As soon as they were old enough to leave the yard, we told the children to come when they heard the bell. Mounted conveniently outside the kitchen door, it had a loud, commanding ring that could be heard as far as the elementary school a mile or so away.
We lived in a quiet neighborhood. The firemen across the street never sounded their sirens after ten at night or before six in the morning. Most of the families who lived in the five houses on our block included three children or more. On the block just north of us lived a couple and their passel of kids in an old colonial house with a barn and horses out back. Beyond the tall row of cedar trees to the west stood a hovel that looked like it might collapse at any moment. A young couple lived there with their rag tag children (we never knew exactly how many). Even though those kids wore dirty, torn clothes and often no shoes, we could hear their jubilant voices at play. During good weather or bad, our children had a plentiful supply of playmates.
The timbre of our particular bell rang so deep and vibrant that our children could hear it from inside any neighbor’s house. Everyone in the area recognized that sound. We tried to be judicious about its use, usually for meals, but occasionally for something else. Within minutes, our three (and sometimes their friends) magically appeared.
No one knows when bells were invented but they can be found in the early Chinese dynasties. The bible speaks of bells in Exodus (28:34). “They also made bells of pure gold” (and sewed them) on the lower hem of [Aaron’s] robe” so that he could be heard and people would know that he was still alive.
It didn’t take long for priests and ministers to figure out that bells hung in church belfries would call people to pray. Farmers kept track of their milk cows and goats by tying a bell around their necks and volunteer fireman in small towns responded quickly to the sound of the firehouse bell.
There are numerous bell ringing societies. One is the Surrey Association of Church Bell Ringers. Most anyone can learn to ring bells even though it is an art. If you have a yen for learning how to ring a church bell and you have the time and the patience, The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers is a good place to start.
Many superstitions surround the sounds of bells. They were thought to drive evil spirits away, the larger the bell the better. Some believe that every time a bell rings a new angel has received his wings. Others think it is an ill omen, or that it eases child birth or ends bad weather.
For us, the bell worked miracles. Our children always came home safe and sound.