I have an elderly friend - I think she is around 80 years old. She wanted to start bicycling again and asked if I could help fix a flat and tune up a MINT condition Raleigh three-speed she had in the garage.
I went to her house and happily patched the tube and oiled the S/A hub.
I saw an old Schwinn Suburban in the corner of the garage. "Who's bike is that?", I asked. "Oh, that's my daughter Sarah's. She passed away some years ago".
We took the bike out to give it a look-over and we got to talking. She said that the bicycle was a high school graduation present for Sarah. Sarah was so happy and proud of the bike, She rode it everywhere. Of course, we can imagine how special it was indeed to have a new Schwinn Suburban back in the day.
That year they found out Sarah had cancer.
Eventually, Sarah couldn't ride the bike and passed away six years after graduating.
I looked the bike over and asked my friend, "Sarah graduated in 1973, and got too sick to ride in 1976 didn't she?".
She stared at me for a while and tears came to her eyes and she said, "Yes, that's right. How did you know?!" Well, I had looked at the serial number on the Schwinn and quickly figured out the year of manufacture. Sadly and more telling, was the bicycle license plate '1975-1976' which I figured was the last year she rode the bike.
There it was, just as her daughter had left it - with the story of her graduation and illness were on the old Schwinn. It had a generator light for Sarah to ride to work and back, so I knew that Sarah had to work in the evenings sometimes. That guess on my part also surprised her mother. I could see that she took good care of the bike. Even though Sara used the bike a lot (as evidenced by the worn tires), the bike paint and condition was excellent. Sarah was obviously proud of her bicycle.
Of course, by this time, the wheels are all cracked. The gumwalls are flaking off.
My friend asked me if I would take it home and give it an overhaul. Of course, I agree and plan to give it the royal treatment all the way down to new grease for all the bearings (yes, BB and Headset too).
I noticed that the bike was locked with a MasterLock combination lock and cable. "Don't worry, I can cut that off", I told my friend.
"Oh, she replied, "I might have the combination"
"What?!" I exclaimed, "you have a combination from a lock from 1973?!" "I think so", she replied and went inside to have a look.
Sure enough, she comes out of the house with a little cookie jar in her hand and pulls out a piece of paper with the words 'lock cominations' written in faded pencil.
"Well, let's try. Hmm, combination lock... hasn't been tumbled in 32 years..." Click, click click spin spin click spin click...
VOILE' the lock opened right up! Incredible. What an experience.
And now, to rebuild Sarah's bicycle to all it's glory.