds that filled our home when I grew up. Click to listen to Westminster (wait past the ticking), Whittington, or Saint Michel.

Used with permission. Georgette Sullins and Georgette Sullins’s Blog, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Georgette Sullins and Georgette Sullins’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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  1. August 26, 2011 at 6:29 am

    What a cool piece of your family history, Georgette! Thanks for sharing!

    • August 26, 2011 at 8:16 am

      There are so many facets to my dad, and this one stands out. He was always there for us like “clockwork”…we were so blessed. He passed away in ’89 and I can’t believe it’s been that long.

  2. August 26, 2011 at 6:50 am

    Deb, thank you so much for hosting today and letting me share our family love for this clock. I do love remembering stories about my dad.

    • August 26, 2011 at 8:27 am

      I feel honored to be a part of sharing this. I love reading stories about your dad and imagining the feeling in your heart as you do.

      While I ran this morning, it hit me that the entry I have scheduled for next Wednesday might have been a subconscious response to this. It’s a reflection on five songs that move me back in time/space as surely as if they were time machines.

      The post came to me while I was driving a few days ago, but I wonder if it wasn’t anticipating this post that put that one in motion.

      • August 26, 2011 at 8:44 am

        “the entry I have scheduled for next Wednesday might have been a subconscious response to this” Although I haven’t read the post yet, I think I can still agree with you…that we are not completely in control…things amazingly fall into place. Another hand, forces we don’t completely understand, play(s) in the Big Picture. Now, I am looking forward to reading it. 🙂
        Yet I would compare you to a conductor, instinctively orchestrating the “drums” of many drummers. You have a gift for listening, really listening.

  3. August 26, 2011 at 6:51 am

    What lovely memories of the clock and of your father. Thank you for sharing them, Georgette. I still have my great-grandmother’s antique night stand beside my bed. My gram gave it to me when I was a child. It’s made it through countless moves through many states as well and is still in great shape. People have offered to buy it, but I will never do that, it makes me feel like my grandmother is here with me. Too many memories to cherish.

    • August 26, 2011 at 8:19 am

      Absolutely, your grandmother’s night stand must stay in the family. After reading your moving and beautiful words about the memory of your father, I look forward to reading more memories about him.

  4. August 26, 2011 at 7:47 am

    Such a lovely memory to share. You must have felt a particular thrill every time your dad wound the clock, knowing you gave it to him. I hope he is still winding strong.

    • August 26, 2011 at 8:23 am

      The winding of the clock each week was as constant as he was. He was an engineer so I felt the mechanical clock with the chimes from his childhood would appeal to him. I still find it amazing that the weekly winding up was never interrupted by a “lost key” which I have to say could have happened in my household. lol

  5. August 26, 2011 at 8:10 am

    I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this post .. and your accompanying sound clip. It reminds me of afternoons in my Grandmother’s house and her clock chiming softly in the background.

    What a sweet and thoughtful gift for you to bring back for your folks!


  6. August 26, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I can hear your grandmother’s clock, MJ…tick, tick, tick, tick…resonating throughout the room. That thought makes me smile and I’m so glad you understand the meaning of this particular clock.
    As I probably have already mentioned to you, Daddy was a naturalized citizen. The first lawn he ever mowed was here in the States in his early 30’s…what a welcome to the American way of life he had! I marvel at the adjustments he had to make for us. I wanted to give him something familiar from his childhood home…and after discussing it with my uncle he agreed the chime clock would be just the thing.

  7. John Erickson
    August 26, 2011 at 8:59 am

    My father received a clock as part of his retirement from the Bell System. (It was a box-shaped case, rather than a mantle clock, despite the fact we HAD a mantel.) I could hear the tick throughout the house. I loved the chimes, but the rest of the family hated the noise.
    Shortly after we moved into our current house down here, some members of the church we work for bought us present – a very similar clock. It’s a cheap Korean knock-off with a single-pitch chime, but I love it. And though it’s ticking noise is much quieter, somehow the “bong-bong-bong” at 3am (when my aging bladder inevitably rouses me from bed) is one of the best sounds on earth.
    “Spice exploration”? Funny – you don’t LOOK like a Spacing Guild navigator…..

  8. August 26, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Perhaps like the TV on that keeps us company, the clock kept us company throughout the days and weeks. I don’t remember it bothering us at night…maybe Dad turned the chime off at night…that’s a detail, I don’t remember.

  9. August 26, 2011 at 11:34 am

    This is just NEAT. I love snippets of insight into family history like this! Thank you so much for sharing, Georgette!

  10. August 26, 2011 at 11:57 am

    What a beautifully written picture of your childhood memories. I felt like I was right there, waiting with anticipation for the clock to be wound. Not coming from a background with family traditions or heritage such as this, it’s almost like being transported to another world. And, thank you so much for the sound bites. I played each one, and I loved Saint Michel’s, especially!

  11. August 26, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I’m glad you liked St. Michel. They all become very familiar over time. ♪♫
    This is one story of several I have blogged about that involve family, memories and tradition. My plan is to compile our family stories and put them into a self-published book for my husband, mother, brothers, sister, daughters, nieces, nephews and cousins. I want them to remember. When I start that process, I will blog about that, too.

  12. August 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    When my mother died in July, one of the things she left was a grandmother clock. It was purchased when she and dad moved into a new house in ’58, and ticked along for decades. Once she moved here to Texas, she wasn’t particularly interested in having it balanced and restarted – but now it’s in my living room, and the “innards” are being repaired in a Houston clock shop, and I’m anxious as can be to get the beautiful chimes and the reassuring ticking back in my life.

