MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Retired editor, Hannibal Courier-Post
Old and heavy. That’s how Greg Addison described a safe that was removed from a building in the process of renovation at 205 N. Main St., on Thursday afternoon.
While the Hannibal businessman was reluctant – just yet – to discuss the history of the old safe, or plans for the building once remodeling is complete, Addison did stand by and watch while Brown Moving Company loaded the safe onto a rental truck for removal to another location.
Workers for Brown’s – a fifth-generation Hannibal moving business – attracted a sidewalk crowd as they inched the old safe from the front step of the former Klene Printing Company building, up a ramp and onto the waiting truck.
With the late-afternoon temperature well into the 90s, there was no shortage of perspiration flowing from the foreheads of the workers, who used both brawn and ingenuity to maneuver the safe from its home on Main Street to the waiting truck.
The men – who declined to share their last names – included Ollie, O.J., Scott and Mike, plus Trevon Beasley in a supervisory capacity, representing the fifth generation of the Brown family involved in the business.
The workers used 2x4s to wedge the safe up the metal ramp to the truck, and a wedge to keep it steady. They also used a tire jack to help lift the safe, making movement a little easier.
Those standing by on the sidewalk were literally holding their breath as the workers struggled to balance the oversized safe on wheels. Ned Behrensmeyer, a piano tuner familiar with moving heavy objects, kept a close watch on the metal ramp, in hopes that it did not buckle under the extreme weight.
An inch at a time, the men managed to get the safe to the top of the ramp. Then, as one corner wheel veered precariously close to the ramp’s edge, the workers thrust one last “umph,” and first the front wheels, then the back wheels, landed onto the truck bed.
There was no cheering when the deed was done, no high-fives or celebratory leaps. Just the wiping of brows with pocketed handkerchiefs, and the knowledge that the job was successfully competed.
Was the safe a part of the property of Zeno Klene, who in 1940 purchased an existing printing company in that building? Or could the safe predate the printing business, and be a remnant of the Nickleodeon, which presented vaudeville performances and silent movies in that building at the turn of the 20th Century?
Hard to tell at this point. But what is known is that one long-established Hannibal business successfully removed an historic remnant from a downtown building with a rich history.
Brown family legacy
J.T. Brown is the third generation of his family to operate Brown Moving Co. The first generation was James T. Brown and his wife, Daisy M. Brown. The second generation was Phillip and Elsie Brown, parents of J.T. Brown, current operator, and his sister, Rhonda Brown Hall.
J.T. speculated that his grandfather may have moved the safe into the Main Street building in the first place. "We probably could have brought a mechanical apparatus to move the safe," he said, "but that would have halted our challenge. By moving it manually, the hardest part was gettng it on the truck. It was easy getting the safe off the truck."
J.T. is proud that Trevon Beasley, fifth generation family member, was on hand to supervise the operation. "He is learning how to operate safely," J.T. said. "The customer was very well satisfied on how we handled his precious piece of history."