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Town Siren (True Story)

The year was 1971 when this hilarious true story of the Town Siren Man. In the early seventies my house was probably the only one that had a huge Pendulum Clock at home. Our Pendulum Clock was very famous in the town.

My dad used to say that when he was studying in primary school, whenever the teacher asked his address, he would reply, "You know the house with that famous house with a Pendulum Clock? That is my house."

We had the luxury of knowing the exact time looking at a real Pendulum Clock. The rest of the town relied on the town siren to know the time of the day. The town siren promptly used to be sounded for precisely 15 seconds, at 5:30 am (wake up), 8:00 am (go to work), 10:30 am (tea break), 1:00 pm (lunch time, 3:30 pm (tea break), 6:00 pm (go back home), and last at 8:00 pm (sleep time). The siren then goes silent from then until 6 am next morning.

The siren sounded from the town municipality complex was so powerful that it could be heard in the entire town spread over 50 Square Kilometers, the furthest house of the town being 3 km away from the center of the town from where the Town Siren used to be sounded.

Our Pendulum Clock was fitted in the main room wall. Our house was on the slope of a hill and it had a sloping roof. Anyone standing outside on the road can actually see the time on the clock through the open window, if they stooped down a bit to see under our sloping roof.

There was a girls high school on top of the same hill with over 2000 girls students. Half of them have to go past our home in the morning and evening. It was fun watching a thousand girls in green skirts and cream colored shirts going past our house as if it was a green and cream river flowing up the slope in the morning. This green cream girls river starts flowing down the hill, after the 3:30 pm siren.
The girls' school morning bell rings at 9:00 pm for the student's assembly. Every girl going up the hill will stoop down to look at our pendulum clock to see what time it is. It was a great sight. The river of girls dips near our house as each one tries to read time on our pendulum clock.

This river of girls flowing up the hill at normal speed, would suddenly start accelerating after this time check, as the clock needles starts approaching the 9:00 am. This speedup increase is so evident just a couple of minutes short of 9:00 am, that the entire river picks up speed and the girls running up before reaching our house stop trying to look for time in our pendulum clock.

The girls running ahead of them is an indication to them that the school bell is about to ring anytime now. If there is rain then all the girls open their umbrella’s and that time the green and cream colored girls river turns completely into a black colored river.

Synchronizing the Pendulum Clock

Pendulum Clock
Pendulum Clock - Click Here to See Live Time and the Pendulum Swinging

Every Sunday, my dad would climb up a tall stool to wind the two springs that run the Pendulum clock. One mechanical steel spring powers the hourly chime and the other steel spring powers the pendulum swing. The pendulum clock springs, once wound using a key, can keep the clock running for 8 full days.

The time does slow down in summers and speeds up in winters as the length of the pendulum keeps increasing and decreasing with changes in temperature. So, my dad also adjusts the length of the pendulum clock each time depending on whether our clock needles show time ahead of the town siren or are late.

He would come 5 minutes short of 8:00 pm on Sunday night, climb up the tall stool, wind both the steel springs, stop the pendulum swing and bring both the hour and minute needles to show 8:00 pm time.

My dad would wait standing on the tall stool waiting for the town siren to sound. The moment the town siren is sounded at 8:00 pm, he would start the pendulum by his hand, close the clock lid and climb down. I must have seen him perform this procedure a hundred times.

The Siren Man’s Wrist Watch

I go to an English medium school that starts at 8:00 am with the siren. It is a kilometer away and I had to walk those days to school. So, I start walking from home at 7:30 am to reach school on time.
Almost every Monday, I see an old man come and stand in front of our house, would do something on his wrist watch, stoop down many times to read time many times and would keep doing something on his wrist watch.

To me, it used to look funny because the school girls can read the time on the clock by looking at it just once, but this man needs to see the clock a dozen times to know what time it is and he even keeps adjusting his wrist watch.

One such Monday, as I came out of my house, I saw this man in front of our house adjusting his wristwatch. I decided to find out exactly what he is doing and even after so many Mondays, he still has to see the clock so many times to infer the correct time.

I said, “Hello uncle. Why do you keep looking at our clock so many times. And what is that on your wrist which you keep playing with?”

He continued to adjust the gadget he wore on his wrist and replied, “Son, I am the Town Siren man.”

I did not understand what he meant and kept looking at him.

After he finished whatever he was doing, he said, “I am employed in the municipality to sound the town siren. I am sure you have heard the town siren?”

I was excited to hear that and said, “So, you are the Siren man?”

He showed me the gadget he was adjusting and said, “This is my wrist watch. It keeps a very accurate time. I sound the town siren daily looking at the time using my wrist watch seven times a day. Everyone wakes up, goes to work, has tea, lunch, dinner and even sleep only after hearing me sound the town siren.”

It was the first time I had ever seen a wrist watch. I found it to be an antique wrist watch with a rusting clock face. The man seemed to bask in some self pride of being the only Siren man in the town and probably felt on top of the world about his job of controlling the life of all the people in the entire town.

What I did not understand is why on earth should the Siren man be looking at our Pendulum clock?

I asked, “Uncle, you said you have the accurate time running on your watch according to which you sound the town siren. But, then why do you have to look at our pendulum clock?”
The siren man said, “Oh that. Many people have told me that this is the only clock in the entire town that keeps accurate time. So once a week, I come here to get my wrist watch time synchronized with this pendulum clock.”

I said, “Uncle, but why on a Monday and not other days?”

The siren man said, “I used to come on other days also. But, with experience, I have found that this pendulum clock is most accurate on Mondays.”

I said, “Yeah. I agree with you uncle. My father thinks so too. Because, I have observed that he winds the clock and sets the correct time of our pendulum clock only on Sunday, at 8:00 pm, with the town siren.”

I started walking to my school, still thinking about the brand new knowledge I had gained from the siren man. Before I took the first road bend, I looked back. I saw the town siren man, still standing in front of my house and looking in my direction.

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