In one of our bedrooms is an old mantle clock.  It doesn’t run.  It means nothing to any other person in my family.  I like it.

         It belonged to my Grandfather.  My Mom’s Dad.  It guarded his fireplace and his house for 75 years.  My Grandmother would hide important papers behind it.

It told everybody within earshot the time of day.

         When I was a kid, visiting his house I could hear the clock chiming, even if I was outside.  

          It scared me at first.  Chiming out every hour, day and night and then that single chime on the half hour.

          Of course, there was no radio, no air conditioning, no electric noise. The front door was always open until bedtime except in the winter.  The old house was protected by screen doors. 

         If I close my eyes or at least squint them a little, I can see him standing there.  He would open the clock’s glass door, stilling the pendulum, picking up the brass key, inserting it in a keyhole on one side, twisting clockwise. winding the clock.  Then poking the key in the second keyhole, winding the spring for the chime hammer.  He’d restart the pendulum swinging again before he closed the door. 

All was good for another day.

         If he saw me watching him, he’d turn and say “Don’t you mess with this clock, do you hear me Chap?”  He called all his grandchildren “Chap”.  I don’t think he ever said my name out loud.  I wonder if he ever laughed, joked and played.  He was a stern man.

         Yes, it probably is an 8 day clock, but “Dollar Bill”, my grandfather, made sure his clock was wound tight every day.

         I don’t have much of anything that belonged to him or my grandmother.  I didn’t get his pocket knife, I didn’t get his walking cane, not even his old felt hat.  He was a Newell.  I’m a Windham.  I missed out on getting his name. 

I didn’t get the old clock until years later.  I had to ask for it several times.  My grandmother kept it until she died.  Then my mother got it. She put it on her mantle.

She could never get it to work properly.

She was going to sell it.  Just another antique, sold off and forgotten about.

I said “No. I want it.”

It’s still hard to keep running, maybe that’s why my grandfather made sure to wind it every morning. I think he was a man of habits and that habit just stayed with him.

I could take the old clock to a clock smith, I’m sure he could make it work again.  The problem is, all the old clock smiths are gone away also.

         My Grandfather kept a small cotton ball in the bottom of the clock. He soaked the cotton in kerosene.  He called it coal oil. 

         “As that coal oil evaporates, it kind of oils the clock.” I remember him telling a curious little boy over 60 years ago. “A clock like that, needs to be oiled up every once in a while.”

         I like it.

Please feel free to share.  I encourage and welcome your comments and thoughts.  Contact Mike Windham at  Please follow my blog at

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