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Cannonball safe carries mystery contents to Fallbrook


Last updated 3/22/2007 at Noon

In 1972 a cannonball safe was traded to a new owner for 14 wooden pickle barrels. The safe had been given to a young boy named Tom in 1948. Tom’s father owned and operated a gas station in East Los Angeles back in the 1930s and ’40s.

Story has it that there was a Safeway Market next door to that gas station and the safe was originally in the office at the rear of the sore. Before the market was demolished to make room for a larger and newer store, the safe was moved to the gas station to be picked up by the owner at a later date. During the moving process, the safe was dropped off the lift they were using and the one-inch by one-inch door handle crank broke off. This was used to crank the heavy door open once the combination was set. No one ever claimed the safe and Tom asked his father if he could have it. As a child Tom remembers men in big black cars entering and leaving through the back door of the market.

Tom’s father told him, “Someday we will get the safe open and see what’s inside.” His dad passed on stories as they were told to him by people of interest in the community. The safe was made by the Victor Safe Company of Cincinnati, OH, and consists of separate upper and lower compartments. This type of safe was used for small but very valuable items. Since the inside of the upper compartment measures 10 inches square, one can only speculate its contents. Total weight is 4,200 pounds; the door alone weighs 500 pound. The lower compartment was opened by a locksmith in Los Angeles without any problems. Inside were eight leather pouches, the kind used for bank deposits. They were empty.

The safe was then loaned to a friend and owner of a local sports bar in Los Angeles. He used it as a conversation piece by the front door for 25 years and actually used the lower compartment for daily receipts. Over the years many professionals have tried to open the safe, causing the main combination gear to slip out of position and making it almost impossible to open from the front.

The safe was brought to Fallbrook in 1999. It has been moved with special equipment, painted many colors, cut, drilled, torched and jack hammered, but nothing has been able to penetrate its cobalt steel construction.


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