My paternal grandfather, who I never met, was a watchmaker who eventually started a business in the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Lawrence has a highway, Route 495, that cuts through it and as the highway becomes a double-decker bridge and goes over the once quite-polluted Merrimack River, you can look to the west and see a clock tower in the distance. Years ago, as we were driving south on 495, Dad pointed the tower out to us and told us that when his father was young, he would climb up into that tower to clean the clock or perform maintenance…or maybe there was pigeon excrement involved, I don’t remember. Anyway, that revelation always stuck with me and I would imagine this boy climbing up the stairs and cleaning gears or something. I really had no idea what it entailed or even if he was a boy. For all I know, he could’ve been in his teens or twenties, yet for some reason I always envisioned an Oliver Twist-type child dressed in dingy 1920’s clothing. Who knows, I may have been correct.
When my Southern Man and I first drove over that bridge as a couple, I pointed to the clock tower in the distance and said, “See that tower over there? My grandfather used to clean that clock.” After we had our kids, I shared that tidbit of family history with them. It eventually became a sort of funny tradition because every time we drove over the bridge, I’d point to the clock tower in the distance and say, “See that tower over there? Your great-grandfather used to clean the clock.” I would get a chorus of “YES, Mommy/dear!” in reply.
In later years, when driving on the Route 495 double-decker bridge that goes over the now-clean Merrimack River, I was sometimes preempted with either my Southern Man or one of the kids saying, “See that tower over there? Grandpa’s father used to clean that clock.” I guess I started a tradition. Granted, it’s up THERE and we are down HERE, so who knows if that tradition will continue with the next generation. I guess time will tell. Meanwhile, that clock keeps ticking….
Here’s an interesting fact about the clock tower: “The Ayer Mill Clock Tower is the world’s largest mill clock. Its four big glass faces are only 6 inches smaller than Big Ben in London.” Pretty neat, huh?
Read more about the history of the Ayer Mill Clock Tower here:
Read about some of Lawrence’s history–lots of links of off this one: