The Ringing of the Church Bell
close to the middle of the autism spectrum. Everyone in town knew him and smiled at his harmless habits such as chasing dogs down the street. Dogs ran loose in that day, and there was plenty of competition.
On Sunday mornings he stood outside with one hand gripping the rope and his wrist watch nearly touching his nose.
When the very second ticked by, he pulled the rope, punctual according to his watch, but there was a question of who set his watch and by what source. Never minding that Walter Edward Jones, Jr., was the church's official time keeper.
The first ringing came at 9:00 a.m. to roust those who needed it. Another ringing announced the start of Sunday School, another announced the time for it to end.
He was twenty-two years old but seemed ageless when we moved to town. To the kids he was a harmless curiosity who never seemed to age.
A new electronic bell system came with the new sanctuary. Church leaders met to discuss how the electronic bells would affect him.
It took a few weeks, some coaching, praising, but his first positive comment on the bell system came on a Sunday morning when rain fell in sheets and he didn't have to stand in it.
I wonder what became of the old church bell that faithfully tolled the time in Alma, GA.
Walter Edward “Junior” Jones died in 2004 at age seventy-four.
He is buried beside his mother in Rose Hill Cemetery. In a few hours I heard the sound of a bell ringing, a church bell.
When my family moved to Alma, Georgia, in the early 1950's, it was the middle of the analog days. Everything was manual, few things were automatic.
My father was the new pastor of the First Baptist Church and felt that we should fit into their routine and not try to change a thing.
People are resistant to a deviation from an established habit. It doesn't take much to be too much.
One routine was the ringing of the church bell which was mounted atop four utility poles.
The platform was large enough to hold a man because a guy from the power company climbed up and attach a new rope to the crank.
The sound of the bell was like a rich “bong,” and the bowl was about three feet in diameter.
The single and faithful operator of the bell was a man who, through contemporary eyes, would likely be seen as sitting What's missing?
On a couple of Sunday mornings, I awoke in a quiet town. There was such a quiet over the place, I may as well have been a mile east where there is little sound except for Mill Creek passing through what was once Frog Hollow.