On December 28, 2021, the old banjo clock that serves as the mascot for this blog had its 100th birthday, even though like Jesus and Christmas, 12/28 is not its actual birth date. Its birth place was the factory of the E. Ingraham Clock Company in Bristol, Connecticut, so it must have taken a few weeks for the clock to reach a jeweler’s store in Shenandoah, Iowa, where sometime around Christmas, 1921, John E. Anderson and his wife, Carolina, entered that store and chose that banjo-shaped wall clock as a wedding present for their 25-year-old son, Edgar, who was about to marry Swea Werklund, 20 years of age, on the 28th of December.
The wedding happened as planned at the parsonage of Edgar’s home church that had also become Swea’s home church a year earlier when her father, Rev. Bror Anders Werklund, became the pastor. It’s likely the entire event, led by Bror Anders, was in Swedish, the commonly-used language of their church services (and would remain so until World War II). The Werklund family, then only Swea and her parents, had immigrated 16 years earlier in 1904 from far north in Sweden. They had first lived in Roseau, Minnesota, then moved to the Red River Valley across the river from Drayton, ND. Their move to Iowa had been a first foray into wholly new American territory, and Edgar had quickly acted to remove Swea from further moves of the family, who In 1924 moved on to western Nebraska, leaving Swea and her sister, Martha, who lived and worked in Shenandoah.
Their first farm home was a few miles north of that church parsonage near the small community named Nyman, a half mile east of the farm where Edgar had been born. That’s where the banjo clock had its first home and where Edgar began his weekly regimen of clock-winding. It was an eight-day clock, so weekly winding was appropriate. I turned up on the scene in 1930, and the clock became an essential part of my existence, regulating when I’d begin my daily walk to school and much more, and when I reached the stage that I had my own car and could now and then spend an evening in town, it regulated my arrivals at home. My mother listened carefully to the clock when I was out, so I was just as careful to arrive sometime before 2:00 a.m. Prior to that hour the clock struck only once for 12:30, 1:00, or 1:30, and I could try to get by with a slight fudging of the time of arrival by an hour or so, or so I thought.
Edgar and Swea moved to a larger farm two and a half miles distant in 1950 after I had left for faraway places, and so did the clock. Their last home together was in Essex, Iowa, where they had moved in 1976, the old clock with them. They were together more than 61 years until Edgar’s death in 1983. The clock-winding chore became Swea’s until her death nearly five years later.
The clock remained unwound for several months on the wall in Essex and then moved to our home in Lynnfield, MA. It has followed us through numerous moves, and today, it is a pleasant companion as I am alone in my wee studio apartment in Portland. It hangs beside the window that gives me a splendid view of much of Portland, keeping time correctly within half a minute or so weekly and tunefully chiming the hours and half hours, including those single chimes between 12:00 and 2:00, so long as I remember the weekly winding.