If Only Safety Deposit Boxes Could Talk

I traveled to a bank branch in Jamaica, Queens, one spring day. The structure was a beautiful old building built in the 1920s. Sparkling stained glass windows were dancing against the red bricks of the facade. The main floor had  50 teller stations, all encased in high gloss wood paneling. This branch looked like it was a mansion well before digital banking.

Besides, no question this branch was bustling with borrowers from a time ago. Today there were only two working teller stations and a few clients milling around—this branch closing due to the chasing demographics of the area and changes in the banking industry. So, for the moment, I began traveling back in time. The 7-train subway was above ground for much of the trip flying above the old gritty apartment buildings below. Jamaica was a long trip from NY in time and history.

The assignment at this time was to break open abandoned safety deposit boxes. We had about 1,000 boxes we were going to crack open. A team of three locksmiths and ten notaries began assembling. Many of the notaries were the prototypical models of what you would be envisioning of notaries. Therefore, standing in the group were meek, senior, quiet slow-footed men and women.   Fees earned would be for the number of boxes opening and cataloging. Hence, this was exciting as I knew today could be a $1,000 day for me. Not being a typical notary, I worked fast and efficiently. I had to catalog 160 boxes to make my target. I was ready for the challenge. The day will be flying by, thus getting back on the subway to NYC with my focus.

Consequentially,  we began opening boxes filled with costume jewelry and coins. The logging process on the state forms a tedious process.   One of the reasons I was so fast was because my detailing was not so exact. I kept moving one box to the next box. There was a great deal of action in the room.   Clinging and clacking of the metal security boxes was jumping moved in all directions. Drills were resonating as the locksmiths kept cracking the rigid old rusty boxes.   I was working at light speed, at least twice as fast as everyone else. Many of the boxes were mundane, some empty, and some with a few old souvenirs, coins, dollar bills. Larger boxes contained; jewelry, religious symbols, divorce papers, immigration papers, passports, movie scripts, report cards, marriage licenses, and anything you could imagine.

Subsequently, I opened a box with paper money wrapped up in rolls. Counting the cash and logging the $ amounts became more exciting as the totals grew. I kept counting and counting. Well, this box I finished totaling  $32,500 in cash. A manager had to come over and observe my counting with the individual banker as the money kept rolling along. The bills of the funds were very dry with tears and rips.

Opening a  large brown box, with a marking in the name of Mario Paglio, was sitting before my eyes. The rusty sleeve was opened in 1937 and last used in 1958. The branch manager also mentioned many gangsters from the years gone by would stash cash in the boxes hiding the dollars from associates and family members. The feelings were that bootleg money was of an old mafioso captain. Each box had a history and a world of colorful stories. Once again, a trekking notary traveling back in time for the price of a subway token.

Subsequently, after many opening and logging boxes, I left for lunch. I brought my lunch from home and sat on a bench outside, catching a little sun. As a result, I got myself reenergized and hiked back to the pits. After a bathroom break, I sensed today; we would find a particular unique prize.

Onward and upward, as they say. I was opening a huge box that was very rusty and double-locked. Hence, taking the locksmith almost 10 minutes of twisting and turning their trade tools to crack open. A large steel 2-way cutter began rotating and cutting into the mini-safe.   Utilizing protective gloves, I slowly began unwrapping the covering. Feeling something hard and cold, I started sending shivers in anticipation.   After pulling off the rapping, the metal object began transforming into a frigid, rigid mass.   Amazingly, I was holding a revolver in my hands.

Under the circumstances, the entire room stopped in their tracks, witnessing the weapon I held in my hands.   Accordingly, at this very moment, the room turned hushed. Putting the gun down very slowly, I began stepping back. The branch manager began directing all to stand in place. Accordingly, the bank officer began calling the police precinct. Within two minutes, police officers were arriving en-mass. A lieutenant began taking charge as he began to approach the revolver.   Also, the officer was pulling out from the box several silver bullets.    This box had no name attached and no record of its history. A police officer added that the weapon was from the 1950s. Similarly, another officer remarked the gun was still functional.    Therefore, the lieutenant began removing the loading chamber to neutralize the weapon.

Thus, today’s experiences were one for the books! The jewelry, papers, dollars were all expected. The gun, loaded with live ammo, was not. The journey from world trekking to notary trekking and the lessons learned continue.—reinvention, discovery, and keeping it real.

    1. Great. Sorry, no one found your skate key or your Tommy Gun! Keep watching for more blogs; maybe your key will show up.

      In the meantime-stay safe and enjoy The Trekking Tales of a Traveling Notary

  1. Old banks have the most character. Queens is filled with interesting buildings. Seems like a cool experience!

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