Always wanted a Home History Book? Now is your chance…

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy

Since 2010, Houstory’s Home History Book archival journals have helped Real Estate agents, bed and breakfasts and homeowners around the world tell the stories behind their homes.

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Now, we want to say “thanks” for your support while clearing out our inventory.

Now for a limited time, we have drastically reduced the cost of all original Home History Books in our Deluxe line. Regularly $300, all Deluxe books are just $149. This includes free shipping in the U.S., a free bookstand and a personalized brass address plate.

Quantities and styles are limited. When the original Deluxe books are gone, they’re gone.

Order yours HERE!

 

Houstory Deals of the Month — May 2014

Finally, it’s getting warmer outside. We don’t know about you, but we’re ready for a little sun after a very cold winter. Well, we suppose that depends on where you are in the world, right southern hemisphere Houstorians?

For the rest of us, while it is still a bit rainy and before you get too carried away with all the fun that gardening, camping, biking, swimming and generally relaxing outside has to offer, you may want to take care of a little spring cleaning in the form of family history documentation. This month, we are giving you a chance to save the stories behind 10 family heirlooms with a 25 percent discount on a 10-pack of our Heirloom Registry Standard Stickers. The stickers work with all sorts of furniture, clocks, and lots of other objects.

And for those who are sprucing up the outside of their homes, make sure to document these “before” and “after” shots in a new Home History Book archival journal Premier Classic. This is the top of the line as far as our Home History Book archival journal product line goes. It’s a book that was actually made at the oldest hand bindery in the country in Boston, Mass. For those who invest in the book, it will last the residents and homeowners in your house centuries. This month only, we are offering 25 percent savings on the Premier.

Enjoy your spring!

heirloom registry, houstory, may 2014 deals of the month

home history book, houstory, may 2014 deals of the month

Once per month here at The Houstory Hearth, we are giving the Houstory Nation a chance to save big on our product line. Each of the two monthly discounts will represent our two product lines: The Home History Book archival journal, and The Heirloom Registry. For serious family historians, house historians, real estate agents, bed and breakfast owners, antique dealers, and family heirloom aficionados, the “Houstory Deals of the Month” should be a regular stop on your online itinerary. Make sure to stop by on the second Wednesday of every month to find out what the latest deals are. Questions? Thoughts? Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.

Houstory Deals of the Month: April 2014

Once per month here at The Houstory Hearth, we are giving the Houstory Nation a chance to save big on our product line. Each of the two monthly discounts will represent our two product lines: The Home History Book archival journal, and The Heirloom Registry.

For serious family historians, house historians, real estate agents, bed and breakfast owners, antique dealers, and family heirloom aficionados, the “Houstory Deals of the Month” should be a regular stop on your online itinerary. Make sure to stop by on the second Wednesday of every month to find out what the latest deals are.

Questions? Thoughts? Leave a short comment, send an e-mail to info (at) houstory (dot) com, or say hello on our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.

 

Heirloom Registry, Premium Labels, deal of month

Home History Book Deluxe archival journal, deals of the month, Mahogany Classic

Houstory Deals of the Week: Nov. 25

Just in time for the holidays, this is our first installment of the Houstory “Deals of the Week.” Make sure to check back weekly for more deals. Simply click on the image below to be taken to our storefront. From there, enter the discount code in the image to take advantage of these special savings.

112513THR-DOTW

 

112513HHB-DOTW

 

 

Pay for permanence? Applying Dick Eastman’s logic to The Heirloom Registry

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Director

A couple of months  ago, influential genealogical product reviewer Dick Eastman (whom I’ve had the pleasure of  meeting on a couple of occasions) wrote about a company selling “long-lasting display plates containing QR codes.” These plates are affixed to gravestones, which users can then scan to reveal information about the deceased with data provided by the family that purchased the code. From there, they are taken to a dedicated Web page on the company’s server, where information is displayed.

Dick Eastman, Dan Hiestand, Houstory

Dan with Mr. Eastman at FGS 2012 in Birmingham, Ala.

