The Locksmith Ledger recently called for nominations for “Gale Johnson Legends of the Lock Industry Awards,” launched in memory of the magazine’s late editor-in-chief and his lasting impact on the locksmith industry. The 2024 Legends of the Year will be recognized in the July issue of Locksmith Ledger.

While researching details to include in my nomination of Gene Anderson, I found many more interesting details about Gene and Anderson Lock than I could include in the nomination, so I am sharing some snippets from the archives here:

The April 1967 issue of keynotes “the official bulletin of the Associated Locksmiths of America” featured a photo of Andy, Norm and Gene Anderson standing near an “Interesting Old Key Found in Denmark” and a brief article about the key, which now hangs in Anderson Lock’s main office showroom.

I’ve always referred to it as the Swedish Gate Key. Perhaps because Andy and Ella Anderson, Gene and Norm’s parents, were Swedish, and I knew they had vacationed in Sweden after selling their Ace Hardware store.


Actually Found in Denmark

According to the magazine, “The impressive and interesting looking key…was found in a lamp repair shop in Denmark.” The article further reports that Mr. Anderson was delighted to find it, but he could not speak Danish and the shop owner could not speak English so very little could be learned about its history. It was communicated that the bow had adorned the gate post of a famous old Danish castle, and that at some point, later in the large key’s past, a craftsman welded the bow on to the bit to make a distinctive locksmith shop sign, following the medieval European custom of identifying trades with emblems or symbols such as a pipe on a tobacco shop, a boot for a shoemaker, and a pretzel for a bakery.


Expanded to its Present Magnitude

The cover of the April 1973 issue of the Locksmith Ledger features a line drawing of a similar locksmith shop “key” sign. A lengthy article inside, illustrated with fourteen black and white photos, profiles Anderson Lock. It notes that the locksmith company employed ten people and had seven aisles stockpiled with “practically every type of physical security device available.”

Photo #12 shows three code cutting machines with the caption, “The Anderson shop is involved in many extensive master key systems.”

The concluding paragraph of the 1973 Locksmith Ledger states, “While the operation has expanded to its present magnitude (we had ten employees at that time) it is still in essence a family operation.”

I wonder what that writer would think of our current “magnitude” of 110 employees at two facilities! And yet we are still, in essence, a family operation!


A Legend Recognizes Another Legend

Several other magazine articles about Anderson Lock have been published over the past 60+ years. One, authored by Gale Johnson, for the April 1997 issue of the Locksmith Ledger features our move into our current location, at 850 E. Oakton Street, in Des Plaines, which more than doubled the company’s previous office and warehouse space.

When it comes to being a legend in the locksmith industry, perhaps it takes a legend to recognize another legend! In that article, Gale Johnson noted that Anderson Lock had grown to have 40 employees. He ended his cover story with these words:

“Gene Anderson has built a company by helping each of his employees reach their full potential. His enthusiastic, hard-working employees have, in turn, helped the company become a very successful company in the security field.”