The first time I recall seeing a safe was in my Grandfather's grocery store. It was army green, and the inside of the door was custom painted. My grandparents used this to keep the store records and cash for the store. I was about 7 years old and was fascinated with this old safe. It had the date of 1846 painted inside the door. One time the door was closed so I played with the combination knob. It was fun pretending to open the safe. Soon after that my grandfather needed to get something from the safe and found that he could not open it. Apparently, he had the combination set to where all he had to do was turn the dial a few numbers to the left and the door would unlock. When I turned the dial, it reset to where he would have to enter the complete combination. To add to the frustration, the little notebook with the combination was inside the safe. He was not a happy camper. Fortunately, Mamaw had written the combination down somewhere else so the hunt was on to find that. When they finally found where that was written down, and they had the numbers, stage two of frustration started up. Which way to turn the dial and how many times is it supposed to be turned? I kept my distance. Once the safe was finally opened, I was forbidden to play with the safe!

The store was sold in 1968 and my grandparents moved to a house near a lake. Papaw loved to fish so now he can walk through his backyard to spend the day fishing. The safe was moved to the laundry room of the new house. Since I was older, I was allowed to mess with the safe and it was not long before I had the combination memorized. While most everyone else was watching some sports event in the living room on cold rainy days when we were visiting, I played with the safe or found something else to do. To me sports of all kinds was the most boring thing ever. Whenever the Razorbacks (My grandfather’s favorite team) made a score or something, I could hear them yell from the other room. Personally, I just did not understand that, I had too many other things to do. My grandfather passed away in 1978 followed by my grandmother in 1982.

I inherited that safe since I was the only one to show interest in it. The safe had wheels on it but they only went one way. We had to manhandle the turns which was not easy. As we rolled the safe to the door, its weight broke the floor tiles along the way. I rented a trailer that I pulled with my 1977 Monte Carlo. We had to unhook the trailer from the car and tilt it back. We got the safe next to the trailer and leaned it back into the trailer so that the safe rode on it’s back. We pushed it to where it rode right in the middle of the trailer over the axle. We then nailed some 2x4 board around the safe so it would stay in the one spot. Fortunately, the trailer floor was made from wood. When I got to our house in Texas, I reversed the procedure and put a board under the tongue of the trailer so it would stay tilted. When I removed the boards, the safe slid to the door where we leaned it back upright onto its wheels. We got the safe into our garage where it stayed for many years. When Jennifer and I bought our house in 1990, I moved that safe to our garage where it is today. I kept anything I had of value in it like coins, extra cash etc.

Fast forward to 2017. Hurricane Harvey flooded our house and garage. That safe went under water for four days. When I was able to return, one of the first things I did was open the door of that safe. I knew if I waited too long, that door might be forever closed. I hated to see that water flooded the inside of the safe. We got all the papers out we needed for insurance purposes such as the proof of ownership of our house. We had just paid our house off two months before the flood.

Fast forward again to 2020. I wanted to get another safe to keep our valuables, which is not a lot. I looked through the for-sale ads on Facebook Market. I did not want to spend a lot of money for another safe, but I did want an old vintage one. I do plan to restore Papaw’s old safe one day but not sure when that will be. I came across an ad for a cool looking lug door safe that advertised for $50. I contacted the seller who said he still has it but be advised, he did not have the combination for it. Not having the combination intrigued me! I messed with our old 174-year-old safe enough that I felt confident that I could figure out the combination for this one. This safe was built in 1939 and was bought at an auction from a post office. This lug door safe was inside a larger safe but was removed when the owner restored the larger safe. He did a beautiful job of restoring the large safe by the way. The seller helped me load my new lug door safe onto my trailer. We had to use a come along to load it.  Jennifer rode along with me to go pick up the new safe. She puts up with a lot with my ‘adventures’ and I love having her tag along.

We got home and since it was drizzling rain, I decided not to unload the safe then. I had configured my garage to where I could back the trailer inside so I could put off unloading. I had done some searching on how to ‘crack’ a safe and found some really good information. The best information was a forum called lockpicking101. They told me that there are some factory default combinations, so I tried those. The third one I tried; I heard the safe unlock. This was while it was still on the trailer. This was exciting! I could not open the door however so at that time I thought it had not unlocked.

The next morning, I knew I had a full day of work ahead of me; I had to unload the trailer. Get the safe onto a dolly. Then rearrange the garage to get the trailer through it to get to its parking place in the backyard. Then put everything back in its spot in the garage. I had to do all of this since our son Will was going to be home for the semester in a few days. I got two chains around the safe and attached to the engine chain hoist that hangs from a track near the garage roof. I lifted the safe off the trailer and found it to be heavy! I had lifted countless engines and transmissions and even a complete Corvette body with that chain hoist and concluded that this lug door safe was the heaviest lift I have done in this garage. I got the safe onto a dolly and everything in the garage back to where it belongs. That made for a full day.

After spending time researching along with trial and error trying to crack the safe, I knew I had the correct combination, but since the safe door had not been opened in decades, I needed to focus on the mechanical side of opening the safe. I was in familiar territory; I knew how to deal with mechanical issues. I figured that I did not have enough leverage to spin the door opener. I removed the one broken handle and the screw stud from the shaft that spun the lugs to open the door. I found threaded stock in the garage that was the right one to work on the shaft. I cut it to the same length as the original one. I found two handles from an audio kit for boom mics that also had the correct thread. I installed the threaded stock to the shaft and installed the two opposing handles. I was at this point when Jennifer came home from work. She stopped to check on me in the garage before going into the house. I told her that I was close to opening the door and I would come get her and Allison before I pull the door open so they could see what was inside the safe. She went into the house. I dialed the combination and put pressure on the bottom handle with one hand and hit the top handle with my other hand. The lugs started to move! This meant that the safe WAS unlocked, and the door was about to open. I ran inside the house to get Jennifer and Allison to come see when I opened the door. We all had speculated what might be inside the safe. I was convinced that there was something since it was so heavy. I joked that it might be full of gold bars but knew that was farfetched since this safe came from a post office. We all stood at the door of the safe. Jennifer videoed the event of opening the door for the first time while Allison held a flashlight so we could see inside. I gently pulled the door open to reveal a rubber band and a paper clip.  Oh well, it was fun to dream if only for a moment.

This is where I am in this adventure. I must find a place for the safe to live. I need to restore the old Hall safe so I can use it again. So much more to look forward to.


New thread stock and handles installed

On the dolly

Inside the store's safe door

1939 Mosler Lug Door Safe arrives at home

Unloaded from the trailer

Finally open after several decades

No gold bars, just a rubber band and a paper clip

Old handle and thread removed