Sound familiar? If you understand the goal of Houstory’s Heirloom Registry, it should.

I’m not going to get into much of his product review, but I would like to highlight a key point Dick made that I believe may resonate with the Houstory audience and customer base.

 “At first, this sounds like a good idea; but, then I wondered, ‘What happens if the company goes out of business and their web site goes offline?’ I assume the answer is that the customer has wasted the money he or she spent,” wrote Dick. “While I hope this company remains in business for a long, long time, I still don’t like the idea of depending upon any one corporation’s future success.”

This sentiment — or a variation of it — is something Houstory founder Mike Hiestand and I have heard on many occasions about our Heirloom Registry service.

And guess what? We completely agree, especially when a company is selling permanence, which is what we are doing. If the future cannot access the information you’ve taken time, energy and — most importantly — money to compile, what’s the point of the effort? There is good news, though: Mike and I have worked hard to solve this problem, and we believe we have.

No. 1: You are in charge of the information you save on The Heirloom Registry. While your family heirloom records are uploaded, edited and saved on our site, ultimately you can save them to your own hard drive, upload them to a Web site or print them out as a hard copy registry certificate PDF. This ability to save the record on your own is an important distinction. How you decide to make that record accessible is really up to you. Our job is to put that data in a format that is easily readable, logical and probably more attractive than anything you’ll take the time to make.

Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

Hard copy of the Registration Certificate from The Heirloom Registry

 

No.2: Additionally, to ensure longevity, a portion of each registration number fee is deposited in a dedicated fund that will be used to pay for future operation of The Heirloom Registry. Of course, given our ever-changing technology, it’s difficult to predict exactly what form The Heirloom Registry will take in 10 years, let alone 50 or 100, but we are fully committed to our mission and promise to do our level best to ensure that whether “surfing the Internet” or “transbeaming the MetaCosmos,” the purpose and essential function of the Registry as a lasting and accessible source of historical information remains intact.

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No. 3: Here are some hard facts: 1) We can’t guarantee The Heirloom Registry will exist in 100 years. That’s not a promise any company can honestly make.  2) No one else is doing what The Heirloom Registry is doing. 3) Our Certificate of Registration is a way for you to instantly create a physical, lasting record of your heirloom, impervious to changing technology. 4) We have taken concrete steps to protect the integrity of the Registry and the company’s longevity. To be honest, now that all our rather extensive research, site development and upfront costs have been paid, operating the site form day to day is pretty inexpensive. We are proud to say the company is paid for and is wholly family-owned and operated.  5) Your chances of passing on the stories behind your grandma’s handmade quilt, your uncle’s trumpet or your dad’s Brooklyn Dodger’s Louisville Slugger bat are significantly lower if the items are not marked or tagged with identifying information.

 

 

Are you worried about online services and businesses ceasing operation? Do you have any stories of this happening? Let us know what you think!

A different kind of December: Say ‘no’ to more ‘stuff’ — honor what you already have

By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Sales and Marketing Director

Editor’s note: I can break the rules. I’m off-topic before I begin. Just give me second, ok? If you are ever bored and have time to waste, Google “stupid gifts for pets.” Better yet, do an image search. You’re welcome in advance, and this will actually make sense if you read the article below. Enjoy!

It’s ironic that as the sales and marketing director of a company I helped create, I originally had to sell myself on my own product line.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve always thought the concepts we champion (telling the stories behind houses and heirlooms) are fascinating.  After all, research, writing and crafting stories have been pillars of my professional life for the past 15 years.

consumerism, consumer culture, houstory, heirloom registry, shopping, holidays

Our products (The Home History Book™ and The Heirloom Registry™) are steeped in story, and I’ve always been sold on these ideas. How can you not appreciate learning the background of a unique relic, the chair grandma used to sit in every night after dinner, a grandfather clock — or the intimate details of a 1920s Craftsman home?

