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Woodside memories: Fashioning a fabulous framtiz

By Marie Wagner Krenz | Special to the Almanac


Marie Krenz
Ninety-five years ago Grandfather bought the Woodside property that has brought joy to five generations of our family. When on a winter's night in 1934 the original frame house burned, my uncles quickly found an architect to rebuild the ruined structure.

We were delighted with the modern touches of tiled windowsills, beamed ceilings, and keyless rustic locks. Recently we had occasion to be anything but thrilled with one of those locks.

Not long ago a guest took an afternoon nap on our old sleeping porch and locked the door for privacy. This is no ordinary lock. The exterior part has a kind of thumb pedal that lifts a bar on the inside to open and close the door. A small curved piece of metal flips back and forth to lock or unlock as needed.

That afternoon as he left the sleeping porch, our visitor flipped the metal piece, but alas, it did not travel all the way back but teetered in between. When the door closed it moved forward to relock itself.

This would have presented no problem on a keyed door, but ours was different. There was no way to enter the room. We could not get in from the outside without destroying the continuous screening and at least two or three of the hinged paned windows, and perhaps breaking an arm or a leg in the process. Drilling a hole in the door was an unpleasant possibility. Because the house doors were two or three inches thick, we tried to consider other remedies.

Several weeks passed without a solution. Ours is a family of engineers but most of them live elsewhere with other and more pressing problems than a locked door in the old homestead. I, a former Spanish teacher, kept thinking as the time passed. Finally a few ideas came.

It seemed possible to drop a wire over the top of the door and to jiggle the curlicue lock from there. No luck. The wire was too light to fall where I wanted it.

After more thought, it seemed to me that we could bend a wire or a metal rod to go under the door and reach up to the lock. I asked my engineer daughter-in-law if this could work.

When she agreed, I searched our tool house and found a promising piece of metal. I tried bending it in the vise unsuccessfully, but I carried it back to the house and kept pushing it under the door and twisting it in an attempt to hit the curlicue.

That afternoon an engineer nephew arrived. I immediately enlisted the services he readily provided. He seemed to like my idea and took my metal piece back to the garage and modified it to bend closer to the interior lock. The two of us became fascinated with the project and spent an hour or two twisting, turning, pushing, and bending the rod. Then, wonder of wonders the interior curlicue suddenly flipped back and the door opened. We had done it.

A little later, my engineer son dropped by and congratulated us on the success of our endeavors. He said that we had constructed a "framitz." I learned that a framitz is engineering slang for a do-hickey or do-dad, a nonsensical word for a mechanical component within a system. Not bad for a Spanish teacher.

Marie Wagner Krenz is a freelance writer from Orinda who spends weekends in Woodside at the old family home. She has written a number of "Woodside Memories" columns for the Almanac.

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