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JULY 2008

Several years ago I had a student, whom I will call Betty for the sake of this story, whose parents were big antique collectors and dealers. Their particular passion was clocks.

Betty had read H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, and in one of her class papers she wrote, "I live in The Time Traveler's Parlor! Every room of my house is filled with clocks." Hundreds of them, it seemed. "All those clocks boinging and ringing and chiming and pealing. They drive me crazy," she confided. "Sometimes I just want to bang my head against the wall to make them stop."

She went on to say how her father made his rounds on a definite schedule, winding and adjusting them all; like clockwork, she said, grimly punning. "I hate to see him doing that," she added. "And when I graduate and leave home, I will not have a clock that makes any noise at all! If I need to get up at a certain time, I will have music come on."

I remembered the metallic clanging of my dad's old wind-up alarm clock, the tinny buzz of the first electric clock we had in our tiny honeymoon trailer, the thunderous bong of my aunt's grandfather clock, all the clocks of my lifetime, and wondered how it would be to hear them all at once, every day and night, as she did. Poor girl; I really sympathized with her, because I knew her parents and had been in that house, too.

I had occasion to visit Betty's old home recently for coffee and cake with her parents, whom I will call Joe and Mary for this story. Unfortunately it was on either the hour or the half hour, I forget which, and I was greeted by that cacaphony of sound, although it didn't seem as loud as I remembered. But the walls and tabletops and mantel were still filled with clocks; apparently Joe and Mary had either not sold a single clock, or had purchased more.

Despite the clamorous bonging, chiming, ticking and pealing, they carried on conversation in a normal tone of voice as if nothing untoward were happening. I could hardly drink my coffee, though, it was so unnerving. All I could think about was poor Betty, long gone from home, who had struggled against all that noise as she tried to study and write her papers for my class.

It was like being transported back in time, sitting there that day. I sat in a chair that could easily have been in The Time Traveler's parlor!

That was a strange pendulum on one of the clocks on the wall above me. it clicked as it moved, and sometimes it seemed as if I were turning my head in unison with its clicks.

I also found my eyes watching for the gradual progression of those weighted things moving slowly up and down on this clock!

That clock on the shelf dates to the Art Nouveau period, my hostess Mary explained.

And the hourglass really works, as my host Joe got up from his chair to demonstrate.

Seems to me I remembered that unicorn clock.

And that one, too!

"This was a Christmas gift from Betty," Mary said proudly, "You remember Betty," as she held up a little plaque that resided on the table. "Aha," I responded, wondering if Betty was living in a clockless house or had become an appreciator.


The little pewter clock above my head gave off a tinny buzzing. It reminded me of our first little kitchen wall clock. That starburst motif was popular in those days.

This clock was like one that my aunt had gotten as a wedding gift in the early 30s.

And I have a clock much like that one.

I have always liked stained glass lamps ...

and decorative art pottery.

"I notice that all your clocks are not on the same time; why is that?"

I asked, looking from one side of the room ....

... to the other.

Joe seemed a bit uncomfortable. "Well, Betty was visiting recently and I stopped most of them. She told us long ago that she would no longer sleep in her old bedroom if she could hear all those clocks. We didn't think she was serious, because she had never complained about them before. But by golly, she meant it." He looked toward his wife, who nodded.

"Wanna, after she went off to college that girl wouldn't come home for almost a year!" Mary said, a glimmer of a tear in her eye. "We just couldn't understand it; we have always been so devoted to her. Why, we had planned to give her some of the choicest clocks from our collection when she had her first home. But for some reason she just wouldn't come home. She would call, but that was it, and when she got her first apartment, she refused to take any of the clocks. Not a single one."

Joe shrugged, "We really thought she was kidding about the clocks, but I guess she wasn't. Now before she comes home she always calls first and asks, 'Are you stopping the clocks?' And I grit my teeth and say, Yes. But it sure takes a while to get them all in synch again."

"Well, I guess not everyone shares our interests with the same enthusiasm, do they," I said. "I encounter that sometimes with people who don't understand my passion for miniatures."

And as I walked out the door, I noticed Joe was already making his rounds, keys in hand, to start more of the clocks in The Time Traveler's Parlor. And I swear it took the rest of the afternoon before I could get the sound of all those clocks out of my head.



NOTES: The impetus for this setting came from the old MiniProjects list when the members worked on a Time Traveller setting as a group endeavor.

I always intended to do the professor's parlor in a clock case, but years went by and I never followed through. When I finished my Shakespeare Library I got the idea to use the case as a setting for my miniature books that I was making profusely at that time. However, when my husband got the clock case down from the shelf where it had resided all these years, I discovered that I had tucked inside most of the elements for the Time Traveller, and since I had recently watched a remake of The Time Machine and was reminded of my student Betty, I decided to use it that way after all - but with a bit of a twist.

