The Case of The Mysterious Key

Retro Dee writes about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s on this site.  Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column here every week.

My family and I moved to Plymouth, MA just recently, and so we got a P.O. box at the beautiful Post Office on Main Street. This building is so breathtaking, that I stopped in my tracks while on a walk on my second day in town. I didn’t even know it was the Post Office until I read the words on the building! I love the clock tower and the good old New England architecture which features pillars and brick. The clock tower even has a Mayflower weather vane.

During the very first week, we went to get our mail from our P.O. box. The inside of the building was almost as impressive as the outside. There was a wall of old mail boxes that are on display as you walk in. The walls and floors are marble and it reminds me of a glamorous hotel lobby from the 1940’s.

The part where the actual P.O. boxes reside is less impressive- just regular metal boxes with numbers on them that you open with a key. Not vintage and not high-tech. My dad took out the key and tried to open our box.

The key fit perfectly, but the box wouldn’t open. My dad kept trying and it just didn’t work. He said he couldn’t understand it, because the postal worker, (we’ll call her Marcy) had easily opened it the other day. I waited as my dad went to go get Marcy to assist us.

Marcy came back and looked at the key. It looked the same as all the other P.O. box keys, except it was old and tarnished. My dad insisted that it was the same key she’d given him, but she said that simply can’t be if it didn’t open the box. Then, my dad reached in his briefcase and pulled out another key, this one was shiny and new-looking. My dad looked surprised, but Marcy just smiled and said, “Ah-ha! What did I tell ya!” as she checked the number on the key. It matched the box and voila- the box easily opened. She’s kind of a snarky know-it-all.

So where the hell did that other key come from? And what was it doing in my dad’s briefcase? That’s the mystery. My dad doesn’t know where he got it. It was the same size, the same shape and the same type of key as all the rest at the Main Street Post Office. Except for it’s condition, it could have been identical.

My dad threw the tarnished key away. My uncle told him that was a bad idea, since he didn’t know what it went to, what if he needed it later? While the brothers disagree on what should have been done with the extra key, one thing is for sure: its origin remains a mystery.

Historical Post Office Square on Main St., Plymouth, MA.

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