Concept was never the problem. No, my issue was much more tangible.

Simply put, I didn’t want to put more “stuff” into the world. Now, stuff is a broad term, but in my mind it has a reasonably clear meaning: items that hold little or no value in terms of practical use, sentimentality or enduring entertainment.

If an item falls into one of these three categories, I don’t believe it to be just “stuff.” Let’s break this down.

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Practical Use

These are items you genuinely can’t live without, and probably use more than a couple times per month.  They may include everything from a vacuum cleaner to a pair of shoes to a computer and all sorts of things in between.

Sentimentality

Admittedly, this is in the Houstory wheelhouse. These include items that you are holding on to simply because they inspire and move you. Family keepsakes, photos and heirlooms would fall into this category, of course.

Enduring Entertainment

I’m not the “stuff police,” ok? If you want to buy a flat screen TV, or spend money on a new camera, book or electric slippers, more power to you. I would simply ask that you consider the item’s true value to your life before pulling the trigger. Will you still be using these items in five years, or will they simply be discarded in a landfill  in a few months?

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I realize I run the risk of sounding preachy, but I’m not trying to. I just think if I’m going to make such a declaration, I need to define my terms.

Heck, I’m writing this from a laptop, and my home is filled with things – including stuff. Did I truly need that box of Dog Cigars (see “stupid gifts for pets” reference above)? No. That’s a poor example, actually. I don’t even own a dog.

However, I think it’s safe to say most everyone has stuff, including me.

Which brings me back to selling myself on Houstory. Before I invested time, money and started down this entrepreneurial path, I needed our products to meet this self-imposed “anti-stuff” criterion.

In particular, The Home History Book – a substantial coffee table book with 244 pages and an engraved brass plate – gave me pause for introspection. Being built to last, which the book certainly is, requires effort and natural resources. While we did our level best to build the book responsibly (see “Built Responsibly” link at bottom of home page), we also wanted to ensure it would be something that provides long-term value to its owners.

Happily, in the end, not only did I conclude we are not just selling stuff, we are actually helping people to transform their items from being “stuff” into valued belongings.

We believe the more you know about your possessions– whether they are houses or heirlooms – the more likely you are to hold on to them, and not just demolish or discard and replace them with newer, shinier stuff.

family history, conservation, preservation, houstory, heirloom registry

Why are most historic homes valuable? Quality construction? Perhaps. Location? Maybe. Or is it history? Every day, homes are saved from demolition because of the stories behind them.

What about family heirlooms?  Picture two identical grandfather clocks, side-by-side. However, you know that one clock was purchased by your great-grandfather as a wedding gift for your great-grandmother.  You know nothing of the other clock. Which one would you probably keep and maintain?

Undoubtedly, historical preservation leads to conservation.

Sadly, the term conservation has become highly politicized, divisive and attributed to more liberal-leaning factions. I’m not quite sure why, as the term “CONSERVative” is derived from the very same root word.

In reality, I think all parties are on the same page: We want to leave things better than we found them for future generations. If you do feel this way – and we think you do – do something about it.

Which brings us to our “No More Stuff/Preserve. Conserve.” campaign this month. Here are some things you can do right now.

houstory, heirloom registry, home history book, shopping, holidays

Preserve. Conserve.  And say “no” to “more stuff.”

Do it differently this December.

 

Let us know what you think. Do you agree with our campaign? Do you think we are full of hot air? Do you have too much stuff? Do you think buying stuff  — as we’ve defined it — is even a problem? Do you own Dog Cigars? We want to hear from you. Let’s get this conversation started.

Looking for the perfect gift for person with everything? Help them honor the stuff — and family heirlooms — they already have

Looking for a unique gift idea that’s not just more clutter? Help your loved ones save the stories behind their family heirlooms, add texture and color to your family history and help conserve natural resources — all at the same time.

11/19/12 UPDATE: Would you like a special gift from Houstory (in addition to the gift mentioned below)? “Like” us on Facebook for a special offer, which we will make available soon!