The case from Hobby Lobby had a working clock mechanism, but the door opened to reveal hooks for hanging keys inside.


It wasn't difficult to remove the mechanism and the hooks but I had a terrible time trying to get the board out that the key hooks were screwed into; it was really GLUED! I finally decided to just leave it, and used several layers of balsa wood glued together to get the right thickness to match its depth so that the back wall would be even. I glued that stack against the back of the box, butted up against the floor. This sacrified about a quarter inch depth, but I test fitted my chair and table and they fit anyway, and it was worth it not to have to struggle to get that little board out and perhaps ruin the box in the process.

Graph paper was used to fit a pattern for the back and sides and I cut one continuous piece from black acid-free scrapbook paper, creasing it at the corners. The floor was another piece of scrapbook paper. Both were glued with Tacky Glue.

I don't remember where I got the chair, but it is slightly smaller than twelfth, which made it ideal for this very small interior. The CLOCKS book is one of my coffee table book designs.

The table was also in my stash. I purchased the lamp in Chicago.

The large clock face on the back wall and the "rug" were scrapbook elements that I had purchased at one time or another.

The clock shelf was a show purchase, as were the standard clocks. I gave one brass clock a base coat of white, and when that dried I used felt tip pens to color it. When all that was dry, I used a golden oak stain over it.

Other clocks were contrived from various jewelry findings and clock faces and I toned down their too-bright brass with a black felt marker, wiping off the excess quickly to get the effect I wanted. For some of the clocks I used only the oak stain, rather than the marker, letting it settle into the indentations.

I have several really nice wooden clocks that I thought about using, but they were either too big or too rustic or just faded too much into the darkness of this small interior. If anyone asks, I just say that all the wooden clocks are on the OTHER wall with the fireplace, the piano and the potted palm. lol

The clock with the pendulum on the left wall was one that my late MIL made in the 70s when she was making shadow box settings. The clock face came from a child's play watch. You can see a version of one of her shadowboxes which I later remade here.

The cuckoo-looking clock hanging just above the table was a pin that I wore for many years.

The brass standing clock was a birthday gift from my grandchildren one year. It actually works with a wee battery.

For a while The Time Traveler's Parlor was on a shelf of the bookcase which is slightly back to the right of my recliner. I could lean back in my chair and look in the case to see the actual time on that little brass clock, but then I realized that I also had a small collection of real life clocks, so I moved them all to a glass-fronted cabinet that faces our living room door.

Now this roombox has joined some very special clocks.

After my father passed away, within a year my mother had moved to El Paso. Not too long after that, she got acquainted with a woman who made these clocks. She told me about them, and we each got one. Hers was just like this one, but had a slightly different coloration in the painting. Mother passed away in 2001 and the clock went with my sister Ann when she moved to Dallas. Now that Ann has passed away, I am assuming Mother's clock is with my niece in Denton.

The figurine on the right is a real collectible, made in Occupied Japan. I bought it many years ago at a Goodwill store for practically nothing - before they bought a book on collectibles. lol

To the left is a wee girl's face in a watch which I made in a Saturday workshop with my mentor Patsy Mac back in the late 1980s.

You can read about it and see it in close-up detail here.

The small clock in a cottage was a birthday gift one year from my daughter.

I remember seeing my first anniversary clock at my cousin's other grandmother's house.  Her son had brought it from Germany when he returned from the army.  I loved that beautiful clock in its shining glass dome (maybe that's why I have so many miniatures inside glass domes) and was mesmerized by all the gold balls and brass wheels and gizmos rotating as the minutes ticked away. 

For one of our anniversaries - I think maybe the 20th - my husband gave me this clock.  Even though I don't wind it all the time any more, I still like looking through that glass dome at those wonderful brass innards.  I picked one up at Goodwill recently, mainly for the dome, thinking I was getting a great bargain, and gasp! the balls and innards were brass-colored plastic!

My mother used to pick one special thing for each of her daughters for Christmas. One year she gave each of us crystal clocks.

One year for Christmas I gave her the little round marble clock on the right. After she passed away, the clock was mine again.

As I write this, I realize I have other special clocks in various rooms, including an old Big Ben that my dad used to wind every night. I can still recall its jangling sound as he got up early to head out to the drilling rig. I need to add it to this collection, perhaps with a picture of Daddy in his hardhat. Hmm; it would be neat to add pictures to this grouping, too, of Mother and Dana, and anyone else connected to all these clocks.

I wonder how many other memory clocks I can add to this grouping - my own version of a Time Traveler's Parlor.

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