Mom had jus’ passed away and there was a lot to do in the way of taking care of her remains and her personal effects, including her entire household. I was already exhausted and I found the ordeal of dealing with my siblings emotional dysfunction even more taxing.
So after all was done, I retreated to Mom’s home and laid on her bed and cried myself to sleep. After an hour-long nap I got up and started poking around her home.
There were a number of items I recalled as a kid and some of them I had often coveted as an adult. But somehow they no longer held the importance they once had since Mom’s death the night before.
So I left them to be parsed out between my brother and two sisters as I didn’t want to bother with the fight. Besides I already knew Mom had left me four things: a panoramic plate she and Dad purchased in Switzerland before I was born, a porcelain holy water fount, the families’ Catholic bible and a Lucky Lager churchkey.
For the uninitiated, a churchkey is a manual bottle or can opener. Sardine tins and condensed milk cans are about the only thing a manual can opener is used for nowadays, while there is still a need for the bottle opener as many imported beers require one.
In 1935, beer cans with flat tops were marketed, and a device to puncture the lids was needed. This new invention gave birth to another invention: the manual can opener or churchkey.
It was created by D.F. Sampson for the American Can Company. The company issued operating instructions on the cans themselves and even gave away free openers with their cans.
As for the term “church key,” sources vary on its origin, but it’s obvious there’s a bit of irony in the naming of the device. Some have claimed the “churchkey” was so named as a way to rub the repealing of the Eighteenth Amendment in the noses of the various religious organizations who had helped bring Prohibition to the U.S. in the first place.
Whatever the case, this particular churchkey had been around for as long as I could remember and something I often got in trouble for playing with as child. In recent years I had come to wonder why she kept it as she had stopped drinking years before her death.
I have since realized her saving it and willing it to me, was all part of Mom’s quirky sense of humor — and it’s about all I have left of her now.