Saturday, January 13, 2007

Time Marches On ...

That clock situated on top of the San Jacinto Building in downtown Beaumont is a humongous thing. I’ve always been intrigued with that gigantic 4-sided timekeeper.

When my family moved to Beaumont in 1940, I was 5-years old. Occasionally we drove in our 1938 Plymouth to the downtown area. We went north on Park Street to get there. I remember looking at the Beaumont skyline. The big clock on the San Jacinto Building always stood out. It still stands out today in my memory.

One summer day in 1952, Jimmy Cassady and I were downtown just goofing off. We didn’t have anything to do so we went looking for something. Somehow we came up with the idea that we ought to go to the roof of the San Jacinto Building and take a good look at that clock. Since we were just about to be big seniors at South Park High School, we felt that any challenge was ours for the taking.

We figured that we could ride the elevator to the top floor of the building but assumed the door to the roof would be locked. We boarded the elevator and rode as high as we could go. Then we ventured out into the hallway and searched for a way to the roof. We saw an exit sign on a door. That turned out to be a staircase leading down. But also there was a staircase going up. There was a chain strung across that set of stairs with a sign reading, “Authorized personnel only. Do not go beyond this point.” Jimmy and I must have interpreted the sign to mean that only “Authorized Personnel” should not proceed. There was nothing there telling unauthorized people to stay out. We looked at each other and just sort of eased under the chain and found ourselves on the stairway leading up. We ascended. Soon we came to some of the biggest cogs and wheels and stuff that I had ever seen. It was so fascinating to watch all of those wheels turn.

We ventured on up the staircase to a door. The door was unlocked and soon we found ourselves easing through that doorway. We were now on the roof of the San Jacinto Building. We looked around. That clock was huge. From that vantage point you could see the minute hand moving. We just loved watching that clock operate. Also, we could look over the railing of the roof and see tiny people walking on the sidewalk below. And did you know that the scenery surrounding Beaumont is beautiful when viewed from atop the San Jacinto Building? Jimmy and I searched and searched but could find no way go any higher into the clock area. We figured there were more “clockworks” to see.

Finally we lost interest in our newly-found wonderland and proceeded to head back down into the hallway. When the elevator doors opened for us to board, a man got off. He was wearing khaki pants and a green shirt. His name tag read, “Knight.” Mr. Knight asked us what we were doing there on the top floor. We explained how that we were trying to get a good look at the big clock. Mr. Knight said, “I’m sorry. You boys can’t go up there. It’s off limits to you.”

We shrugged our shoulders and replied with something like, “Oh, OK, thank you sir.” As Jimmy and I were descending on the elevator, we had that accomplished feeling. I guess we felt like we had gotten away with something.

But you know what? Everything was all right because we knew that we had just had the “time” of our lives.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise,
January 13, 2007


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