Security better in early days

There has been an ever increasing need for security for places where I have lived from my earliest years.

My childhood very seldom had a locked door for entering our home and the entry was never through the front door. From the street there were several steps to get up to the level of our home, then several more steps to get up to the porch for the front door.

At the back door there were no outside steps, but entry was onto a “landing” with several steps up to get to the kitchen and a few more steps down to get to the unfinished basement.

Though it is still there, I haven’t been in my boyhood home for almost fifty years, but I suspect there is still an unfinished basement based on its crude construction and low ceiling that was made lower still by the furnace pipes distributing air to the various main-floor rooms.

If the house were to be locked and if I did not have a key, there was always one in the separate, unlocked garage off a back alley. If that key was missing, then I would visit the neighbors to borrow a “skeleton key.” One that would open our back door could also be used inside to lock and unlock closet doors.

The key was about four inches long with the main length being like a thick, round nail – no grooves on the sides, just a round entry for the top of the keyhole and a small ward (metal projection) at keyhole end. A very simple device that would not foil anyone who really wanted entry. If you were in the house there was also a deadbolt, but one that had no outside access. I suppose that deadbolt was useful only if you were afraid that someone might come in the house while you were asleep inside or you did not want to be disturbed.

Generally though, the process was for a friend or neighbor to enter in the back door on the landing and then yell to see if anyone was home. The only other “security” was a barking dog who could easily be petted if a person were patient. Meter readers entered the back door and called, “meter man.”

When our home was sold back in the early 1970s, I am sure that the new owners put on better locks and my mother moved to an apartment that definitely had greater security.


Generally our safety and security in those early years was probably better than it would be today because our neighborhood had a number of families where there was always someone around with most households consisting of a couple of kids and only one working parent. We knew not only our immediate neighbors, but also neighbors from 30 or so houses on our block and on the streets adjacent to us. For our neighborhood one might have said, “It takes a family AND a village (neighborhood) to raise a child.”

In this day of electronics we have lots of devices to help keep our possessions secure as well as companies who can be hired to monitor our homes. If I am not mistaken there are some signs that are for sale (or can be made) to put around your house implying the home is protected by some kind of surveillance, whether the sign is backed up by actual protection or not. Hey, it might ward off a burglary.


There is a parallel to securing a house to securing a car. In that period when our home was generally open, our car was not very secure either. It was usually not locked even if parked on the street and possibly even in a grocery store parking lot. Even worse, I recall that sometimes the car keys were placed above the visor. Or the keys were placed in our house on a shelf just inside the back door.

So now we have locked cars inside locked garages. As for entering the living quarters these days, most entries by family members are likely through the garage, seldom through a front door or any other outside door.

If the home is not on a corner lot, the garage is often even closer to the street than the front door. Here in the north that is possibly to cut down on the need for fewer feet of the driveway from which to remove the snow.


That brings me to a pet peeve. My apologies to Southwest Minnesota State University and Marshall Public Schools for using them as examples. My consternation is why so many entries to buildings are positioned so far from the parking areas.

One of the worst, it seems to me, is the Marshall Middle School – i.e. the former Marshall High School which was built in the mid-1960s. The entrance from the parking area includes a fairly long ramp-like walk followed by another 100 feet or so to get to the main door and the office area.

Did the architects not realize that this is SW Minnesota where there can be strong winds pushing rain, snow and cold? For comfort’s sake a door closer to the parking area would have been great. There is a door that is closer to the auditorium there, but even that requires walking the length of the gym before you enter the building.

Yes, I know there are entries that go directly into the gym, but those are or were not generally used as entries, but rather as exits only.

Not to be outdone, I suppose residents of this area probably noticed that most of the buildings on the SMSU campus have main entries that do not directly face the parking area and sometimes the main entry is down a long (again 100 feet or more) walkway.

I guess I won’t leave out the county – the courthouse entry for just everyday folks from the parking area requires passing a door for workers and going a bit further to enter a lobby that requires going up or down to get to any office. That’s certainly worth an Oh, Fiddlesticks!

So, until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!