Monday, May 19, 2014

100 Years: Time Ticks On

For 100 years, a grandfather clock has been a sentinel to history in Randy's family. Randy's mom, Marie, left this note in the clock cabinet:
The clock was made by the Colonial Manufacturing Co. The clock cabinet holds other clues. A couple of yellowed cards give hints about its operation. A few other letters and bills were hidden in the bottom of the cabinet, noting repairs throughout the years.

The clock is now in our living room. Ten decades after a family purchased it from a Stafford furniture store, it's still keeping time, though the chimes no longer ring and it's certainly not as accurate as time on a cell phone screen. A Kansas Farmer writer was intrigued by our century-old clock and used it as a backdrop to one of the photos she took this spring for our Master Farmer/Master Farm Homemaker article
This cropped version appeared in the Kansas Farmer online story.
The clock belonged to Roy Russell, the brother of Marie's Mom, Laura Ritts. Laura's Methodist preacher husband, Alvin Ritts, died suddenly in 1944. She moved her family from Ohio back to her hometown of Stafford, where she cared for her mother, Lodie Russell, and her brother, Roy. 
Roy Russell with Marie's sister, Lorene, her husband, Gary, and sons Greg and Garrick. At right, notes and instructions found in the clock.
Randy remembers the clock stood in the living room of the house at 307 North Union Street in Stafford.
Randy in the back with his brother, Lyle, Grandmother Laura Ritts, and sister Kathy on a long-ago Sunday.
The clock ticked away the hours as Laura's children brought their own young families home to visit Grandma.
Marie, her brother Alvin, and sister Lorene with their mother, Laura Russell Ritts in 1969.
When Marie and her sister, Lorene, cleaned out Laura's house, Marie brought the clock to the farm. It stood against a small wall between the dining room and the living room. There, it presided over noontime meals at harvest time. It was a backdrop for birthday celebrations. It faithfully ticked the time while grandchildren played. It stood guard as Marie and Melvin mashed potatoes and roasted turkey for the extended family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a touch stone in Halloween portraits and for other milestones of life.
After Marie died 18 years ago, Melvin wanted each of their children to take a piece of furniture to their own homes. Randy chose the grandfather clock. It has stood in our living room ever since. And, just as it's been doing for the past 100 years, it's been a silent witness to events like prom and Christmas and quiet nights at home.

I always wish I had known Laura better. But even when Randy and I were dating, she was beginning the slippery journey that is Alzheimer's. She died 22 years ago, on May 14, 1992, at the age of 93. She was born October 21, 1898, at Stafford, the daughter of Edward and Lodie Maria Moore Russell.
Laura and her sister, Mildred
She was a 1916 graduate of Stafford High School and graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College in 1925 with a bachelor of arts degree in music.

She loved music, just like I do. I wish I had known her then. She, like me, taught Sunday School and directed children's musical productions at Stafford Methodist Church. She, too, was a member of Stafford Drama Guild, but it was long before I arrived on the scene. I think we would have had lots to talk about, if dementia hadn't interfered.
As we approached the 100th anniversary of the clock, I dug out boxes of photos, looking for photos of the clock in the background. I didn't find many. But I did find others that tell part of Randy's history.

The family photos were at Melvin's and Marie's house, but they came home with us after Randy, his siblings and I got tired of sorting. As oldest, Randy became the unofficial keeper of the family archives, I suppose. As we stuffed old photos and scrapbooks into plastic tubs, we all said that we'd sort through them "some day."

Every so often, I pull them out, looking for an old photo. There seem to be far fewer photos from Marie's side of the family. Maybe they didn't save as many things, as the young Ritts family moved from parsonage to parsonage for Rev. Alvin's next pastoral appointment. On a preacher's salary, maybe they couldn't afford studio images of their growing family.
I found a few photos that Randy never remembers seeing before. This one was of Alvin & Laura with their first child, Alvin, named after his father, who also became a Methodist minister and died too young.
Then there was one of Marie as a baby. These tubs taking up room in the basement tell a story of family -- of people and events that shaped the course of a family.
The chair also came from Grandma Ritts' house
And so the clock ticks. A new baby will be born into the family come September. Another name will be added to the family chronicles. And the clock will be there in the background - a silent sentinel to time passing.


  1. Enjoy the pictures Kim especially the one of Laura and Aunt Mildred. Not being a local, it is interesting to see the string of names that link each person together!

    1. Yes, it's definitely a small world in a rural community, isn't it?

  2. Loved seeing the pictures of Laura Rifts. I remember her well & always enjoyed when she taught or led at church. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

    1. As I said, I wish I would have known her in her prime. I think we would have had a lot in common.

  3. Great history in both words and pictures. Something those in generations to follow will cherish.

    1. Thanks! It's one reason I blog, so I appreciate your affirmation!