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

I’m sure you know a person (probably more than one) who genuinely appears to have everything they need from a material goods standpoint. Both sets of my pre-Boomer parents fall into this category. Often, when you ask what they need from Santa, they honestly, sincerely and kindly tell you “nothing.” Because the truth is, we all reach a point — some much sooner than others — where we really don’t need more stuff. But do we listen? No.

We buy them something, perhaps out of guilt (which you already know is not a good reason), but more often because we genuinely feel love and affection for them. Exchanging gifts — even something very small, which they really don’t need (they told you!) — is one of the ways our culture expresses those feelings during the holiday season.

So, rather than fight the system, here’s a perfect, outside-the-box — and brand new — gift idea for 2012: Rather than buying them more stuff, help them honor some of the stuff they already have.

Show you care by helping them identify and share the stories of the things already in their lives that are genuinely meaningful to them (and probably to you as well), such as a family quilt; the dining room table that has been the center of family gatherings for generations; the cheap, funny looking lamp that your dad loves and your mom hates; family photos; a toy train; Bibles and scrapbooks — basically anything that might fall into the general category of a “family heirloom,” whose background and story make it more than just regular old stuff.

And while we understandably think The Heirloom Registry is an easy, simple and inexpensive way to accomplish this, we’re also on a two-part, nonprofit mission. And both are time-sensitive.

First, we want to stop the stories from disappearing. The interesting — and often magical — stories that can, for example, transform an otherwise ordinary, musical trinket into a priceless piece of family history, often disappear with the storyteller. And if its story disappears, the musical trinket — like Cinderalla at midnight —  changes back into just more stuff to get rid of at a garage sale — or to add to the already-stuffed landfill.

What a terrible, sometimes tragic, shame.

So, whether you permanently register the items on the Registry or not, please download the following free offline registry worksheet where your loved one can record the story of their most important things. They can just leave the completed form in the heirloom’s drawer or attach it to its underside where it can later be found. (It was such a wonderful note, written by my grandpa and left in his grandfather clock, that sparked the idea for The Heirloom Registry,  after all.) This is a simple gift from Houstory we sincerely hope you’ll use this year. Especially if it means preventing even one more story from being permanently lost.

Even better: Make it a stocking stuffer. And while the Christmas ham is baking, spend a wonderful hour with your folks or other gift recipient walking around their home, listening to their stories and taking notes. It is truly a special gift for everyone — and one that will keep on giving as future generations enjoy pieces of family history that they can actually touch. Safe from the landfill.

Which brings up the second part of our mission at The Heirloom Registry: natural resource conservation.

I’m a believer, but without question it has been my brother Dan’s passion about environmental issues and his unwavering commitment to growing a sustainable business that has guided much of Houstory’s growth and business philosophy.

We think of The Heirloom Registry as not only a useful, meaningful genealogy product, but also as a way to encourage better stewardship of the stuff we have. (And, if you think about it, our Home History Books — which tracks the story of what is usually our biggest heirloom — are just bigger, more beautiful versions of the stickers and plates we use with the Registry.)

The more you care about your stuff, the less you’ll probably want to replace it with something “new” and the more likely it avoids the landfill.

So this holiday season, give the perfect gift to the person who has everything. And feel great about it for years to come.

Houstory reviews Flip-Pal: Mobile scanner with many tricks and treats for home genealogists, family historians

In our never-ending world of gizmos, the Flip-Pal portable scanner is one that actually can make your life easier

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Publishing Founder

First off, Happy Halloween everyone!

So, today we are talking Flip-Pal because we have been considering joining the Flip-Pal affiliate program.

In the off-chance you haven’t heard of it, the Flip-Pal is a compact, purely portable (no computer or extra cords required) scanner that has essentially taken the genealogy community by storm. “Simple” is the description that seems to come up most often in reviews of the product, and – from the buzz it has generated – it clearly fills a need.

