Sad and Happy Story Of A Clock and Gas Engine

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2910 Maple Road, Manistee, Michigan 49660-9628

I was reading the story about the clock collector of Burl H. Gillum in the April GEM 2000.

It reminded me of what happened to me about an old time clock. I took a job at a Chevrolet dealer in 1971 where my younger brother was working in Ludington, Michigan. At the time, I was living in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for 17 years. I wanted to move back north where I was raised before World War II. I took the job and stayed at my brother's place while I looked for a place to move my family to. This was the early part of 1971.

One day at work, I spotted an old time clock. My brother asked the new owner of the dealership about the clock. He said it belonged to the former owner. One day the former owner stopped in for a visit and my brother asked him about the clock, as my brother had worked for him before he sold out to the new owner. The former owner said we could have the clock, but we should tell the new owner that he gave it to us. When we told him, the new owner said, 'Well, if he is going to give it away, I have friends who would like it.' I thought, two can play the same game. I told my brother, 'When you see the former owner, ask him to take it home.' The next time the fellow stopped by, my brother told him what happened and asked him to take it home, and we would pick it up after work. So, he did.

(Now the sad part.) The fellow put the clock in the back of his Jeep wagon and left. After work, we went to get the clock, and after a short talk with the fellow, my brother came back empty-handed.

He said, 'Guess what!'

I said, 'Someone stole the clock!'

'Worse,' he said. On the way home, the fellow stopped to visit an aunt, and while there the Jeep wagon caught fire and its insides burned. The clock was lying on a pile of newspapers, so the cabinet was charred. The fellow told us where the Jeep was at his aunt's and told us to go look at the clock and if we still wanted it, to take it.

We picked up the clock, dumped the water out of it, and it still ran, as the inside did not get touched by fire. The glass was cracked, the cabinet charred, so we took it and left for home. We got it all dried out, put it in a dry place and every so often started it and let it run for a while.

Meantime, I found a home to buy, and moved the family to Ludington, Michigan, in July 1971. The place had a small barn on it, so the clock was put in the upper story.

Now, to the part about the engine. At work one day a fellow from Illinois, who worked in the body shop, said to me, 'You collect old gas engines, don't you?' I said yes. He then told me his uncle had had one back home in the barn at one time, and he said he would check it out. He went home for a visit and when he returned, the uncle had gotten rid of the engine.

Later, while talking to his father-in-law about engines, his father-in-law said he had one. He asked me to name a few engines, but none of them sounded like the one he remembered. After finding out he would part with it, I asked if he collected anything, and he said old clocks. I said I had a clock I would trade for the engine.

After a deal was made, sight unseen, while I tried to figure out how to get it home, and wanted to know what it was, the good news came.

The body man said his dad would be coming to the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area in two weeks to visit a sister. He would get his dad to go pick up the engine with the pickup, and bring it with him. His dad agreed. I said when you go, take the clock and give it to your dad to take back. It seemed like a long wait, but the day finally came. The trade was made, the engine dropped off at my door.

What a happy moment. The engine was in very good shape complete and a Rock Island, one that I did not have. The body man went home for a visit. When he came back, he showed me a picture of a very pretty time clock on a table and on a nice white cloth. When I told him that clock was just like the one I traded him, he started to laugh and said, that is the clock that his father-in-law had restored in four days. He made a stamp and it keeps perfect time.

How is that for a sad and happy turn out? I asked the body man what his father-in-law said when he saw it at first. He said it looked pretty sad. I asked about the cabinet, and he said it cleaned up and is in very good shape. I could tell by the picture it is, as I thought it was a new clock. A happy ending for two.

Would you say this sort of back-fired a little at first? I still have the Rock Island.