Edwin Centennius Penrose

Edwin Centennius Penrose

Male 1876 - 1935  (58 years)


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Intimate Glimpses of Salt Lake - An Interview with the Old Clock

By Ed C. Penrose. This article appeared in the Deseret News in summer of 1930, exact date unknown. This is one of a series of articles that appeared in the magazine section of the Saturday paper under the heading "Intimate Glimpses of Salt Lake."

“Tick-tock, tick-tock,” said the clock.

The pioneer timepiece at the southwest corner of the intersection of First South and Main streets was in a reminiscent mood.

“I wonder,” soliloquized this old servant of Father Time, “how many of the thousands who gaze at my four faces daily, from east, west, north and south, have any idea how long have been here. I wonder what they would think if they could see what I have seen and hear what I have heard. Tick-tock, Tick-tock.”

“What for instance, have you seen and heard?” was the query gently put. “Just how long have you been here?”

“Ah!” sighed the venerable disciple of chronometry. “The last question is easily answered, but the first I am afraid, would consume more of Father Time’s stock in trade to recount, than either your or I would care to give. Tick-tock, Tick-tock.

“But listen, and I’ll tell you of a few things that have happened under these old hands and this double-double face. I have been in service on this corner, not in this exact spot, but on this very corner, for more than 52 years. Would you believe it? Aye! A lot of water has gone under the bridge during that more than half a century, and a lot of changes have taken place.

Way Back in ‘78

“I was placed here, or rather where that corner metal pole stands, by Mayor William Jennings, ‘way back in 1878, but along in 1900 the Light company wanted that place for the pole and I was shunted back here. It doesn’t matter. I’ve got used to it. This building back of me, now occupied by the bank, used to be Jennings big department store. They sold about everything.

“In those days I was about the most important thing in town. At least I was mentioned more often, I guess, than anything else. I was the central point for most of the goings and comings. It used to be “meet me at the clock corner,’ or, “I’ll meet you at the clock corner.’ At Conference time crowds swarmed around me, waiting for friends or relatives to show up. If strangers within our gates didn’t know where First South and Second East was, they knew how to find the clock corner. Everybody knew that.

“Before and after theater crowds met under my faces. Many a date was made at my stand—and many were broken. Many a love-sick swain whispered sweet nothings into the pearly ear of his beloved, almost within reach of my hands and many a romance that culminated in a happy marriage had its inception right beneath me. But I said nothing. Tick-tock, Tick tock.

“Say, I mind the time that two or three young bloods (could give you their names, but I won’t) played a joke on Arthur Pryor. You know, that famous musician with Sousa’s band. Well, he was with Gilmer’s band then and he had met a charming Salt Lake girl, Maude Russell was her name. Well, these young fellows wrote a note to Pryor, signing her name to it, asking him to meet her at the clock corner. All aglow with eagerness he showed up and waited, and waited two hours or more, while the jokers watched and sniggered. Miss Russell found it out though, and explanations followed, but it was the beginning of a romance between Pryor and Miss Russell and they were married. I could tell you dozens of stories like that. Tick –tock, Tick-Tock.”

At this point a slight whirring sound almost escaped the ears of the interviewer, and the Old-timer continued:

“My Present Day Diet”

“That is only my present day diet of life-giving electricity that makes my wheels go ‘round. In those old days they used to wind me by hand every 24 hours. Under the sidewalks and leading from the basement of Jennings store, there was a tunnel seven feet high, five feet wide and 32 feet long. It was of brick made in Lindsay’s gardens, held together with lime and mortar, covered on top with clay to prevent leakage. That was before they used cement. At one end of the tunnel there was a crank, a windlass, a drum and a weight. Men turned the crank, drew up the counter weight and I was wound up. A tumbling rod connected with a universal joint controlled my hands and that is how I was kept from straying into bye and forbidden paths. Of course, I went wrong sometimes. Who wouldn’t under such conditions?

“About 10 years ago, some time after they moved me, the Western Union gave me a thorough cleaning and began feeding me electricity. Then about five years ago Charley Reading (and say, I could whisper something about him if I cared to) bulkheaded the tunnel to put in ‘Iron Mike,’ the control box near me, which controls the semaphores for traffic signals. That old tunnel was the rendezvous for a crowd of young fellows, and when Reading opened it he found things that reminded him of his young and peppy days. Tick Tock, tick-tock.

Gas Lamps and Chuck Holes

“But I digress. I was speaking of earlier days. I was here before electric lights came to this city; when there were mule cars but no electric cars; when there were no pavements, n water mains; no sewer mains. Gas lamps lighted the belated pedestrian around chuck holes in the earth sidewalks. After Jennings moved away, came the big dry good store of R. K. Thomas, and later the building was remodeled for a bank. Some will no doubt remember that about 37 years ago an old blind man used to play his grind organ near me. It ground out only three doleful tunes, and at times nearly sent me crazy.

“I often think of the after-theatre crowds gathering under me and eating Morrison’s hot Scotch pies. He worked all day making them, and remained up all night to sell them. He kept the pies in tin containers heated by an oil burner underneath. When the street railway company put in electric cars, my corner was regarded as the center of Salt Lake City. Just west of me the company build a little shack, ‘time shack,’ from which all cars were routed. The late W. P. Read was superintendent. Le Grand Young was attorney and Orson Arnold was assistant superintendent. ‘S a funny thing, but Read used to drive a horse and buggy. Young used to ride a horse and Arnold always walked! Well, it’s gettin’ late. I notice a number of persons gawping at me. So long. See me again some time ad maybe I’ll tell you some more. “Tick-tock, tick-tock.”

Deseret News 1930

Owner/SourceSusan Woodland Howard
Linked toEdwin Centennius Penrose

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