But before we jumped on the rapidly growing Flip-Pal affiliate bandwagon and recommended it to our customers, we felt it important to test drive one ourselves. Flip-Pal agreed to send us a test model.

Part One: Love at first sight — almost

It arrived a few days ago, and I had a quick project for which I thought it might be perfect, so I opened the box.

My first impression: I wish they had used more environmentally friendly packaging. It’s shipped in that PET plastic covering, which I can’t stand. I know it’s cheap and effective, but it’s often not very user-friendly and it’s not great for the environment. I’m not alone in this.  Fortunately, it was a higher-grade plastic which is, at least, recyclable. (That’s not always the case with PET plastic.) That made me feel better.

Interestingly, in discussing this with my brother Dan he mentioned that Gordon Nuttall, CEO of Couragent, Inc. (the maker of Flip-Pal) was recently interviewed by Lisa Louise Cooke on the Genealogy Gems podcast.  Dan highly recommends you listen to it if you are considering purchasing the product yourself as they go into more detail about Flip-Pal’s various bells and whistles.

During their conversation, my brother said Nuttall addressed the packaging issue and pointed out how it is essentially re-usable (and very “shippable,” in his words) if you send the scanner between multiple people because of its durability and the ease with which it can be opened and closed.

I still wish there was an alternative to PET plastic, but “re-usable” is certainly a step in the right direction. (We admit to perhaps being pickier than many when it comes to sustainability issues.)

And definitely no Styrofoam peanuts![1] (SEE FOOTNOTE BELOW)

Part Two: Ready to go

 

So not having seen it up close before, I was a bit surprised by how small it was.  I know its big appeal is that it is small and portable. I’ve worked with lots of scanners and this one, which was about the size of the brand new Apple iPads, really was small.

My curiosity was piqued.

It was, for all intents and purposes, “ready to go out of the box,” as they say. The only thing I had to do was remove a couple pieces of protective shipping tape and then gently tug a plastic tab in the direction indicated by its arrow, which “activated” the four AA batteries, which were thoughtfully included and pre-installed.

Wait a minute: The directions say something about applying some Optional Protector Sheet (OPS). Apparently the OPS came with its own “installation sheet” and I was supposed to read it “for detailed instructions.” Even worse, I didn’t see the aforementioned sheet anywhere. Suddenly the sweet pleasure of this “ready-to-go-out-of-the-box” experience felt like it might be in jeopardy.

But then I remembered– the OPS is optional.

Moving on!

Part Three: Getting to work

So the unit powered up quickly and easily by sliding a single power switch.

Then – a surprise – it asked me to put in the current time and date. You only have to do it the first time you start the unit and then each time you change the batteries. It’s a quick and easy process. Once set up, the cool thing is that scanned information can now be date/time stamped, helping you remember when – which helps greatly with the “where” – you obtained your research information.

 

So today, in putting together a Halloween-themed post, I simply want to scan in an older photo that came before digital cameras and therefore doesn’t yet exist in digital format. Looking at the Flip-Pal Web site, it appears the scanner can be a part of much more advanced scanning projects (specifically, digitally “stitching” together a large document or flat object, such as a quilt, from multiple scans). I’ll test drive those features during future uses. Today, I just need the photo.

To scan my photo I have a couple options. First, if the photo (or document) is 4 x 6 inches or less — and loose — the easiest thing is to simply scan the material as you do on more traditional, larger scanners by putting the photo on the Flip-Pal scanner bed, closing the top and hitting a big green button. Easy as pie.

In fact, I pretty much unpacked the scanner, looked at the instructions and e-mailed the photo off to my brother – using a cleverly designed USB stick, which came with my Flip-Pal and acted as the bridge between my scanner and my computer – in less than 5 minutes. The actual scanning took about five seconds and the quality of the scanned photo was good – it scanned in at about 650KB using the 300 DPI setting. The colors were very close to the original.

