Through the keyhole: A look at a 50-year locksmith career

Ernie Olson poses for a photo in ABOE Lockworks, a locksmith store in Calgary on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. Olson started ABOE Lockworks when he was 22 years old and had been running the business for 45 years. (Photo by Laura Horvat/The Press)

Ernie Olson just wanted to learn how to pick a lock before heading back to B.C. during a visit to Calgary as a 22-year-old in the 1970s.

Nearly half-a-century later, the owner of ABOE Lockworks is set to retire.

“I saw an ad for a locksmith and thought it’s interesting,” he said. “I learn how to pick a lock before I go home. And we have been here ever since.”

After seeing the ad, Olson landed a job where he worked to gain all the skills to become the locksmith he is today.

The locksmith profession holds a more profound significance for Olsen than is commonly acknowledged by most individuals.

“A locksmith has to make people feel secure and maintain the systems,” he said. “Because everybody has a different level of security, and what we do is based on people.”

Olson worked in several places as a locksmith, from private properties to commercial and residential buildings. Each is associated with a story Olson remembers to this day.

One of his most memorable service calls started simply enough one night in a wealthy neighbourhood, but ended differently and unexpectedly. 

“A lady locked her keys in the car, and she didn’t want her husband to know because she knew he would get very upset,” said Olson. “So I opened the car door quietly and went back to the house door.”

After returning to collect the money from the woman, Olson saw her husband had woken up and became very upset about spending $40 on a locksmith. 

“He had a heart attack. He was lying on the floor and died,” said Olson. “But I still collected my money, or else he would have died for nothing.”

Unexpected experiences like this have happened to Olson far more than he expected, but according to him, it is part of the job.

Although Olson is retiring in a few short months, the company will live on through his two sons, Reid and Wayne.

Both are experienced in locksmithing after taking a course at Red Deer College and working within the family business for years.

 Reid explained how, although he was pursuing something else, the idea of being a locksmith seemed to call to him.

“One thing about being a locksmith, I don’t know anyone who does not enjoy their job in this trade,” Olson said. “So, I think we almost all feel like we get away without working.”

Ernie Olson poses for a photo in ABOE Lockworks, a locksmith store in Calgary on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023. Olson started ABOE Lockworks when he was 22 years old and had been running the business for 45 years. (Photo by Laura Horvat/The Press)
About Laura Horvat 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Laura Horvat is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.