Sunday, March 27, 2011

Eight bells and all's well

On my brother's wall
When my parents retired to Fort Worth, Texas in 1964, they moved into a house on Lake Worth that had been an old lodge or estate, with lots of outlying buildings, a dock, and is a wonderful lakefront property. A couple of pillars at the entrance had a wooden sign stretched between with the name Windswept burned into it. My parents lived there for twenty years or so, raising my younger siblings there. I had left home a while before, having married my first husband in 1961. Those youngest siblings didn't move around all the time like we older ones did.

At some point during those first years at Windswept, my father came into the possession of a old ship's bell clock that has become a family heirloom. My brother Buz inherited it, and he has it hanging in his hallway. The clock has a very interesting series of bells, because of the way maritime ships kept track of watches. I found an intriguing tale on Wikipedia of how it came about. Watches were four hours long, and every half hour a 30-minute hourglass was turned over and a bell was struck. At the beginning of the watch, one  bell was struck, with another added each half hour until eight bells were reached. A person standing watch could tell where he was in his watch by listening to the bells. Each even number was on the hour, an odd number on the half hour. Each four-hour watch had a name, such as First Watch, Middle Watch, Morning Watch, etc. As mechanical clocks were developed, this bell pattern was transferred into ship's bell clocks. At the end of a watch, the sailor would say, "Eight bells and all's well."

Last night I woke hearing the bells strike three times. I knew that it was probably 1:30 am, since it was either that or 5:30 am, and by the way I felt I thought I hadn't been asleep all night. It brought back all those times I had visited my parents at Windswept over the years, listening to the clock strike and trying to figure out what time it was. I wonder if I would ever have known about ship's bell clocks if it had not been for this heirloom. Probably not. From that Wikipedia link:
If a ship's name is changed, maritime tradition is that the original bell carrying the original name will remain with the vessel. A ship's bell is a prized possession when a ship is broken up and often provides the only positive means of identification in the case of a shipwreck.
The ship from which this ship's clock came from is lost to us now, but being here in my brother's house and hearing it once again has opened up a floodgate of memories.
:-)

27 comments:

  1. I hope most of those memories are good ones, and you are feeling secure in the warmth and love of your family. I hope your heart is chiming "eight bells and all is well".

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  2. How cool. Clocks are so interesting and most have great stories. I had never heard about the ships' clocks. Good history lesson.

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  3. Very interesting, DJan...I wouldn't have known a ship's bell history either and the bell's ringing pattern would have been very confusing.

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  4. What an interesting history of bell clocks. I knew nothing about them. I can imagine how those sounds would bring you back.. and probably keep you awake. ;)

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  5. Thanks for the interesting information. Have a wonderful time with your family.

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  6. Very interesting..but with old people that would really mess up their orientation. haha
    I love childhood items that bring back the memories..and it is fun talking about them with a group of relatives too.

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  7. This was a very tender and yet informative post. I love the way clocks bring back memories of days gone by. My grandfather was a lover of clocks and the house was full of them. They were set to go off at different times so he could hear them all. That made sleeping at my grandparents house quite interesting and very frustrating.

    There is also something very comforting about hear the chimes of these old clocks. I love the title for your post.

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  8. Very interesting... sounds like a beautiful clock that holds so many memories. Hope you're enjoying your time with family. xo

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  9. I hope the memories don't leave you too melancholy. I love slipping back sometimes but others it leaves me feeling a bit raw. I agree with Linda. Enjoy your visit. How is Norma Jean?

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  10. Fascinating story! It seems that old clocks carry around a repository of history and stories.
    Trish

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  11. Interesting post!
    I think it's worth at least one credit for college? For a prairie boy this is completely new information.
    My Dad always had a chiming clock which kept me awake when I visited. Now my brother has the clock.
    Special objects like these have much meaning and take us back to many experiences.

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  12. You should soak up all the good memories..and smile! Have a good time with your brothers and sisters:)

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  13. That is such a lovely feeling to hear the clock and recalling all those fond memories. My husband's family had a school house clock which we inherited. It hangs on our wall but does not work. I'm glad your brother's clock still works and you get to visit it.

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  14. Clocks are fascinating, aren't they. I like the picture you showed us and the memories evoked. My sister in law has a ship's clock in her hall and I always look at it when I walk past, fascinated with the difference of it.

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  15. I do like this story of "memory triggers." They tug the heart and this one is especially interesting . Thanks. :)

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  16. That's such an interesting story! We have a beautiful inherited clock from my inlaws that chimes. I was fascinated with coo coo clocks as a kid. I'm not sure if I spelled coo, coo right though!

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  17. Lovely memories of Windswept!
    Thanks for sharing them...

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  18. Wonderful story of a cool heirloom! I'll admit that were I in your shoes I'd be jealous of my brother for ending up with it... it's the kind of nautical gadgets that I love! ;o)

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  19. What a neat thing to hear that clock and have all those memories return. I hope you are enjoying your time with your family.

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  20. I always wondered what was meant by 4-6-8 bells, etc. Thanks for passing that along. The clock is a wonderful heirloom and love the memories you've shared.

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  21. I would have never known this about ships' clocks if not for this post of yours! Don't you just love old home memories like that? It can bring you right back to being in your mom's house and all the memories that go along with that. Hopefully they're good memories!

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  22. What an interesing clock, so many memories and history as well. My husband comes from a family of commercial fisherman and Navy men so I knew a little of the history but not all.

    Hope you are enjoying your visit with your brother.

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  23. You have a way of writing that makes me want to read more. Who knew that I'd get lost in a post about bell clocks. You're something else!

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  24. My father loved clocks and I do too. I had an old friend who repaired broken clocks so we would go to flea markets and buy them. I have many but they are not wound because they make too much noise (I have 8 in the den). Your clock sounds interesting.

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  25. What a sweet and poignant story. Plus I learned something new about ships and clocks and time. I enjoyed this post so much!

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