Grandfather’s Clock: A tale that chimes over and over

Bill Shepard

Grandfather’s clock was too tall for the shelf, so it stood 90 years on the floor.
It was taller by half than the old man himself, though it weighted not one
pennyweight more.
It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born and was always his joy and his pride.
But it stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died.

It has been 90 years or more since I first heard the song, but the words and the tune still ring clearly inside my mind. I catch myself often singing the words or humming the tune to myself.
When I come to that line that says, “It stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died,” a feeling of sadness sweeps over me. I recognize the feeling as being the same as when I heard the song for the first time.
It is at moments like those that my mind carries me back in time and I am a little boy and I am standing in the chapel at St. John’s Grammar School in Darlington.
That is where I began school a long time ago; the year was 1928.
In the years that followed, I must have visited the chapel hundreds of times. It seems that our day at school began in the chapel and that is where I first laid eyes on the little man who always shows up when I am humming the tune about Grandfather’s Clock.
I am not sure if Angus Gainey held any other position at the school, but he was director of the small orchestra that performed each time in the chapel. Following the orchestra’s performance, the kind, gray-haired superintendent would read and then lead the group in repeating the Lord’s Prayer. Yes, it was a long time ago!
Announcements followed and then we would return to our rooms to begin our daily activities.
Besides directing his little orchestra at school, Gainey taught music lessons for free to students who desired to learn. Two of my friends in elementary school learned to play the violin. They tried to persuade me to take violin lessons, but I refused. My regret!
In addition to his work at the school, the bandmaster also operated a store on North Main Street in Darlington. The Old Barn, as it was called, lived up to its name. One could purchase most anything at that store! Of course, nothing that was new! In a part of the old building, he repaired old bicycles and sold them. My brother had a paper route, for The Columbia Record; anybody remember that one? He bought an old bicycle for $3 from Gainey and paid for it in weekly amounts of 25 cents a week.
In the summertime when school was out, I frequented the store quite often. I went there to purchase my fishing needs. Each year, I would buy a new cane fishing pole. I could often persuade the old bandmaster to sell me one for a dime.
Fishhooks sold for a nickel per dozen, any size. A spool of black flax line, enough to last all season, sold for 10 cents. Lead sinkers, called buckshots, were a nickel per dozen and corks were a penny each.
The first guitar I ever owned, I purchased at the Old Barn. That is, except the one I made, using a wooden cigar box and strings stripped from a piece of screen wire. For the neck of the guitar, I used a piece of pine wood that was whittled down to size and for keys to wind the strings, I used the ones that were used to open cans of Vienna Sausage. Remember those items?
The old guitar that I purchased at the Old Barn was a Stella Brand guitar. They are still made today, but they are not sold for $3!
I have covered a lot of miles and years today, and I can’t help wondering if there is anyone left in or around where this newspaper goes that cares to reminisce with me about any of the people, times or places that I have written about.
I would like very much to hear from you! If so, please call (864) 845-7426. Let’s reminisce together!
Bill Shepard’s fourth book and his first children’s book has been published. Shepard and his family worked with an illustrator from Charleston to turn his mostly true story that he wrote nearly 50 years ago into a chapter book for kids. The book, “Fugi’s Great Adventure,” is $14.99 and is available from Amazon. You can order autographed copies from Shepard for $14.99 postpaid. Send orders to Bill Shepard, 324 Sunny Lane, Piedmont, SC 29673.

Author: Stephan Drew

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