However, if your photo is in a book, glued in a photo album or if your document’s location makes it difficult to scan, you can detach the unit’s top, flip the unit over and scan items by simply hovering over them and pushing that same big green button. (See photo). To me, this is what sets the Flip-Pal apart from your father’s scanner (or mine, purchased a couple years ago). It’s more difficult to explain in words than it is to do. Trust me, it was a piece of cake — and very handy and clever. And the quality of the scan was pretty much the same as the first image.

However you position the unit, once the green button is hit, the material is scanned to a removable memory card (a 2GB SD-formatted card ships with the unit), where it is converted into a full-color JPEG-formatted file and can be viewed as a large thumbnail-sized image on the Flip-Pal’s built-in display screen.  You can scan hundreds of images before having to empty your memory card using either an SD-card reader or the Flip-Pal’s cool USB stick. You can then treat the scanned file the way you treat any other photo or image, including playing with it in Photoshop or photo restoration software. As a Macintosh user, I simply put it in my iPhoto folder.

That’s pretty much it. I wish I’d had it sooner. This summer I completed a basic house history of my sister-in-law’s summer cottage in Lake Elmo, Minn. I was in a number of libraries, the courthouse and the local historical society. In most places, I was left to take handwritten notes and, if available, pay for photocopies of photos in books. The Flip-Pal would have nicely avoided that. Instead of putting a bunch of photos, books and documents in a pile to copy or process – and then later taking them back to be filed —I could have simply seen something I wanted to make a record of, flip my scanner on top of it and hit the green button.

The Flip-Pal is not going to replace traditional scanners. If you have a big scanning job, with lots of full-sized pages, you’ll probably want to keep using the bigger flatbed. But for genealogists, family historians and house history researchers – who are often researching on-the-go and have perhaps more modest scanning needs – the Flip-Pal is an impressive tool. I am happy to recommend it to the Houstory Publishing community.


[1] You know, most things being fairly equal, I have intentionally passed on doing repeat business with vendors that ship using those expanded polystyrene “peanuts,” or “Styrofoam” as the product is officially known. I can only conclude that a company isn’t thinking of me, their customer, when it ships me a carton full of non-biodegradable, toxic carcinogenic, petroleum-based packing material that — no matter how painfully careful I am in opening the box — tumble forth into my office and home where — thanks to the static charge they often come with — they evade capture. Such companies also clearly aren’t thinking of how their decision to go “cheapo” with the peanuts also means it is now my responsibility to reuse (trust me, I’ve got bags of peanuts now cluttering my basement), recycle (according to the search engine on the Plastic Loose Fill Council’s Web site mine have to go to a special recycling facility that requires a half-hour trip from my house) or somehow dispose of in an environmentally friendly way. Thanks!

 

The Heirloom Registry: A Gift from Grandpa

The grandfather clock that inspired The Heirloom Registry

By Mike Hiestand, Houstory Founder

Between 2006-09, I was presented with two gifts that would change my life.

The first was the simple, but now seemingly “obvious” idea for the Home History Book.

A “baby book for the home,” we call it in our elevator speech. An archival-quality book that tells the story of how a house becomes a home, written and shared by those who have lived there. A book that belongs to and is supposed to stay with the home.

It was, I think, what Oprah would call an “Aha moment”: An experience of quiet clarity, seemingly from out of the blue, that — if you are open to it — you cannot ignore.

I don’t know for sure from where that idea came. It was, however, a profound, even magical moment that I knew was life-altering as soon as it entered my consciousness.

The second gift came a couple years later: The idea for The Heirloom Registry. And for this one, I know exactly who to thank: It was a gift from my grandpa.

I grew up a military brat. My dad was career Air Force. There are lots of pluses to growing up a military kid. I got to experience lots of different places and lots of different people living in lots of different ways. But there are also some downsides: mainly, your “home” changes every 1-4 years.

It was the lack of permanence that probably explains the particularly strong attachment I had to my grandparents’ homes. They didn’t move. Their homes stayed the same. The look, the feel, the unique smell — those were soothingly constant during my childhood.

