APIA TOWN CLOCK TO REGAIN OLD GLORY

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APIA, Samoa (October 19, 1999 – Samoa Observer)---The Apia Town Clock will soon be restored to its "original splendor."

So promises the Rotary Club of Apia, which has already began restoration work on one of Apia's most famous landmarks. Work actually started last Saturday morning while Apia was bustling with activity.

According to Rotary President Muagututia Harry Paul, his organization is committed to a full restoration of the clock tower so that it can reclaim its original splendor.

This includes the installation of an electronic device to replace the manual mechanism that has operated the clock and allowed it to chime since the early days of this century.

Discussions are under way regarding replacing the plaque in memory of Samoan sons who fought and died in the Great War 1914-1918. The plaque has deteriorated drastically and is in need of replacement. In addition, the tower is undergoing a complete face-lift with water blasting and painting.

The money for the project was raised several years ago by business houses in Apia, originally to build a walkway behind the government building, Muagututia explains.

"Since the seawall was put in place, the money was left in the care of the Rotary Club for Rotary community projects.

"Rotary's initiative to restore the Apia Town Clock is part of its objectives towards preservation of our historical sites, arts and heritage.

"This project is (being undertaken) in close collaboration with the Public Works Department and further assistance has been solicited from the Samoa Engineers Association, which worked on the clock before and will assist in the installation of the new electronic device."

Muagututia says it has been almost ten years since the clock tower functioned consistently and the chimes had stopped even before that. Most of the damage was done by Cyclones Ofa and Val at the turn of the decade. Since then there have been several attempts to repair the clock, but efforts was short-lived. The Rotary Club wants to make the current effort last well into the next century.

"And what a more befitting gift for the people of Samoa than restoring one of its most popular landmarks?" asks Muagutitia.

"The Apia Town Clock, referred to as 'Le uati,' is the subject of many tales and anecdotes, and the basis for many songs and household phrases like 'E tatou te o'o uma lava i lalo ole uati' or 'Ta fetaui i lalo o le uati. (We all end up under the Town Clock or Let's meet under the Town Clock, respectively.)

"At the center of Apia where all roads (at the time) met, the clock tower area served as a bus stop. Its significance as a point of reference or a meeting point was symbolic of a closely knitted community.

"Many would fondly remember the melodic chimes of the Apia Clock Tower on the hour and half hour. Even to date, it brings memories of a time when only the church tower and the clock tower dominated Apia’s skyline.

"Even when the National Provident Fund building became the marvel of Apia, the clock tower still chimed the time, while the fire siren notified the town of when work starts, lunch break, and when to knock off work.

"The times when taxis were still colorful, the buses were mobile nightclubs and cops conducted traffic -- that was, for the most part, lively and amusing, especially for the visitors. "

Although time and tide waits for no man as Western ways have set in, the chimes of the Apia Town Clock will carry with us to the new millennium fond memories of yesteryear.

"So if you're driving around the clock, please give the old guys down there a toot to say hello."

For additional reports from the Samoa Observer, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa Observer.

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