As we’ve been settling in Laura and I have been going through some of her parents’ things here at the house. It’s a huge task, and will take both Amy and Laura deciding what to do. For now, though, we’re just making a preliminary survey of what’s in the house. We’ve come across some interesting things, but the item that captured our imagination this past week was a small locked case. It was a mystery.
I’d already come across a few cases. One had an old microscope. A couple of them had old slide and video projectors. There were a couple of old empty brief cases. One box in the rafters of the garage had us a bit worried.
The box was empty except for some straw, so it was safe. It’s still a cool box and we’ll hang onto it.
Another box had us completely stumped, though. It was a small black leather case about eight inches by twelve inches.
It was locked. There was another small box that had a ton of random keys. We spent about an hour going through each one to see if it would fit. Alas, none did. Short of prying the latch open there was no way in.
There was a label on the case – “Trans-World Creations, made in California”. I started an online search and found that Trans-World made small specialty travel cases in the 1940s and 50s. There were several examples of cases for sale on eBay and other auction sites. They were priced anywhere from $10 to $40, so this wasn’t a treasure in terms of monetary value.
The most common case held a small percolator and coffee set. One example I found on eBay is pictured below. I think the case in these images is a bit larger than the one we found.
To me this was pretty cool and I wanted to get inside it even more. I was hoping that the set was still complete. Even though it wasn’t worth much I still didn’t want to damage the latch. Fortunately one of the eBay photos showed the key, so at least we had an idea of its shape.
After several unsuccessful attempts to pick the lock I decided to take the case over to A1 Locksmiths in Burlington. The young man behind the counter assured me that he could open it. there were several other patrons in the shop, and as I described how we found the case and what I thought might be in it, the others gathered around out of curiosity.
The locksmith decided that he would try several keys before attempting to pick the lock. Within just a couple of minutes he found one that worked and had the latch open. He turned around for me to open, which I did slowly…
…to find it filled with small boxes and tissues. These were some of Laura’s mother’s keepsakes – bits of costume jewelry, a few commemorative pins, a couple of pocket knives, and other small items. It did not contain a travel coffee set. Mrs. Wright had reused the case for her personal treasures.
While Laura and I were happy to find the things in the case from a sentimental standpoint, I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t found the original contents of the case. We weren’t done, though. In a cabinet we had spotted several percolators and dismissed them as bits of camping gear. One of these was different from the others, though. When I pulled it down I saw that it matched the case perfectly. At least we found the main component of the travel kit. I don’t think we’ll ever find the cups and other items.
Laura’s grandfather worked for the railroad in North Dakota, so we suspect it might have been his. It was a cool find and just as much fun trying to solve the mystery. As we go through the estate I’m sure we’ll come across many more mysteries. We’ll have to see how many of these we can solve.
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