2018-05-16 / Front Page

Love, locks, and the key to happiness

BY STEVEN KOVAC
810-452-2684 • skovac@mihomepaper.com


Retiring locksmith Durain Weidman and wife Mary standing in front of Weidman’s Lock & Key Service which has been a fixture on Main Street in Marlette for decades. 
Photo by Steven Kovac Retiring locksmith Durain Weidman and wife Mary standing in front of Weidman’s Lock & Key Service which has been a fixture on Main Street in Marlette for decades. Photo by Steven Kovac MARLETTE — For more than 50 years Durain Weidman has been tinkering with locks and keys.

Weidman, owner of Weidman’s Lock & Key Service, has been in business since 1983.

His shop, which has been open for 35 years, is at 3473 South Main Street in Marlette.

“Until recently I covered a 60-mile radius, but for the last four years I’ve really been trying to wind things down,” said Weidman.

“A locksmith is on call 24/7. My health just won’t permit me to do that anymore.”

“That’s right,” quipped Mary Weidman, his wife of 50 years. “What people call their ‘Golden Years’ turns out to be golden for the medical people.”


Retiring locksmith Durain Weidman has been a key man around Marlette for years. With his skills, it’s a good thing he has always been on the right side of the law. Here he is in a corner of his shop in downtown Marlette. 
Photo by Steven Kovac Retiring locksmith Durain Weidman has been a key man around Marlette for years. With his skills, it’s a good thing he has always been on the right side of the law. Here he is in a corner of his shop in downtown Marlette. Photo by Steven Kovac Durain said he met the former Mary Mawdesley when they were both involved in Youth for Christ. The couple married soon after and went on to have two children, daughter Debbie, and son Dustin.

“There’s eleven and a half years between Debbie and Dustin,” said Mary.

“Dustin served five years in the Army,” said a proud Durain, “with fifteen months in Iraq.”

Durain was born in Pigeon, where he lived until his family moved to a home on Slattery Road when he was in the seventh-grade.

“It had a Brown City address, but we went to North Branch schools,” said Durain. “I graduated from North Branch High School in 1960.

“At the time I was going to the Evangelical Brethren Church in Brown City, until they merged with the Methodists. That’s when Mary convinced me to become a Baptist.”

The young couple’s faith would prove to be a major part of their lives. They are both active long-time members of Juniata Baptist Church of Vassar.

Durain got his first job at Mayville Lumber, where he worked until it burned down. He then went to work as a carpenter through the Vassar Building Center.

“I was helping to build a house for a man named Ray Clendenan,” said Durain. “Ray was a founder of a ministry called Teen Ranch. Teen Ranch was a branch of Youth for Christ.

“The house had five kids’ bedrooms. It was set up as a home for ten boys, two in each bedroom. A husband and wife would live there to take care of the boys. They were all wards of the court or of the county. Most of them never had a real home. The ministry provided a home and family setting for them.”

Weidman continued, “When the second house was being built, I also started working part-time with Teen Ranch. I moved into one of the homes to help the house parents any way I could. I lived in the basement.”

One of the things Weidman did was start a wood shop at the residence, something that led to his making large round wooden dinner tables 8 feet in diameter.

“Well, the first one was a seven-footer,” said Weidman. “You need a lot of room for twelve or more people to sit around. I ended up building one table for each of Teen Ranch’s eight houses. I built a four-foot Lazy Susan to put in the middle of each of the tables to help with the serving.”

In 1964, Durain joined the Army National Guard.

“I was in the Guard from 1964 to 1970. In 1967 I was sent to help with the Detroit riots,” said Weidman.

“While in the Guard, I often got assigned to figure out how to open up locked doors. I pretty much taught myself. Later, in 1969, while I was working at Teen Ranch, I took the locksmith course.”

Durain and Mary were married in 1968. During that time Durain worked a number of jobs.

“I did a lot of things. In those days, you didn’t have to be licensed for everything like today. I did carpentry. I put up a few double-wide homes. I did electrical work and siding. I also got into carpet laying, something I did for about ten years,” said Weidman.

“Most of the time I worked by myself laying carpet, except for some really big jobs. Then I had a helper. I remember working alone on two-story jobs.

“I found it easier to cut the carpet down to room- size outside, and then shove the roll up through a second-floor window. It would get so far in and then fold over and hit the floor. I could then go up and drag it in the rest of the way. Better than trying to carry those heavy rolls up a flight of stairs by yourself.”

