It all started at a 5,000 watt radio station in Fresno, California ... Oh, sorry, that's TedBaxter's story. My story begins with a ......
Keil Lock Co. key machine, model no. 4 1/2, serial no. L-2085, made in Charlestown, NH, in my family's auto parts store in downtown Hammonton.
I was probably about 10 years old when my father first showed me how to choose the right blank, clean the jaws, set the keys properly and slowly grind the blank to match the original key. My calling. I soon discovered the keys we cut rarely came back because they didn't work. We didn't do locksmithing work there, only cut keys, so it was kind of a backward way to learn and understand why some keys worked and others didn't. We often would get keys from other stores that didn't work and I'd discover that they were cut too deep, or too high, or spacing was wrong. And then I would make them better. Had quite a following by the age of 15.
Then the snag. I wanted to step it up and went to the public library and found 2 books on locksmithing. Read them back and forth. Could not understand very much,with no one around to ask. Returned them and just continued to cut keys, learn the blanks and brands, common troubles, and mostly, selling auto parts, learning mechanics. Back to school and friends.
Fifteen years pass. Now with high school done, college completed, jobs in several fields come and gone, I met Vickie - the turning point in my life. And yes, it was a turn in the right direction. She lived in Pitman in a 100-year-old Victorian house with her 2 young daughters. The bathroom door didn't latch or lock and I felt privacy was important for all of us. After removing the old mortise lock from the door, I found broken springs and replaced them with spring steel strips, got a hold of some skeleton keys and found one that worked, and understood how it did. The very next lock I fixed was on the bedroom.
She said I was really good at this. I said I had long wanted to be a locksmith. Now, re-inspired, I went back to Hammonton and talked to Tom Etherington, the town locksmith, and asked if he could point me in the right direction to get started. He told me he was closing his business and going back to work in a school system. I was given the name of the correspondence school he had used many years earlier. It was in Little Falls, NJ. I sent away the application and some money. Soon, the first book, instructions and a project arrived. I devoured it.
Within 6 months, about half way through the course, I knew this was it for me. Vickie and I took about 5 minutes to name our new business: Venus & Mars Locksmith to represent Vickie & Mike. Took a ride to Mays Landing and registered the business name. A few more months pass and the correspondence course is completed. Vickie and our girls move to Hammonton, we marry, 2 more kids, working at what I love, and a growing fan base. 24 years later, we're still at it and still loving it. I am the luckiest guy!
Thank you for reading the condensed version of how I got started in locksmithing.