Thursday, June 27, 2013

More Wristwatch Musings

     I watched an old movie today – 1951, which of course doesn’t feel all that old to me.  A relative has returned after years in foreign parts, and he impresses the family by passing out exciting well-chosen gifts for everyone.  (I wouldn’t dream of being a spoiler and telling you whether the vague distrust we already feel for the visitor is well-founded.)  To the father of the family he hands a package containing –
                             a wristwatch!
     I decided to tell you about it when I heard Father’s reaction: “Oh Jim, you shouldn’t.  It’s much too good for me.  Boy, the guys down at the plant will be impressed.”
     Today, when one can buy a watch in Walgreen’s for less than an hours’ work at minimum wage, it’s hard to remember what a luxury item the wristwatch once represented.  I’d been planning all through college what I would do with my first paycheck after graduation.  Buying that watch was such an exciting moment that I can still see the salesman and the counter where I paid about $25 (a full week's work at 1947 minimum wage, which was still at WW II levels.)
     My mother-in-law had a platinum watch with a tiny sapphire as a knob in the stem winder.  Engraved on the back was “To Lena from Ma and Pa”.  I’ll bet it had a 17-jewel movement.  Clearly it marked some important milestone.  That couldn’t have been a graduation; Lena started working in a factory at 11-- “they used to hide me in a barrel when the inspectors came around.” 
      I suspect it was a wedding gift, and we’d be talking the early 1920s here.  I wanted to show you a picture of that engraving, and I’ve just spent an hour searching for Lena’s watch.  Could have sworn it was in my second dresser drawer down.  Did one of the kids ask for it?  Where is it today? 
Lena's watch looked something like this one.

1 comment:

  1. I'm pretty sure i have it somewhere. Will look.