Will Edwinson

Author & Storyteller

Moon Phases and Grandfather Clocks

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Grandfather Clock

Have you ever noticed how some traditions seem to be falling by the wayside?  I was walking the other morning and noticed what appeared to be a full moon still hanging quite high in the western sky.  I was interested to see if in fact it was a full moon or if it still had a way to go.  I reached into my shirt pocket for my pocket calendar to check the date of the full moon, and much to my dismay, there were no moon phases listed there.  “Oh, well… no big deal, I’ll check the wall calendar when I get home.”

When I got home I checked three different wall calendars produced by three different sources, and still no moon phases. That’s one tradition that seems to have fallen by the wayside of late—printing the moon phases on calendars.  Some still do, but there was a time when people lived by these moon phases, and every calendar printed them.

I remember my grandfather Titus would only plant his garden by certain phases of the moon.  He also had a small apple orchard, and he never pruned his trees until the moon was right during the month of February.  There have always been tales about different phases of the moon; some may have been so-called “old wives tales,” but some may have had a trifle bit of validity.  When the kids seem extra restless or rowdy, people today still say, “Must be a full moon out tonight.”

The moon is even used to some extent to predict the weather.  I remember Dad looking to the moon and saying “Looks like we may be in for a little rain;” or “I guess we’re in for more dry weather.”  What he based these utterances on was the phase of the moon and whether it was a wet moon or a dry moon.  If the moon were in the shape of a bowl sitting upright, it was a wet moon because it would be holding water.  If it were shaped like a bowl tipped on its side, it was a dry moon because it could hold no water.

So much for the moon phases and weather predictions.  On to Grandfather Clocks. One of Paul Harvey’s “Rest of The Story,” segments brought to mind an old song. I wonder how many who are reading this blog remember “My Grandfather’s Clock.”  We used to sing it in grade school.  The words went something like this: “My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf, so it stood ninety years on the floor.  It stood taller by half than the old man himself, though it weighed not a pennyweight more.  It was bought on the morn of the day he was born.  It was always his treasure and pride.  But it stopped short, never to go again, when the old man died….”

Regular listeners to the late Paul Harvey’s Rest of the Story may have already heard his tale about this clock.  It seems this song was written about a real clock and a real life situation that actually existed.  As the story goes, there was a hotel in England during mid-nineteenth century operated by two brothers. Standing in this hotel lobby was a clock well known for its precise accuracy.  When the first brother died, it began to lose time.  The surviving brother enlisted the services of several clock makers, but none seemed able to fix what was wrong with the clock.  It continued to loose time.

When the second brother died, the clock stopped running altogether.   As the story continues, song-writer, Henry Clay Work, stopped at the hotel one night and was told by the present manager, the history of this clock.  Mr. Work was so taken by the story, he decided he must write a song about old that clock; which he did, and it became his most famous piece of work.  He wrote the song in the point of view of the grandson of an old gentleman who had died, and hence the title “My Gandfather’s Clock.”  Because of the popularity of that song, from that day forward large free-standing clocks became known as Grandfather Clocks.  Prior to that time, they were referred to as pendulum clocks and other titles Mr. Harvey mentioned, but which escape my memory.

If nostalgia and reading about things of yesteryear is your interest, perhaps you’d enjoy my book of short story adventures about a young boy growing  up in rural America during the 1940s.  It’s entitled Buddy…His Trials and Treasures.  Click on the free download button at upper right of this page and receive a free copy (while they last) of the prologue and the first three complete adventures.



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