It was about that time that the young couple, now with a one-and-a-half-yearold daughter, became Teen Ranch house parents themselves.

When asked how Mary felt about her family’s new living arrangements, and whether or not she shared her husband’s desire to take care of ten wayward boys, she chuckled and said, “I guess I married into it.”

Mary remembers the time a few years later when daughter Debbie was suspected of “telling tales” by her kindergarten teacher.

Mary explained, “When asked how many brothers and sisters she had, Debbie answered, ‘I have ten brothers.’”

“In those days,” added Durain, “house parents were on duty around the clock every day but two. We would get 48 hours relief, or what they called ‘respite’ time.’ Never on a weekend. But I still made time to take the boys on Youth for Christ’s Lifeline trips. I remember canoeing and camping along the whole length of the Au Sable River. That trip took three and a half days.”

By 1983 the Weidmans were no longer working for Teen Ranch. Durain transferred the carpet laying business to his helper and went full-time into the locksmith trade.

Equipped with a van and an array of specialized tools and small machinery, Weidman’s Lock & Key Service opened up on Main Street in Marlette in a shop with a house conveniently attached.

Ever since then, the company has been meeting the lock and key needs of area banks, schools, churches, and various businesses

According to Weidman, another large part of the business consists of servicing mail boxes, cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, apartments, homes, and commercial buildings.

For Durain, there was never a dull moment, as he explains, “I have responded to so many calls where some family’s dog is left in the car as the owner runs into a store just for a minute and the dog prances around the front seat and hits the power locks, with the key still in the ignition.

“Small children are also good for that. They somehow manage to get the doors locked, but just can’t seem to understand how to unlock them.”

Durain continued, “Divorces and other domestic disputes often result in a request to re-key a house or a vehicle. One time a wife had me change the keying on a truck in the driveway. I soon got a call from the husband saying it wasn’t the woman’s truck and I had to change them back again. I’ve been in the middle of things where the police had to be called because the pots and pans were flying.

“I get calls from fishermen who dropped their vehicle keys in the lake. These can be at odd times of the day or night.

“Drunks parked at bars are likely to lock their keys in their car and call me at 2 a.m. On some of these I ask the police to meet me there. I get the car open, get my pay, the drunk gets behind the wheel, and the officer asks, ‘Where do you think you’re going?’”

Weidman has seen a lot of changes in his industry over the course of his long career.

“Under normal circumstances, I can be into a car and gone in less than five minutes,” said Durain. “Then things started to change. First, we saw the automakers come out with a sort of plate or guard which is supposed to keep the old ‘Slim Jim’ from reaching the mechanism. But we soon came up with a multi-directional tool to get around that.

“The new lock technology on the newer cars poses more of a problem. I’ve never invested the money for a transponder, which is what you need today to open the newer cars. With it you can get into any vehicle. Costs a minimum of $10,000. Too expensive.”

Repossessed houses have also presented Durain with some unusual situations.

Wideman tells of one such instance, saying, “I got called by a bank to go out and re-key a repossessed house. When I got there, I discovered the heat had been turned off and nobody had bothered to drain the pipes and shut the water off. The place had ice pushing through the windows.”

Weidman has also become an accomplished safe-cracker.

“Business break-ups can require more than just the re-keying of door locks,” said Durain. “Sometimes there is a safe involved. A locksmith can change the combination. No problem.

“Some people come into possession of a safe for which nobody knows the combination. In such cases, a burglar would try and knock the dial in and then try to cut the lock out, sometimes with a torch. But a locksmith knows where to drill a quarter-inch or three-eighths hole. This exposes the lock, and through that little hole we can line up the mechanism and open the safe.

“But you’ve got to be careful. Though it’s illegal now, some of the older big safes are rigged with something like a tear gas canister set to go off when someone attempts to open the door without dialing the combination. It releases a powerful liquid that will really burn your skin. I had six of them. None of them ever went off on me.”

“Yes,” said Mary, “Durain stored all six canisters in the garage. When he went into the hospital, Dustin and I thought we’d clean out the garage and get rid of some stuff. Help Durain out. You know how that goes.

“In the process, Dustin discovered the containers. When he showed them to me, I knew what they were, but we didn’t know what to do with them. I called the police, and they called in the Michigan State Police bomb squad to dispose of them. The bomb squad at our house! Can you imagine?”

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