The Key

The only Master key left in existence… OR IS IT???

Back in 1963 when our current building went up, the doors to the offices up front were keyed with a series of levels of access that were somehow managed by the design on the individual keys and locks. The Production managers’ keys could only open the doors that led directly from the shop, but they couldn’t get into the accounting or executive office. The accounting staff had keys that would only open the accounting office doors, but not the shop or executive office. I guess people must have had more valuable things in their offices back then. We did have a giant safe up in the office back in those days and probably had more cash around. At any rate, the boss was the only one who carried the coveted MASTER key that would open all doors. To my knowledge, there was only one of these left and it has been on my keychain for the past 20 years or so after being transferred to me by my father in a secret esoteric ritual that I am not at liberty to discuss. (Actually, I think he just left it in his desk drawer, but the ritual thing sounds WAY better so let’s stick with that). They’re not the kind of keys you can get duplicated at Lowe’s. The blanks had to be provided by the manufacturer, so I was always told to be very careful not to lose my key because it was not replaceable.

Over the decades as people have come and gone, many of those keys have been lost to the sands of time until one day just recently my son, Tim, who is our Quality Manager, found himself here unexpectedly late in the day hungry and unable to access the accounting office where the lunch he had brought sat in the refrigerator mocking him, as he carried a lowly “production” key. My heart went out to my hungry boy, so I took his misfortune as the opportunity to FINALLY call a locksmith and get our handles and locks replaced.

So, I typed “locksmith near me” into Google and was instantly presented with several choices helpfully arranged on a map. There was one in particular just up the road from us that said “Over 40 Years In Business” so I decided that would be the place to call. I told my story to the gentleman who answered (except the secret esoteric ritual part of course, that’s nobody’s business!) and he said “well how about if I come down and take a look? I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

I showed him around the offices, and he looked at my rare and prestigious MASTER key.

“Yeah, wow I think this is an old series (something) or (something else) and those haven’t been manufactured for decades. The manufacturer, Sargent, is still in business but all their keys are longer now.” he said. And then he said, “I think my father used to work here back in the late Seventies or early Eighties. Do you remember a guy named…?”

As a nostalgic Hyland at our multi-generational company, these moments are among my favorites in life, because they often lead to me hearing wonderful stories that fill in the colors of our beautiful historic Hyland Machine tapestry.

“Yeah, when I first started driving, I used to pick him up after work out back here and he would also usually call me to pick him up from the Christmas parties because he’d had too much to drink. I remember it was a wild group back then!”

We talked for a while, had a really nice conversation, then he gave me an estimate of what it would cost to replace and re-key all the handles. Confident that I had made the arrangement that was needed, I went home for the day content to have ushered in the end of an era with a great guy with whom we had some history.

First thing the next morning as I was preparing to leave for work, my phone rang.

“You’re not going to believe this. I know this guy up in Springfield, he taught me everything I know about locksmithing. He’s 93 and he’s always kept all his old equipment and supplies in case anyone ever needs them but he’ll only talk to people he knows. I always call him when I find something really old. He’s got 25 blanks for your locks. He’ll only sell me 12 of them but I can make you new master keys with them if you like.”

So now, for far less money than I was prepared to spend I have a dozen shiny new master keys, and a great story! Tim can now get to the fridge any time of the day or night because I have bestowed one of the new master keys to him, my eldest son (in a secret esoteric ritual that I am not at liberty to discuss…). And now we’re probably good on keys for the NEXT 60 years or so!

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