Most people I know make the assumption that people who lived a while ago, whether that be 100 or 5000 years ago, are somehow inferior to us. We take a patronizing view of them and their world. "They didn't have the Internet. How DID they stay informed of world events." "They must have worked so hard cooking without a microwave." "Without a refrigerator, they must have been close to eating spoiled food all the time." And so on.
I try not to fall into this trap. I try and remember that they were people, just like us, with the same basic needs and desires. In some ways they were more creative than we are, because they had to come up with solutions using a more limited set of tools or ideas. And yet, every once in a while, I fall victim to the "They were a simple people living in a simple time" syndrome.
The House of 42 Doors came with approximately 42 locks as well, but unfortunately, it did not come with 42 keys. I have about a dozen keys. Like so many other things in the house, the locks in all the doors are the original, 1921 mortise locks.
Previously I had noticed that a majority of the doors in the house have a small hook screwed into the frame towards the top, presumably to hang up the key for that door. I thought it would be nice to do just that, but the problem remains, that I have 42 doors and insufficient keys.
One afternoon several weeks ago, I took all the keys and ran around the attic, the upstairs and the ground floor trying each key in each lock to see if it would work. The keys have Corbin stamped on the top of the key (the manufacturer of the lock) and a letter/number code stamped as well - P2, P6, P8, P9, P11, etc. I carefully wrote down which key fit which lock - Office, P11; Office Closet, P2; Guest Room, P8; etc. Based on this, I was going to decide which door to hang which key on. I still have a few orphaned keys with no locks and a few orphaned locks with no keys.
Last night, we had to take the door to the basement off of its hinges. The new washer and dryer are being delivered today, and they won't fit downstairs unless the door is removed. This is one of the few doors remaining that I did not test the lock, so I trundled upstairs, grabbed the keys, took them back downstairs and tried the lock. The first key did not fit. But the second...well the second went in, turned and promptly got jammed.
The next hour and a half was spent taking apart the handles, the key plates and the mortise lock to get that stupid key out. I took the time to polish one of the brass plates and to oil the lock. While polishing, I found myself thinking how horribly inconvenient and time consuming it must have been to try so many different keys to open a lock. After all, who was going to remember that the office door took a P11 key, or the kitchen door took a P10? And if it was dark, it would be impossible to read the stamp on the key - P2, P4, P5, etc. What if you lost a key? How would the locksmith know what key to replace it with? Would he have to take the lock out of the door and take it apart? What if there was a fire and someone needed to get out? I had visions of some poor maid burning to death while trying to go through every key on the key ring in hopes of finding P12.
Then, when I was putting the mortise lock back into the door I noticed that stamped onto the lock itself, in small, inconspicuous letters was P8. In other words, not only are the keys stamped, but so are the locks. I wasted all that time running around trying keys, and on top of it all, I almost broke off a P9 key in a P8 lock. I guess that those "simple" folks were pretty clever about matching locks to keys.
If anyone has any Corbin skeleton keys, P series, please let me know. I'll be happy to buy them from you.