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Old bank safe finds home in museum annex
For a few years the Bank of Ceres safe has been displayed at Ceres City Hall but thanks to a local moving company it's found a permanent home at the Ceres Museum Annex at 2928 Fifth Street.

As a community service Casey's Moving Systems of Ceres volunteered to move the colossally heavy cast iron safe - weighing between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds - to the concrete floored annex. Museum curator Phil Reynders said the safe was always too heavy to be placed inside the museum, which is a manufactured home shell, and the plan was to move it to the annex once it was completed.

The black safe bears gold lettering from the Victor Safe & Lock Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. Reynders said the safe was used for most of the time the back operated from 1911 on. His wife, Donna Lane Reynders, remembers the safe was at the bank she started working there in 1952 and for the next 17 years.

"We used it every day," said Donna. "You see, that was in a big huge vault with the doors that closed. The tellers' money all went into that every night. And so did the money that came from the Federal Reserve in San Francisco. And definitely some important papers that they couldn't lose. The signature cards were stored in there, too.

"I betcha that safe was put in when the bank was built."

The Bank of Ceres opened its doors on April 11, 1911 and first operated on the east side of Fourth Street but moved into a larger building on the southeast corner of Fourth and Lawrence. The building is still standing.

The Bank of Ceres was eventually purchased by UCB. When the bank closed Bill's Safe and Lock in Modesto ended up taking possession of it. Reynders said the company pledged to return it to Ceres once it had a museum. Reynders worked quickly to get the safe temporarily houses at City Hall where it sat for years.

In its early years the bank was managed by Arthur Harris who was notoriously stingy with loans. The bank, however, remained financially solvent during the Great Depression.

"If your money was in the Ceres bank with Mr. Harris it was safe," said Mrs. Reynders. "If you were a farmer or rancher you would get a loan. But a private individual who he didn't know, it was like pulling teeth."

After Harris died the bank was bought by United California Bank, which went out of business. Wells Fargo Bank came in next.

The safe may be viewed on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Reynders said he hopes more people check out the museum since admission is free and it offers an interesting look at Ceres' past.