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Front Page » January 29, 2002 » Scene » Ring Those Bells
Published 5,504 days ago

Ring Those Bells

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Staff, Emery County Progress

Huntington resident Adeline Wakefield Starr has a special place in her heart for the sound of a bell. Starr, 93, is a lifelong resident of Huntington who said she remembers well the time when the rhythm of the day in Huntington flowed to the sound of a ringing bell.

"Bells for us in the old days told the time of the day," said Starr.

In her own words, Starr tells of her memories of the bells, "Years ago, when I was about 'knee high to a grasshopper' as we used to say; two bells played a very important part in my life, as well as the community in general. One was in the church steeple and the other one atop the old school house. Every Sunday morning the church bell would ring at 9:30, telling us it was time to get ready for Sunday School. Half an hour later a second bell would ring meaning it was time to start. This same procedure was followed for primary and sacrament meeting. The bell atop the school did the same job on school days. Rather than a ding-dong we chose to think the bell said, "C-O-M-E N-O-W, C-O-M-E N-O-W."

"We really thought we had it made to be able to boast of two for church and one for school. Both bells had a decidedly different sound but were equally beautiful.

"Sometimes, on rare occasions, such as New Year's Eve, you could hear both bells, ringing the old year out and the new year in. For funerals it was quite a different story. The bell was tolled. Meaning just one slow strike spaced at regular intervals. Obviously as a bell's rope is pulled and then released, the bell makes two separate sounds. Therefore when the funeral bell was to be tolled, it required only one sound, so it had to be rung manually. Probably the custodian, who was in charge of the bell, would climb up to the bell and strike it from there.

"To me, this tolling was a very sad, lonesome sound, (because I'm sure I associated it with death.) We used to count the tolls thinking it indicated how old the person was. A horse-driven, white topped buggy, with white lace curtains pulled into scallops with ribbon bows, carried the body to the church house and then later to the cemetery.

"In 1922 a fire destroyed the school house, ruining the bell. When the ward was divided and a new church house was built in 1947 the bell seemed to be retired. Soon afterwards the Emery County School District bought the old church and the bell again became popular for announcing ballgame victories, etc.

"That bell now hangs outside at Canyon View Junior High School and is electronically operated. The bell rings at the beginning of each school day and every hour to signify class changes. I suppose but I like to think some still check their watches and clocks as they hear the sound of the bell......just as they did so many years ago.

"One old bell that hung in Huntington's first meeting house is said to have been cracked as they were ringing it to announce the victory of World War I. Whistles were blowing and bells were ringing all over the country. Our boys were coming home. This bell is now mounted on a cement block which stands near the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers home on 100 North and 200 West in Huntington," said Starr.

"How well I remember a fellow who was to make a casket, coming into the old Geary Mercantile where I worked. He had a list of materials he needed. Yards of plush to cover the box. This beautiful material had a floral design pressed in it. One roll of cotton batting for padding. Box of linen covered white tacks. More white soft material for the lining. Then a box of hardware. This included the handles, screw plates and screws for closing the box," said Starr.

The sound of the bells tolling at funerals brought back a song Starr learned somewhere in her past.

"Where Potomic Streams are Flowing"

Where Potomic streams are flowing Virginia's borders through,

Where the white sail ships are going, sailing to the ocean blue.

Hush, the sound of mirth and singing, silence everyone.

While the solemn bells are ringing by the tomb of Washington.

Tolling and knelling hear that mournful sound O'er the waves

the tones are swelling by Mt. Vernon's sacred ground.

Long ago the warriors slumbered, our country fathers slept.

Long among the angels numbered they the hero's soul has kept,

but his children's children love him and his name revere. Now

while willows wave above him, Sweetly still his name we hear.

Sail on ship across the bellows and bear the story far.

How he slept beneath the willows, first in peace and first in war.

Tell how sweet adieus are swelling 'Til we come again.

How within the hearts are dwelling of his loving countrymen.

"The poem, 'The Death and Burial of Cock Robin' also mentions the tolling of the bells. The poem says, "Who'll toll the bell? I said the Bull, because I can pull, so Cock Robin, farewell."

"Traditions like the ringing of the bells at funerals and other traditions are becoming lost. It's important to write some kind of history even if you just take pictures and write a story explaining that picture. I wish my parents had written their history down, especially the life they lived while on the ranch," said Starr.

Starr has many books and pictures detailing her long and happy history. She certainly practices what she preaches when it comes to preserving her history for generations to come.

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January 29, 2002
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