    I was astonished when the clock repairer told me the chimes are no longer available. They’re German, from the turn of the last century, and very hard to find. Now I wonder – did the person who built the case, a friend of my father’s, know what he had? Or is it simply one of those wonderful bits of happenstance? It doesn’t matter – as you surely know.

    • August 26, 2011 at 4:37 pm

      What an interesting story about your grandmother clock. The three chimes I mentioned are very popular, but I know there are other unique ones as well. What a treasure you have!
      I wonder if there is a clock expert in the Hill country or maybe as close as Brenham who could help you with the original chimes. I live in the Houston area. You may know that the German community extends through the 290 corridor from Klein, to Brenham past Austin. How wonderful we have these craftsman that keep the clock working. I do hope you do not have to wait long before it ticks and chimes again. btw you and “island traveller” are the only wp bloggers I’ve met on wp.

      • August 26, 2011 at 7:02 pm

        Correction @shoreacres “btw you and “island traveller” are the only wp bloggers I’ve met on wp from the Houston area.”

      • August 27, 2011 at 7:00 am

        georgette ~ I’m in League City, in an apartment that overlooks South Shore Harbor marina. I had Chappell Jordan Clock Galleries send one of their repairmen down – they’re the best in Houston, in my experience. I used to live on Westheimer near Kirby, and would to down to their showroom every once in a while just to listen to all of the clocks chime on the hour!

        They said it would be about mid-September for the work to be completed – almost there!

  13. August 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm


    This was a beautiful piece. And you’re a teacher? And a blogger? Why hasn’t Deb introduced us before?

    *making a suspicious clucking sound*

    I’m coming to check you out.

    And I’m next week. And the idea of not having control is perfect, as is your little prayer, which I plan to start singing now.

  14. August 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    So you’re a teacher and a blogger too? It was meant to be that I meet you here. I just visited your site and love your “twits” post. You have a smart son to be so engaged in computer science. And you are a smart mom who can skillfully direct him.Two of my nephews are in computer fields and daughter #2 works closely with complicated computer programs in her job.
    I’m so glad you enjoyed this piece. And, I’m grateful to Deb for introducing me to such wonderful readers. FTIAT

  15. August 26, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    What a comforting chime! Like saying the “Om” when doing yoga, the little tune brings a moment of peace to our hectic lives. It’s a lovely way to remember your father.

    • August 27, 2011 at 5:02 am

      Thank you, Karla. Whenever I hear Westminster, I’m taken back to the constancy of my parents’ home.

  16. August 27, 2011 at 12:08 am

    This is beautiful! I love stories that are important to who you are, and this clock has an amazing history to it. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • August 27, 2011 at 5:18 am

      Thank you for understanding its meaning. I thank my dad for making his stories of his household clock so vivid that I could gift it at the right time. Yes, I did wonder why my parents never acquired one of their own…but I’m so glad they didn’t and let me do it for them. Such a little thing for all they gave me.

  17. August 27, 2011 at 5:00 am

    Just beautiful, Georgette! This story has so much love attached! And I’m glad you’ve introduced me to Deb; I’ll definitely be visiting again!

  18. August 27, 2011 at 5:31 am

    Dianna, lol You have found me at another site I “stalk.” You have commented on my “insight” in the comments I make at These Days of Mine. I believe Deb’s influence has shaped my boldness at times. (I think you know what I mean.) FTIAT Thank you for your understanding, for welcoming me…it gave me wings to visit other wonderful places.

  19. August 27, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    I got a little teary-eyed reading this because we had a clock that played the same chime and my father would wind it regularly. It was a clock my parents brought back from Portugal during one of their rare visits. The sound of that chime instantly brings me back to my childhood. I remember feeling honored the times he would let me wind the clock.

    And I chuckled when you wrote about how the clock would sound tired and slow at the end of the week – it’s funny because it’s true 🙂

    The clock was a wonderful gift and your post was beautiful.

    • August 28, 2011 at 3:38 am

      Thank you for visiting and reading, limr. Yes, I do know you understand its full meaning. I so much enjoyed your post too, about your dad speaking several languages in one sentence or paragraph. What a gift to us, ¿no?

  20. August 28, 2011 at 5:04 am

    What a beautiful post… I enjoyed it thoroughly and I can imagine the delight in finding something so precious… Love the color too. TY for this one too Deborah! 🙂

    • August 28, 2011 at 6:53 am

      I am so glad you enjoyed it, eof737. A favorite hispanic poet Vicente Huidobro writes about “la voz de las cosas”, the voice of things. This thing definitely had/has a voice.

  21. August 28, 2011 at 8:40 am

    A beautiful post. My grandfather from my mother’s side had an old clock too that he would set every day. I remember that it would create a sound when it strikes 12 midnight. I was too young to remember the details. We still have it in my parents house but it’s already broken. I admire your affection to your parents. Your all are lucky to have each other. A key, a clock filled with loving memories and treasured thoughts.Thanks for sharing .

    • August 28, 2011 at 11:53 am

      I’m so glad you came over here to read this. I know you know how much it means. My dad passed away in ’89 and when my mother downsized she returned it to me just a year or so ago. She kept it running after his passing for about 20 years. It gives me great pleasure to share this with you and your memories.

  22. August 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Very nice trip down Memory Lane, Deborah! Thanks for allowing me to accompany you.

  23. August 29, 2011 at 4:37 am

    This is a beautiful post! I’m sorry I didn’t get to it sooner! 🙂

  24. August 30, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    This story is such a sweet and beautiful portrait of your loving family. Thanks for sharing it with us, Georgette. 🙂

  1. August 26, 2011 at 5:40 am
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