My paternal grandparents lived in the seaside town of Astoria, Oregon. Their home, like many in town, was high on the hill overlooking the Columbia River. As we ate breakfast, we would look out the window and watch cargo ships, fresh from the Pacific Ocean, tie up before venturing further inland to Portland or being piloted back out to sea.

It was an older home, whose windows were filled with ripply glass and whose floors creaked in all the right places.

The author (bottom left), brothers, mom and grandparents, John and Mildred Hiestand, in Astoria, Oregon. (c. 1970)

My grandparents were fairly old, and while we certainly felt welcomed, it wasn’t — simply because it wasn’t — a home made for kids, and particularly not young boys. Certainly not for five young boys — my four younger brothers and I — who visited for a week every summer or so. So we spent most of our time outside. Or reading.

Fortunately, I loved to read. Even more than I loved to play, truth be told. So I’d often have the living room to myself during the day while my brothers hit the nearby park or late at night, after they were made to go to bed earlier than I. And that’s where I got to know — and love — the clock.

The clock is a beautiful, noble grandfather clock, built in the late 1800’s. It truly is grand. No-frills, other than the movement of the simple moon dial at its crown. It rings on the hour. It doesn’t play around with fifteen-minute or even half-hour increments. The sound is bold and deep. You can feel it. It sat in the corner of the living room, next to their one TV (that I remember was almost never on) and across from the sofa, my usual spot.

I remember watching my grandpa wind it. Slowly. My grandpa was a retired mechanics shop teacher. He knew his way around metal parts. You never wanted to turn the key all the way, he would say. So he’d feel the spring tightening up and stop just so. Before closing the cabinet, he’d reach down into the bottom of the clock where he’d pull out a small tin in which he kept a rag soaked in kerosene. The kerosene vapors, he said, provided just the right amount of lubricant for the clock’s gears.

I don’t recall his ever adjusting the hands on the clock. Over the years, he’d obviously found the “sweet spot” on the pendulum adjustment; the clock kept perfect time. It still does.

I don’t remember when I first noticed the piece of paper tacked inside, in the back and out of view except for when the cabinet was open.

The only known photograph of the Astoria, Oregon, living room where the clock resided for many years. (The photo was taken from about the vantage point of the clock.)

Note inspiring The Heirloom Registry

Note tacked inside clock’s cabinet and written by author’s grandpa providing history of the clock

On it, in my grandpa’s writing, was the story of the clock. The clock, it said, was a wedding gift for his mother given by her father (my great grandmother and great-great grandfather, respectively). They lived in York, Pennsylvania, and the clock, the note said, was purchased from the “John Wanamaker store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the late 1880s’….”

My grandpa died in 1983. And the clock has been at my parent’s home in Washington State since the mid-1980s. Which is where I was, during a 4th of July get-together in 2009, and where I was with the clock again, by myself, when the idea for The Heirloom Registry was given to me. Once again in true “Aha” fashion, compliments — whether “real” or simply because of all that he did creating that precise moment — of my grandpa.

Of this I have no doubt.

The clock will always be a beautiful clock. But it is the story of the clock — an ongoing story — that makes the clock what it is. If my grandpa’s now somewhat crackled piece of paper were ever lost, and if those of us with memories of its history were not around, it would no longer be the same clock. It would just be a beautiful clock, perhaps in a great grandchild’s home — or for sale in an antique store.

I didn’t want that to happen. Neither did my grandpa. And I knew we weren’t alone. Everyone has a clock or a table or a mirror or a photo or painting or special book or quilt or something — sometimes old and passed down through the family, sometimes not so old. Sometimes expensive and sometimes not worth a nickel on eBay — but whose story makes it irreplaceable. A story that makes it unique in all the world. A story that should never be lost.

The Heirloom Registry makes sure that won’t happen.

So thanks grandpa. You wanted our clock’s story told. And now it always will be. Along with many, many others.

 

Mike Hiestand is the president and founder of Houstory Publishing.