Many families have a white elephant that has been passed around over the years, so from that standpoint The Klackerman wasn’t much different. What made him so unique was the random places we’d find for him to be a surprise. His first appearance was in 1970.
The Klackerman was a measuring glass for shots. He stood a little over 5 inches tall, was made of porcelain and his top hat was the measure. It was black and said “A measure of cheer” right on it. This matched his black tuxedo which was accented with a blue striped vest. He had a round pudgy face with a silly grin. He was ridiculous.
The Klackerman belonged to my grandmother and I have no clue as to when or how she became his owner. But at some point she gave him to my mother. I can only guess that Grandma had about as much use for him as she did for my mom, ergo, ‘the gift.’ It became real obvious real quick that my mom didn’t like him either. So, of course, she tried to pawn him off on me. She insisted he’d look adorable on the bookcase in my apartment. I tried desperately to convince her otherwise and thought I had. But the next day, after her visit, I discovered The Klackerman grinning at me from the top shelf of my bookcase. He was tacky. I stuffed him in a drawer and forgot about him for a while.
Before I got married The Klackerman and I moved back home with my folks. And as Mother helped me unpack she spied the little creep in with my belongings. Next thing I knew he began resting comfortably under my pillow each night. Both he and Mom were getting on my nerves. In order to stop with this nightly nonsense I put The Klackerman where Mom couldn’t reach him. I climbed up on the back of a living room chair located under the doorbell box. In those days, there were boxes installed in homes that conducted the chimes you heard when folks rang the doorbell. This box was situated very near the ceiling with just enough space on top to hold The Klackerman.
My brother Jack came over to visit…one thing you should know about Bro Jack…he was off the wall funny. So he spied The Klackerman atop the box and wanted to know what it was and why it was up there. Mom tried to explain as a light bulb came on above Jack’s head. And so OUR game was on. A few weeks later I found The Klackerman hidden in one of my purses in my closet. And so I patiently awaited my turn.
The next time my brother came over, I sneaked out to his car and put The Klackerman in his glove box. He never mentioned it nor did I. But I knew the ball was in his court so I had to be on my toes whenever he showed up. Hiding The Klackerman in my bedroom became more and more mundane until he taped it to my ceiling. Some months went by before I drove over to his apartment and taped the thing to his front door knob. Again, the appearances were not mentioned.
By now I suppose you’re wondering where the name “Klackerman” came from. I don’t recall who dubbed him that but I can tell you that he had a hollow belly with a small ball of porcelain attached to a wire therein. This made a clackity sound whenever it struck his inner walls. And when my birthday rolled around the florist came up the driveway carrying a huge arrangement of greeneries, which was making a clacking noise with each step he took. So maybe it was then that the name was coined.
Slowly we began to broaden the spectrum of where he’d show up. According to unspoken rules there was no time limit on when The Klackerman would come to visit. Sometimes months would pass and you wouldn’t hear a peep or a clack out of him.
My turn was next and I took The Klackerman to my uncle’s bowling alley. He and both my brothers, my dad and a cousin all bowled on a league together. It was no trick to get Uncle Charlie to give me the key to Jack’s bowling locker once he heard the story. It was there where I placed The Klackerman a day before bowling night.
I had to get his reaction to this one. I had to be there when he opened his locked locker. Unfortunately, I arrived just a little bit too late. But my brother was quick to say how he’d decided to use rented shoes that night and a house ball, not his own. That was his way of saying I got him good!
It was Thanksgiving…a time to be thankful. And I was ever so thankful that my big bro was helping me mash potatoes. I should have known something was up because the man had never spent time in a kitchen before, so why now? He hovered over my shoulder. He was slowly pouring the milk into the potatoes as needed. When I went to pour milk into some of the glasses on the table, Bro Jack handed me the milk carton and was hot on my trail. Slowly it became obvious there was more in that container than just milk. The Klackerman’s top hat began to surface. Jack had arranged for a friend to open a plastic milk container, insert The Klackerman, seal it back up and fill it with milk. Jack’s wife, Fran, smuggled the gallon container in under her coat and then into the kitchen fridge. Jack had to make sure I didn’t use the milk from that container for the potatoes and he had to be very certain he was on hand to see the look on my face when I realized who was in the other container. I was at his mercy!
Friends and family all began to become part of the game. Months passed and I mailed The Klackerman to some of my bro’s friends in California. They would see to it that The Klackerman was placed at the bottom of a champagne bucket at a restaurant where wine would be served while Jack and his wife were visiting. The friends insisted Jack pour the wine. When he placed the bottle back in the bucket he saw what was under it. Gotcha! Of course, later he told me no one had drunk any wine that night.
For our wedding gift Jack gave us a lighted Hamm’s Beer sign that used to hang in the bar that he owned. Securely bolted to the top was The Klackerman who he had glued to a piece of wood. The top hat had a one hundred dollar bill stuffed in it. The Klackerman remained on that sign for a long time. Getting him free was a real ordeal but my husband finally managed the release without damaging The Klackerman. I’m so sure my bro thought he had the last word this time. But this was scarcely the beginning.
While The Klackerman’s trip to California was his first time to leave Missouri it was certainly far from the last state he would visit or in the last form he would appear.
Originally published in the November 2010 issue of The Cross Timbers Gazette.