Telling time not as easy as it looks

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By W.B. Evans

Time didn’t really matter much because somebody was always telling me when to come and when to go.

Now we had clocks all over the house, including the big wind-up downstairs Roman numeral grandfather clock where the half-pint bottle of cough medicine (whiskey) was kept.

I couldn’t tell time, but I knew exactly where the cough medicine was.

For me, learning to tell time was a bit confusing.

Mama and Daddy didn’t do it like the way Miss Jones was teaching us in third grade.

Our classroom had a big old schoolhouse clock with regular numbers on its face hanging across from the chalkboard.

The way Miss Jones taught us, when the big hand was on the half hour, it was, say, “three thirty.”

When I got home my folks would say it was half past three.

I was just as perplexed by their use of “a quarter till” or “a quarter past” when the big hand was on a “3” or “9.”

I became so crossed up that I shared my situation with Miss Jones.

“Your parents are telling time like old folks did long time ago,” Jones said.

Well, when I told Mama what Miss Jones said, all that half past and quarter stuff stopped.

I was getting at the age where time mattered, especially when it came to judging my outside playing so I wouldn’t miss The Lone Ranger on the radio.

I was strong believer in all that “making the most of the equipment you have” philosophy the masked righter of wrongs espoused in his creed. 

Now, tellin’ time did make me more accountable. Every once and a while, I had to look at the big clock in the hall to see how much time I had left to play.

I was starting to realize how important time was.

Daddy had to set his clock at night to wake up in time for breakfast and get to work.

Just as I was starting to get the hang of this time-telling thing, the government in Washington started up something called War Savings Time.

Shucks, my poor Daddy was now getting up way before there was any sign of daylight. He woke up the rooster when he left, but he was getting home before the sun set over the cottonseed oil mill.

It was a sign of the times, I guess.

I wasn’t as lucky when school started the next year. There were no clocks in our fourth grade classroom, which had us wondering how long it was before lunch or recess.

I told Mama that a watch would make an ideal Christmas gift, but not a pocket watch like Daddy or Uncle Harry.

I wanted a wristwatch with a genuine leather strap.

I noticed a wristwatch at Ben C. Hough’s Jewelry Store on Main Street and I told Mama about it.

Fourth grade is a busy time, with all the multiplying, dividing and reading.

There was so much stuff going on that Christmas just slipped up before we realized it.

With the war going on, most children knew not to expect bunches of Christmas toys. I was old enough to understand there were more pressing issues going on overseas.

But  I still hung a stocking up for the jolly, old elf to fill.

As usual, I was the earliest riser in our house on Christmas morning. I headed directly to my stocking hanging on the mantle.

I dug inside to find an orange, an apple and some nuts.

Suddenly, my hand rubbed against something that felt strange.

Like a dentist pulling on a bad tooth, I yanked a long, velvet-covered box from the bottom of my sock.

The box was embossed with “B.C. Hough Jewelers” in real gold letters.

I flipped the cover back.

Bless Pete, Santa had brought me an honest-to-goodness wristwatch.

I stared at it in disbelief.

The watch had a gold face with black numbers and a real little second clock down where the “6” was supposed to be.

The leather strap was dark brown with a little gold buckle.

I couldn’t get it strapped on quick enough. I felt like the Lone Ranger when he buckled his shiny leather holster around his waist.

Now, I had a real honest wristwatch, not a Mickey Mouse or Shirley Temple like some of my classmates wore.

And just like the Lone Ranger’s six-shooters, I knew how to use it, too.

I was peacock proud and couldn’t wait to show it the fellas. You don’t forget days like that one. That’s what remembering when is all about.

Now, all these years later, I have worn a Bulova, Hamilton, a Timex, and even a Rolex on that same arm, but nothing compares to the one found in a Christmas stocking.

In looking back, watches and clocks have changed in so many ways. But one thing never changes; we still depend on them to get somewhere or someplace on time.

It sure beats sundials or trying to figure out if I have enough time to go outside and play.