Passing Time The Consistency of Broken Clocks

The clock above the old Californian building | Larry Parsons


By Larry Parsons

The simple clock face guarded by two gray eagles overlooks Church Street, atop the east side of the building where I worked about 15 years for Salinas’ daily newspaper. The hands are frozen at 8:26.

The now-vacant building squats across Alisal Street from the Monterey County courthouse. The parking lot, once reserved for newspaper bosses, ad salespeople and customers, is cracked and cratered with weeds and incipient potholes. The blue letters of the newspaper’s name are long gone. The weathered stencil where they hung fades into the off-white surface.

Another clock face and eagles tops the building front above a small relief of a cowboy on a bucking bronco. The time is always 12:35.


The parking lot at the old Californian building | Larry Parsons

I don’t recall either clock working while I was at the paper after the fall of 1982. That bothered me. It seemed pathetic that the city’s top news organ couldn’t inform the world of the correct time of day. Before 2007 and iPhones, public clocks actually served a purpose.

Once the newspaper managers, after apparently attending a corporate conference on semi-ridiculous ways to get more from their underpaid staff, put up a spiffy suggestion box in a hallway. Twice during its brief existence, I deposited notes saying, “Fix the clocks on the building.”

No responses were forthcoming during frequent and minimally productive staff meetings. One day I asked the executive editor directly, “When are we going to fix the clocks on the building? They’re embarrassing.” He hemmed. He hawed. Within a few weeks, came the answer I expected. “It would be too expensive, corporate says.”

I entertained the idea of approaching one of the city councilors I knew to introduce an ordinance outlawing the public display of dysfunctional clocks. Not seriously, mind you. This was not obsession, just minor disappointment. Funny, in a flat joke way.

Now I take some solace from the broken clocks. No, not because they’re right two times a day. Because they’re the only thing that hasn’t changed in the newspaper world I knew.

Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter.



Larry Parsons

About Larry Parsons

Larry Parsons recently retired after decades of service as a community journalist in Monterey County.